Brick Court picks up top Scottish advocate in public law push

Brick Court Chambers, one of London’s most prestigious sets, has been joined by Scottish advocate James Wolffe QC.

James Wolffe QC
James Wolffe QC

The addition is the latest in a number of moves intended to shore up the chambers’ strategy outside England and Wales, while also boosting its public law expertise.

Wolffe, who took silk in 2007, trained as a solicitor with Maclay Murray & Spens and spent a year as legal assistant to the Lord President in 1990, during Lord Hope’s tenure, before applying to the bar.

He gained insight into the world of government as first standing junior counsel to the Scottish ministers between 2002 and 2007 and then spent three years prosecuting as advocate depute and senior advocate depute in the Crown Office.

Highly respected in the field of public and administrative law, Wolffe’s arrival at Brick Court is intended to help chambers compete with Blackstone Chambers in the battle for top level instructions.

One source said: “He is Brick Court’s answer to Dinah Rose [QC] and no doubt we’ll see them in court either together or going head-to-head.”

Senior clerk Ian Moyler said Wolffe’s arrival was part of a plan to broaden and underpin the set’s expertise while also anticipating the potential for high court cases connected to the Scottish referendum for independence.

Meanwhile, Brick Court is focusing on replenishing its stock of juniors while selecting strategic relationships with barristers based outside England and Wales to ensure a flow of instructions.

Moyler said relationships with ‘bridgehead’ contacts based in South Africa, Dublin and Hong Kong had been established.

He commented: “The idea of bridgeheads developed from utilising our impressive overseas tenants, who tend to be leaders in their fields in different parts of the world.”

Brick Court has seen a number of its top level silks join the bench over the last 12 months while several juniors have taken silk in recent years.

The set’s highest profile member, Jonathan Sumption QC, joined the Supreme Court bench amid controversy in May 2011 (4 May 2011). More recently chambers has seen the exit of Andrew Popplewell QC (20 October 2011) and George Leggatt QC to the bench amongst others (22 October 2012).

In addition the set has had 15 members take silk over the last four years. All this has led to higher demand for juniors. As well as keeping all five pupils on as tenants (3 July 2013), the chambers has added former Herbert Smith advocate Geoff Kuehne and barrister David Bailey, who joined from the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) where he was a referendaire, to its roster.

“One of the key things about our discussions was the fact that we have grown incredibly quickly this year in order to meet the demands of a growing number of silks and to maintain the right balance between silk and junior numbers within chambers,” Moyler said.