Of the 269 applicants for silk in 1987, 53 were successful, and only two were women: Barbara Dohmann and Hilary Heilbron. Most junior was Richard Field, who was called to the Bar in 1977. Other silks of that year included John Hendy, who represented the National Union of Mineworkers in the civil cases during the miners' strike, and commented at the time: "I am an honorary member of the NUM now, and probably their first member to take silk."
Ten years on, in 1997, Hendy continues to be known for his work in the areas of employment law and personal injury cases, and is the role model for Kavanagh QC. Hendy's opinion of the past 10 years is: "although legal education has changed dramatically, and very much for the better, changes in the profession generally have made it more difficult for those coming in to get tenancies. We seem to be educating them better, but there are fewer opportunities. Over the past 10 years, the Bar has become much more specialist. It is rare to meet a general practice barrister, especially in London."
This comment is borne out by the growth during the past 10 years of specialist Bar associations, for example, commercial, chancery and professional negligence practice. This, as Hendy adds, "demonstrates that the Bar is accommodating the needs of the litigants and becoming more expert, but the endless cuts in legal aid make life difficult for those doing publicly funded work. Many have left the Bar in consequence, and it is more difficult for newcomers to get a start."
Hendy predicts that the Bar will be smaller and much more specialist in 2007. He believes that the younger barristers will have fewer opportunities, because demand is for the highly experienced, resulting in the Bar getting older overall.
Another of the 1987 silks, Hilary Heilbron, has seen similar changes: "Over the past 10 years, one of the most notable changes has been that barristers have recognised the needs and expectations of clients and have adapted to service those needs."
Heilbron made her name in commercial litigation and produced the Heilbron/Hodge report on civil court reform in 1993. As changes go, she notes: "It is more of an equal opportunities profession. Women make up a greater number of the Bar, and there has been a change of attitude in the Bar itself."
As to the periodic rumours of the profession fusing in the future, like many other barristers she cites the fact that even in other jurisdictions where there has been a fusion, a separate Bar has re-emerged in different forms. Her opinion: "It is too early to say what the impact of solicitor advocate QCs will be, but I feel very strongly that there is and will be a need for a thriving independent Bar."
Other notables in the list included Peter Goldsmith QC, who was chair of the Bar Council in 1995, and who has acted in some of the most high-profile commercial cases in the past 10 years. He is a driving force on the international front and in the Bar's pro bono unit. Rupert Jackson heads the set at 2 Crown Office Row, and is highly regarded in the area of professional negligence.
Edwin Glasgow and Ian Glick are noted for commercial litigation, and Christopher McCall is noted for chancery work. Richard Rampton has hit the headlines (and a television reconstruction) in the McLibel trial, with the judge's decision due shortly. Ronald Thwaites has carved a niche as a criminal practitioner, and was instructed recently in the Stephen Law-rence case, and David Neuberger has made a name for himself in property law.
In 2007, a sizeable proportion of the 1987 silks may be on the bench. but there are also a few who took silk ex officio in 1987 who have gained recognition of sorts in other areas – they include former MP David Mellor, and ex-Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Allan Green, who made his name while driving around King's Cross…
Barristers taking silk in 1987
Sir John Freeland
Sir Allan Green
R John Royce
Alastair JD Wilson