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UK Bar: Leading Sets by Number of Rankings

Ranked in 19 practice areas

39 Essex Chambers

39 Essex Chambers is a formidable force at the Bar with a broad sweep of specialisms. The set continues to justify its market-leading reputation for matters of community care and mental capacity, with “the King and Queen of Court of Protection work" Alexander Ruck Keene and Victoria Butler-Cole each appearing this year in landmark cases concerning the jurisdiction of the court. This practice forms a significant part of the set's wider expertise in administrative and public law, which sees its members instructed in human rights and civil liberties cases concerning detention, assisted suicide and hospitalisation, amongst others. Members also represent a long list of local authorities in judicial reviews and disputes, including in the areas of education, planning and environmental law. The set's expertise in built and natural environment matters is well known, and among the many factors recommending it to instructing parties is the presence of the outstanding Stephen Tromans QC, whom market sources consider “the leader in a field of his own, crossing both planning and environmental law.” For clients managing major construction and infrastructure projects at a late stage of development, 39 Essex represents a fine choice as it fields an impressive group of silks and juniors with expertise in international disputes, adjudication and arbitration. Among them is the “devastating advocate” Stuart Catchpole QC, whose expertise sees him consistently rated as one of the leading silks for energy and projects disputes, as well as professional negligence claims against engineers, architects and builders. The set's expertise in professional liability is not limited to the construction sector, however, with members handling disciplinary cases for regulators and defendants in the legal, financial services, medical and veterinary fields as well. Here the set can offer leading counsel at all levels, including the stellar David Bradly and excellent fellow junior Andrew Tabachnik, as well as highly regarded silks Hodge Malek QC and Gregory Treverton-Jones QC. Joint head of chambers Neil Block QC specialises in medical negligence and personal injury cases, and is recognised - alongside the set's hugely impressive bench of personal injury counsel- for handling cases of the highest value and complexity in this field.

Blackstone Chambers

Many of the hundred plus members of Blackstone Chambers are considered by market commentators to be some of “the finest legal minds in the country.” They share an extraordinary 216 Chambers rankings between them, with a significant portion of these having been awarded - predictably enough – within the set's core disciplines of administrative and public law, civil liberties and human rights. In these areas, instructing parties are spoilt for choice: Blackstone's extensive bench of respected seniors includes the “astonishing” James Eadie QC, the “awesome” Dinah Rose QC, the “extraordinary” Lord Pannick QC and “one of the brightest barristers at the bar” in Michael Fordham QC. At the junior level, the set plays host to the “undoubtedly talented” Ben Jaffey, considered by many to be a silk in waiting, and “standout junior” Tom Hickman, who is “a first choice for sensitive cases involving the state security services.” Members are also recognised for their work in public international law matters where human rights and public law overlap, in cases involving immigration, diplomatic immunity and sanctions regimes. Among the long list of high profile cases members have handled over the past year are Rahmatullah v Secretary of State for the Home Department, a case concerning allegations of unlawful rendition and torture, and Nouazli v Secretary of State before the Supreme Court, which concerned the legality of detention of EU nationals pending deportation. Regularly appearing before the ECHR, members are also considered “top for European law” more generally; the set can field specialists in competition, intellectual property, data protection, immigration and environmental law. Blackstone has  long been a leading name in civil fraud and is well-stocked with excellent seniors and juniors handling international fraud cases, asset tracing and injunctive relief. The stellar Charles Flint QC and Javan Herberg QC top the bill for financial services regulatory work, advising both regulators and leading institutions, and also form part of the set's excellent line-up of professional discipline practitioners through their work advising financial sector clients on disciplinary proceedings. The practice also benefits from members' expertise in professional discipline matters arising in the medical, education and sport sectors. Blackstone is named “the best known set in the sports law market” with commentators stating that “no other set comes close for depth of experience” in ethics and regulatory issues, employment contract disputes and broadcasting matters. Adam Lewis QC is “in a league of his own” and remains the standout sports law silk at the set - and, indeed, in the country. At the junior level, sources are full of praise for “true sports specialist” Nick de Marco, who this year was elevated to star ranking in our listings. The set's media and entertainment practice is highlighted for copyright, commercial and regulatory cases in broadcast and print media; in the music industry, “outstanding advocate” Ian Mill QC “remains top of the class.” Finally, a group of "supremely good barristers" make up the set's employment practice, including the “ferociously clever” Paul Goulding QC and the very popular Diya Sen Gupta, a junior highlighted for her effective advocacy and user-friendliness.

Ranked in 18 practice areas

Kings Chambers

Kings Chambers remains a go-to set on the North and North-Eastern Circuits, and is known to many instructing solicitors as a place to find “London quality in the regions.” The set is home to market-leading counsel for financial, company, partnership, chancery and insolvency disputes, especially in its Manchester and Leeds offices. “Terrifying cross-examiner” Lesley Anderson QC is considered one of the best in the North for her work in commercial, chancery, and insolvency cases, among others, and “excellent orator” Paul Chaisty QC chalks up top tier rankings in chancery, commercial, professional negligence and company law. In Birmingham, Kings is building on the leading practices of Richard Clayton QC in human rights, civil liberties, public and administrative law,  Sarah Clover and Ben Williams in licensing, and Satinder Hunjan QC in clinical negligence and personal injury cases. The set continues to be considered a standout chambers for planning, acting for local authorities, major developers and house builders on a wide range of matters, including appeals, inquiries, hearings and judicial reviews. Kings' bench in this area features the “consistently pragmatic and commercial” Paul Tucker QC, “accomplished advocate” David Manley QC, “tenacious cross examiner” Vincent Fraser QC and the “innovative and strategic” Anthony Crean QC. Kings remains the only set highlighted in this guide for real estate litigation in the Northern Circuit, fielding specialists to handle dilapidations, insolvencies, and landlord and tenant disputes. With nearly seventy individuals achieving Chambers rankings this year, the set retains its title as the undisputed king in the North.

Ranked in 15 practice areas

Matrix Chambers

Matrix Chambers maintains its reputation as "a forward thinking" set which "brings a modern and contemporary dynamic to cases." The set fields a number of "incredibly bright people doing incredible human rights work" such as Ben Emmerson QC, a top class silk with a broad practice encompassing all manner of public law and criminal cases. Many highly regarded criminal law experts are among the set's members, including “doyenne of the Criminal Bar” Clare Montgomery QC. Matrix also brings its "cooperative approach to problem solving" to an array of complex community care cases. Defamation and privacy matters often feature in the set's case load and Matrix tenants have recently acted in various cases arising from the high-profile phone hacking scandals. In addition, barristers such as the star-rated Phillippa Kaufmann QC regularly advocate on behalf of claimants in actions against a range of public authorities. The set is also home to "such giants in the education field" as Helen Mountfield QC and David Wolfe QC. Mountfield recently handled the well-publicised student loan eligibility case R (Tigere) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, while a successful challenge to the legality of the new GCSE Religious Studies syllabus on behalf of the British Humanist Association is among Wolfe's recent case list. Matrix also undertakes a wide variety of high-stakes employment cases, as well as complex environment work. Those in the clerks' room at the set are also praised, with one source saying: “The clerks are really responsive and you know they will help you out. They manage to achieve things others can't and are enthusiastic and keen.”

No5 Chambers

One of the country's best known sets, with a particularly strong reputation for its work on the Midlands Circuit, No5 Chambers is a chambers with enviable size and strength. It operates “like a well-oiled machine” and is admired for its “good team players who are highly commercial in their approach.” No5 is also praised for its effective and friendly clerks who “work with you and stay in touch to keep you updated” and “go out of their way to assist in whatever way they can.” The set's tenants attract all manner of complex instructions, from notable built and natural environment actions, to family matters and criminal cases. Members are regularly called on to appear in the Court of Protection. Many barristers at the set also exhibit substantial expertise in clinical negligence, personal injury and health and safety matters. In terms of stand out individuals at this broad set, planning expert Martin Kingston QC remains “at the top of his game,” while “persuasive, articulate advocate” Nageena Khalique QC maintains a quality public law and human rights practice. Head of chambers Mark Anderson QC is one of the set's “formidably intelligent” commercial barristers.

Ranked in 13 practice areas

Brick Court Chambers

Widely regarded as one of London's top commercial sets where “the quality of the work is very high,” Brick Court continues to provide an exceptional service to its loyal following of instructing solicitors. “It is my first choice for heavyweight or difficult cases,” says one source, with another adding,“it's a very bright and talented group of lawyers who work very hard.” Barristers at the set handle complex cases within the core disciplines of public, European and competition law, as well as a huge raft of commercial disputes of high value and importance. Members such as Helen Davies QC, who “a number of clients would always regard as their number one choice,” are often called upon to handle energy disputes. The set's tenants regularly appear in overseas courts, including in the BVI and Singapore. In addition, members here are able to offer strong representation in arbitrations. Brick Court has a reputation for quality counsel ranging from highly experienced silks, such as the legendary and “absolutely fantastic” arbitrator Lord Hoffmann, to rising star juniors. Among the set's roster of top-notch silks is Mark Howard QC who is “incisive and highly intelligent with, most notably, exceptional authority as an advocate.” The set is also home to public law expert Martin Chamberlain QC, a relatively new silk who has nonetheless made an impression on his peers. One interviewee goes so far as to say: “Chamberlain is one of the best advocates I have ever seen.” David Anderson QC is one of the set's European law experts and is highly praised. “He is perfect,” enthuses one source, continuing: “His thinking and his actions are always on point.” The set also has an enviable stable of notable junior barristers, including Fionn Pilbrow and Sarah Ford, who attract extensive praise for their excellent practices. The Brick Court barristers are ably supported by a widely praised clerking team which includes two senior clerks, the “terrific” Julian Hawes and the “easy to deal with” Ian Moyer, as well as two deputy senior clerks, the “brilliant” Paul Dennison and the “really responsive” Tony Burgess.

Doughty Street Chambers

A superb set well known for its “exceptionally good”  and “dedicated, large team of specialists.”  Doughty Street's accomplished members are also well-equipped to handle cases in the areas of civil liberties and human rights law, crime, immigration and product liability. Impressed commentators say that they are “always phenomenal,” “highly knowledgeable,” and people with a “huge breadth of experience.” The set is recognised for its strength and depth in the senior ranks, and also boasts “a very good set of juniors, who are committed and bright.” Leading silks include Heather Williams QC, “the leading authority on police law,” who has an “astonishing ability to produce excellence every time,” as well as “the leading claimant silk for product liability,” Robin Oppenheim QC. Doughty Street is also home to “top-end,” “tremendous” immigration law junior, Laura Dubinsky, and the justly trumpeted Edward Fitgzgerald QC, one of the leading human rights and extradition lawyer of his generation, The set also earns plaudits for its “always extremely effective,” clerking team, led by Mark Dembovsky.  Instructing solicitors report that the clerks are “always keen to help and go out of their way to assist us.”

Ranked in 12 practice areas

Maitland Chambers

A noted commercial chancery set which is regularly instructed in high-profile, complex cases such as Gorbunova v Berezovsky and Goldtrail v Aydin. The set has considerable expertise in handling the largest matters, many of which take place in overseas jurisdictions. Its excellent line-up of silks and juniors, described by their peers as “impressive players,” “do lots of great work” and are particularly strong in civil fraud cases. The “exceptionally talented QC's” here include Paul Girolami, who is “at the top of his game and must be one of the best chancery silks available,” and the “excellent and highly experienced,” Catherine Addy. The set also fields some of the strongest charity law barristers, including Christopher McCall QC, who is widely acknowledged as being “at the forefront,” as well as leading junior Matthew Smith, who “has been involved in many of the leading cases in the area.” Senior clerk John Wiggs and his team receive high praise for their dedication to the provision of excellent client service: “The clerks are fantastic and just so helpful. They go above and beyond and nothing is too much trouble.”

Ranked in 11 practice areas

Fountain Court

Fountain Court Chambers is known for its depth of expertise across a broad range of areas. It is variously referred to as “the pre eminent banking and financial services set,”  “a first-rate commercial set,” and “the chambers you go to for aviation.” It offers additional strength in the areas of travel and civil fraud. The set is commended for its strength in depth, and is said to offer “top silks and juniors in every major practice area.” Silks include the “outstandingly clever” Michael Crane QC, acknowledged as “the number one silk for aviation matters,” the “really smart and charming” banking supremo Bankim Thanki QC, and the “absolutely phenomenal” commercial practitioner David Railton QC.  The set also offers high calibre juniors, including the “extremely bright” and “technically excellent” James Cutress as well as the “very impressive” Robin Barclay who is praised for being “absolutely on top of his area.” Barclay is but one of a number of new arrivals at the set this year, as it looks to expand. One of the most eye-catching of these is Richard Lissack QC, recently of Outer Temple Chambers, who is noted for his regulatory and financial expertise. The clerking team, led by the “absolutely excellent”  Paul Martesyn, and “brilliant” Alex Taylor, is also very highly thought of. According to commentators, “the clerking at Fountain Court is exceptional - they're very professional and proactive and understand the needs of the clients.

Guildhall Chambers

A dominant force on the Western Circuit and one of the leading chambers outside of London. The set houses highly rated barristers with a heterogeneous collection of expertise resulting in it being ranked in eleven sections of our guide, and enjoying top-tier bandings in banking and finance, crime and employment. The set houses seven heavyweight silks, as well as dozens of leading juniors. Lawyers of particular note include Hugh Sims QC who is described as “a highly accomplished advocate who wins the trust of judges, is easy to work with, massively commercial, creative with solutions and highly practical,” and the “technically outstanding and user friendly” senior junior Jermey Bamford. The clerking team, led by Justin Emmett and Lucy Northeast are described as “very impressive,” with one interviewee stating that “you couldn't get a better clerking team.”

St Philips Chambers

The pre-eminent set in the Midlands as demonstrated by its top tier rankings across the board in our guide, but also one that is active on the North Eastern circuit and one with a burgeoning presence in London as illustrated by its recent merger with leading shipping set Stone Chambers. Its areas of expertise are sundry and its barristers regularly work on marquee cases in fields as disparate as company law, health & safety and real estate. There are 14 silks at St Philips including the inimitable Edward Pepperall QC who is described as “a pragmatic and clinical advocate who is user friendly and fantastic in front of clients,” and the “hugely intelligent” John Randall QC. Its junior ranks are similarly strong, containing excellent lawyers such as John Brennan, who is described as “brilliant, very thorough and methodical with his work.” The quality of its barristers is matched by its practice management team. Joe Wilson is the chief clerk and leads "an absolutely fantastic clerking team. The clerks are very responsive and bend over backwards to help."

Wilberforce Chambers

A dominant force for all types of chancery work, noted for housing an outstanding team of client focused lawyers. The set is considered “one of the stand-out names for offshore work” and is widely regarded as a first port of call for private client tax matters. It also excels at general commercial litigation and has a noted specialism in pensions law. The set has quality from top to bottom and is known for having a "list of outstanding juniors that just goes on and on." Its bench of leading silks includes the venerable Robert Ham QC who is described as “a doyen of the contentious trusts world” and Brian Green QC who is described as “one of the big superstar names at the Chancery Bar.” They have recently been joined by a number of new members as Wilberforce has scooped up scooped up members from both 3 Stone Buildings and the now defunct 11 Stone Buildings amongst others. The clerking team is led by practice director Nicholas Luckman who is said to run "a very efficient and professional ship," and head clerk Mark Rushton who “gives great service.”

Essex Court Chambers

Universally acknowledged as one of the Bar's Magic Circle sets, Essex Court Chambers is “one of only a few chambers able to provide a string of top-quality advocates for significant High Court commercial disputes.” The set has been keenly involved in international arbitration since its development and remains at the summit of this practice area. It is also highly rated in civil fraud, public international law and, of course, commercial dispute resolution. Chambers is a leading destination for complex and high-value banking and finance, insurance and indirect tax matters, and  members are also highly sought-after for advice and advocacy relating to employment law, shipping and energy and natural resources. The “superb” clerks, led by Joe Ferrigno and David Grief, “run a very commercial and practical set of chambers,” are “extremely responsive” and “obey the golden rule of not double-booking barristers.” They facilitate interactions with busy barristers at the very top of their chosen fields, such as VV Veeder, “one of the most sought-after arbitrators in the world”; “stunning employment law advocate” Andrew Hochhauser QC; indirect tax expert Roderick Cordara QC, described by one source as “the go-to for the most intricate VAT matters”; the “truly exceptional” Vaughan Lowe QC, recommended as much for his advocacy as his magisterial command of public and international law; and the “phenomenally smart” Toby Landau QC, an international arbitration and public law expert. They are but a few of the immensely accomplished counsel who together make up this venerable stable.

Monckton Chambers

One of the very best sets for competition, European and public law, Monckton Chambers is now ranked in ten practice areas. It tops the tables in an impressive six practice areas (community care, competition, European law, public procurement, indirect tax and telecommunications) and is also acknowledged as a destination of choice for administrative and public law, data protection, environment and sports law. Further, members of chambers are recognised as leaders in the fields of civil liberties and human rights, education and police law. Senior clerk David Hockney and his team are commended for the “top-notch” service provided to instructing parties, with one saying “the clerks are helpful, proactive, ring back when they say they will and are as cooperative as possible when it comes to juggling schedules.” They support luminaries such as leading competition silk, Daniel Beard QC, a “first-rate, extraordinary lawyer” and a “great strategist”; Michael Bowsher QC, a public procurement specialist who “identifies the key issues and answers the difficult questions with unmatched authority”; competition, European and telecommunications law expert Josh Holmes, who is “a tremendous asset to any team”;  and Valentina Sloane, a leading indirect tax and public procurement barrister described as “incredibly intelligent and always impeccably prepared.” This is just a snapshot of the expertise and experience on offer at Monckton, a chambers of “very erudite, cogent people” who “strike the right balance between intellectual rigour and commercial reality.” On the whole, the set is characterised by “commitment to the best interests of the client.”

Serle Court

Serle Court has a long-standing reputation in commercial and chancery work, with market commentators highlighting the set as “one of the very best commercial chancery sets, and one of the few that genuinely competes in both traditional chancery and commercial litigation.” Its senior bench features “true grandee of the Chancery Bar” Alan Boyle QC and the “very learned” Frank Hinks QC. At a junior level, charity and trusts expert William Henderson draws praise for his “encyclopaedic knowledge of charity law,” and the “articulate and charming” Dakis Hagen is tipped as a “rising star at the Bar.” 2016 saw Richard Wilson QC and Daniel Lightman QC take on postnominals, further swelling Serle Court's already considerable ranks of chancery and company silks. The set's excellent reputation in offshore matters sees it appearing in cases arising in the Channel Islands, Hong Kong, the BVI and other Caribbean jurisdictions, and members are recognised for a host of related areas of work, including company law, restructuring and insolvency, and civil fraud. John Machell QC's work in partnership and LLP matters earns him a star ranking for the fourth year since his accession to Queen's Counsel. Instructing solicitors are also full of praise for the clerks room, headed by Steve Whitaker, saying: “The clerking is first class. The senior clerks are unfailingly helpful and give reliable advice about alternative counsel when the first choice is not available.”