Barristers specialising in employment law in the regions face tough competition from the top provincial solicitors, who do the majority of their own advocacy.
Several barristers were recommended for their advocacy and advice skills, particularly in Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Bristol, although the list below is not exhaustive.
However, the overwhelming view among solicitors heading employment units is that they will do their own advocacy unless the case is particularly complex or they need very specialist knowledge, in which case they instruct leading members of the employment Bar in London.
One solicitor says: “Few barristers outside London can concentrate solely on being an employment specialist and it is usually just one of a half-dozen things they do. Many would not add anything to the value of what my own lawyers can do.”
The head of one employment unit says: “The regional Bar hasn't got enough employment law work to do it exclusively and it doesn't feel right to instruct someone who knows less about the job than you do. The expertise is in London.”
Some of the leading London chambers have regional annexes and practise out of both, meaning that they do not charge travelling costs.
Old Square Chambers has an annexe in Bristol. Members who live locally and were praised by local solicitors include Barry Cotter, Jonathan Clarke, Helen Gower and Toby Kempster.
Paul Williams at the 8 King's Bench Walk annex in York was highly rated for the “excellent service he gives”.
The Manchester chambers of 9 St John Street is highly regarded by solicitors in the North West. Its head, John Hand QC, who is also a member of Old Square chambers in London, is “very good – I don't think they come much better,” comments one. “Very quick to grasp the main facts. I would bring him in if it was a particularly complicated wrongful dismissal,” says another.
Among the chamber's juniors, Anthony Howard is seen as a “rising star – he is still very junior but will be very good in the future”, along with Paul Gilroy – “very good manner with clients, makes them feel relaxed”. Others praised are Rachel Wedderspoon – “excellent, particularly in sex discrimination cases” – the “good all-rounder” Carlo Breen, Nigel Grundy – “very approachable, good on paper” – and Tariq Sadiq – “very, very good, especially on race discrimination cases”. Others mentioned include Jonathan Parkin – “very good detail man” – Terence Rigby and Nick Hinchcliffe.
Also in Manchester, but at 8 King Street Chambers, Mike Smith and Stephen Davies are rated as very competent, particularly with written advice.
One of the most frequently cited juniors is Paul Cape, New Court Chambers, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who is “very good at the knockabout stuff, always gives a very good service”.
In York, Michael O'Neill, York Chambers, is regarded as one of the best in the city, “very good indeed,” says one solicitor.
In Leeds, Paul Morris, 39 Park Square, is praised for his injunction work – “I was very pleased with what he did for me,” says one solicitor. Jeff Lewis, 9 Woodhouse Square, is “very thorough and hardworking, very good on detail”.
In Liverpool, Andrew Sander, Oriel Chambers, is “very reliable, a good advocate”, while John Benson, 14 Castle Street, is “very sound”.
David Lock, 7 Fountain Court, Birmingham, is rated highly. “He is one of the few barristers outside London to take seriously the idea of being an employment specialist,” says one solicitor.
Other Birmingham juniors cited include Kevin O'Donovan – “a good advocate who really understands the subject” – and Jennifer Jones – “very good with clients” – both from 5 Fountain Court. “Not necessarily experienced in very complex points but they won't miss any tricks,” said a local practitioner.
In Nottingham, Patrick Limb, 24 The Ropewalk, does “very good work”, while Richard Seabrook, St Mary's Chambers, is an “impressive advocate, good with clients and knows the law”.
Robert Thomas, Guildhall Chambers, Bristol, is “very good, with a nice bedside manner – probably because he used to be a solicitor”, says a former colleague.
Neville Wayne Beard, who recently set up Pendragon Chambers in Swansea, is “very effective”, according to one solicitor who has appeared against him on a couple of cases.