THE SET Sources are unanimous in their verdict that South Square offers "unparalleled expertise in restructuring," and has "done a fantastic job in cornering the insolvency market." High-end commercial lawyers are extremely enthusiastic about the work undertaken by the established silks here, and further highlight the abundance of junior talent within chambers' ranks. The set's recent work on the MF Global and Kaupthing insolvencies, and its appearance in a string of crucial Supreme Court cases, including Rubin and Nortel, serve to underscore the high level at which this set routinely operates.
SILKS William Trower QC acts for officeholders and creditors on cross-border, precedent-setting insolvencies and restructurings. He is widely recognised for his work on the Lehman Brothers and Nortel insolvencies, and is "the go-to man" for top law firms. His courtroom style is confident and effective, and he is described as "without a doubt the best team player in the market - he positions himself not just as adviser, but presents as a member of the team with shared responsibility."
Antony Zacaroli QC is an "extremely commercial and pragmatic" individual, who has good judgement and is excellent at problem solving. He recently represented the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) as it intervened in the case of Lomas v Firth Rixson. This was a case where ISDA's Master Agreement, which governs trillions of dollars of transactions every year, was challenged in the Court of Appeal.
Robin Dicker QC is an "extremely clever and very measured advocate. You can count on him to give you the right advice, rather than that which you want to hear." He appeared in the Supreme Court case Rubin v Eurofinance, which is of great importance because it concerns the enforceability of foreign judgments in relation to companies in England.
Gabriel Moss QC's peers at the Bar are "so impressed with how calm and authoritative" he is in court. He is recommended "particularly where there is a potential clash between courts of different jurisdictions - it would be hard to find anyone better."
Mark Phillips QC successfully fought off Terra Firma's bid for enhanced disclosure in relation to Maltby Investments' pre-pack sale of EMI - if Terra Firma had been successful, the viability of pre-pack as a restructuring strategy would have been compromised. He is praised for his "fluid advocacy."
Richard Sheldon QC is an experienced insolvency litigator. He is often instructed on cross-border matters and on insolvencies involving financial institutions in Caribbean jurisdictions, including the Cayman Islands.
Michael Crystal QC is an "excellent" litigator and displays "brilliant courtroom craft," according to one source.
He is highly regarded in the market as is Simon Mortimore QC, a restructuring adviser with market leading expertise on director's duties. Mortimore is praised for the gravitas he exudes and the "very straightforward approach" he takes to a case.
David Alexander QC is "an astute and brilliant trial attorney," with "incisive cross-examination abilities." His practice is litigation-focused, and he acts for all sides on challenges to undervalued transactions, fraudulent conduct and debt recovery.
Instructing solicitors find Barry Isaacs QC to be "accessible and sharp." Isaacs has carried out some important work on cross-border insolvency, representing the liquidators of New Cap Reinsurance in a case before the Court of Appeal, where it was decided that the liquidators could seek assistance from the English court following an Australian court's ruling.
Robin Knowles CBE QC is described as "a heavyweight in terms of his knowledge and analytical abilities."
Finally, Martin Pascoe QC has led the team of counsel to the administrators of MF Global UK. His peers describe him as "superb" and praise him for his "deep understanding of restructuring and insolvency. People bring him in for complex matters."
Glen Davis QC is sought out for his "particular specialism in banking and finance insolvency matters." Since taking silk in the last round, he has advised the FSA as the regulator took the landmark decision to bring MF Global under the Special Administration regime. He is described as "technically excellent and always a delight for clients to work with."
According to sources, Felicity Toube QC possesses a "brilliantly communicative manner," and is "very difficult to put under any serious pressure - she is completely unflappable and calm." She is instructed by debtors and creditors in complex matters, many of which involve jurisdictional questions.
Sources describe Mark Arnold QC as "disciplined - he doesn't let anything fall through the cracks." He is "a fantastic details person and can crunch through a prodigious amount of work."
Jeremy Goldring QC is instructed as a restructuring adviser to FTSE 100 companies and administrators, as well as insolvent entities and creditors in cross-border disputes. He is described as "forthcoming and active in consultation with clients" and is "very highly thought of" by his peers.
A significant proportion of Lucy Frazer QC's insolvency practice is international - she acts for officeholders and companies on complex, cross-border restructurings and insolvencies. "She is easy to work with, has a complete knowledge of her field, and offers practical advice."
JUNIORS Tom Smith is widely praised by interviewees, who describe him as "a valued resource - his structured, commercial approach is welcomed by the clients." He has been involved, along with a number of other silks and juniors at South Square, in the Supreme Court cases of Rubin and Bloom. David Allison continues to be involved in cutting-edge insolvency litigation, including several cases related to Lehman Brothers and the case of Bank of New York v Eurosail UK, the outcome of which will have implications on repayment liabilities in relation to collapsed CDO instruments. He has a "fizzy intelligence," and is "a highly responsive barrister with a natural bent for strategic thinking." Daniel Bayfield is "a rising star, who matches practical and commercial sense with technical ability." He has recently represented noteholders in insolvency proceedings involving the failure of multimillion-pound mortgage-backed vehicles.
Lloyd Tamlyn is a financial services insolvency specialist described as "a really tough opponent, who gives everything for his client."
Instructing solicitors say Hilary Stonefrost is a versatile and experienced practitioner, able to produce "incisive" written work, and to "command the respect of the court" with her "considerable advocacy skills."
Adam Goodison represents large banks in debt recovery litigation. Recent highlights for him include his work on matters involving MF Global UK and Assetco.
John Briggs is "pre-eminent in terms of personal insolvency, and is quite excellent in what he does," according to one interviewee. He recently appeared in McPherson v Wise, a Court of Appeal case concerning bankruptcy proceedings by a well-known ex-footballer against a property developer.
Richard Fisher focuses on structured products and derivatives in the context of insolvency. His highlights include the continuing Lehman Brothers litigation and challenges to the interpretation of ISDA Master Contracts, which govern debt recovery where derivatives holders become insolvent. Fisher "is impressive in that he is very sharp and can navigate his way around multidisciplinary litigation."
Elite banking law firms are keen to instruct "excellent all-round insolvency junior" Stephen Robins. He is involved with the headline-grabbing case of Rubin, and has recent experience acting on multiple large-scale insolvencies in the world of shipping.
Marcus Haywood acts for officeholders and companies on cross-border insolvency proceedings, and is regarded by one instructing solicitor as "a great advocate and our preferred junior."
Hannah Thornley has a strong academic background in insolvency and company law and was picked out by one source as "a rising star who will soon emerge - she has a great reputation."