Relationships are key for chambers when it comes to winning litigation mandates. But knowing which firms to focus your attention on is not always easy, partly because many have unbreakable relationships with their favourite barristers.

The Lawyer has scrutinised its Litigation Tracker database to discover who the UK litigation heavyweights instruct most frequently.

The litigation heavyweights are Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford Chance, Clyde & Co, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), Hogan Lovells, Linklaters and Pinsent Masons.




Two themes emerge. Firstly, the litigation heavyweights have a few favourite chambers. They collectively instructed One Essex Court 42 times in 2016 and Q1 2017, making it the most instructed chambers. Brick Court Chambers ranked second with 30 instructions and 3 New Square and 8 New Square came joint third with 25 instructions each.

One Essex Court generates 32 per cent of its instructions from the litigation heavyweights, significantly more than other sets. Indeed it was only the eighth most frequently instructed set by all litigating firms during the period.

The chambers is ranked number one because it is frequently instructed by a number of firms. HSF instructed it 16 times, including twice to represent clients (Goldman Sachs and Société Générale) against claims by The Libyan Investment Authority. Freshfields instructed it nine times, on four occasions to represent Deutsche Bank, while A&O also instructed it nine times.

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Likewise, Brick Court Chambers achieved its high ranking because it was frequently instructed by a small number of active firms. It was instructed eight times by both Freshfields and HSF, and six times by Clydes.



While all firms have their ‘go to’ sets, the data reveals that the extent to which firms rely on a small clique of chambers varies (see bubble graph). Put simply, the more cases a firm works on the more evenly they share their instructions amongst sets.

At one end of the spectrum is Linklaters, which instructed 34 times in 2016 and
Q1 2017. Its three most frequently instructed sets (South Square, Blackstone and Matrix Chambers) worked on 53 per cent of all its cases.

At the other end of the spectrum is Clydes, which made 80 instructions. The firm shares its work out more evenly. Its three most frequently instructed sets (Quadrant Chambers, 7 King’s Bench Walk and Brick Court Chambers) only worked on 26 per cent of all cases.



There are a few exceptions. For example, HSF made the most instructions among the litigation heavyweights (94) but its three most frequently instructed sets – One Essex Court, 8 New Square and Brick Court Chambers – were instructed on 38 per cent of its cases.So, chambers seeking to forge relationships with firms should look not only at who is giving out the most instructions, but also the extent to which they are prepared to look beyond a small group of trusted barristers.

The Lawyer’s Litigation Tracker is available for purchase. For more information please contact Gilberto Esgaio (, +44 (0) 20 7970 4191) or Letitia Austin (, +44 (0) 20 7970 4662)