Essex Court appears as a set in the rankings for 10 practice areas.
The set is once again in the sole top tier of "leading sets" for Public International and International Arbitration: General Commercial & Insurance, whilst it is joint first for Commercial Dispute Resolution.
The set is ranked in the second tier of the "leading" tables for 5 categories: Energy & Natural Resources; Insurance; Shipping & Commodities; Fraud (Civil) and Indirect Tax.
The set was also ranked "leading" for Banking & Finance and Employment.
In addition, individual members are recognised in a further 5 areas and Anna Dilnot is identified as one of ten "Stars at the Bar: 5 Years' Call and Under".
Essex Court Chambers is a leading London commercial set praised for its "very client-focused" barristers and clerks. Sources say that chambers is held in the "highest regard" because "it's a class act" and represents "a collection of the very best barristers the market has to offer." Cock of the walk in both international arbitration and general commercial litigation, Essex Court Chambers receives instructions on some of the largest cases before London's commercial courts. Examples include Cherney v Deripaska and the Fiona Trust litigation. It is without doubt part of the very elite of the Commercial Bar and has in David Grief one of the most recognisable and experienced clerks the profession has to offer.
"Absolute superstar" David Foxton QC has "a formidable intellect" and is "very client-oriented." Peers praise him for possessing both "wisdom and intellect" in abundance and applaud him for bringing "great tactical acumen" to bear on the cases he handles, which of late have included Cherney v Deripaska.
Held in similarly high regard, Joe Smouha QC "has the Midas touch," according to instructing solicitors. "Simply outstanding at everything he does," he is a commercial generalist, who offers the solicitor both in-depth legal knowledge and formidable advocacy skills.
Smouha is well regarded along with Vernon Flynn QC, "a master of understated persuasion," an affable individual who works well with teams of solicitors. Interviewees say he is "really good on his feet" and "able to adapt his style to different clients." He recently worked with Joe Smouha QC on Telenor East v VimpelCom and Altimo Holdings.
Andrew Hochhauser QC offers those that instruct him "superior quality of analysis, a capacity for hard work, and excellent advocacy skills." Solicitors say that "he immediately identifies the heart of the case," and is "a highly active and voluble part of the team."
Head of chambers at the set is the "tremendous" Gordon Pollock QC, "a real courtroom battler," who is singled out for his "fantastic advocacy." Sources say Pollock is "thoroughly skilled in cross-examination" and has a lucid and assured manner of delivery, which sources compare to "a really good law lecture." A veteran of many a celebrated legal fight, he continues to attract leading instructions.
Sources agree that Paul Stanley QC is "an outstanding narrative advocate" with a "first-rate intellect." Instructing solicitors say: "His attention to detail, commitment and high intelligence shine through very clearly," whilst opponents concede that "he persuades the judges with impressive clarity and effectiveness." His set includes Steven Berry QC, "a smooth advocate who is able to create appropriate strategies for each case." As a testament to his skills, Berry had a role in the huge Fiona Trust litigation.
Richard Jacobs QC also comes firmly recommended by instructing solicitors. He recently appeared in the Court of Appeal acting for the defendant on a derivatives trading dispute, claiming under an ISDA Master Agreement. Jacobs enjoys the full support of the market as does the "feisty and combative" Richard Millett QC, who is "extremely clever" and "a very good details person." Millett recently represented a former director of Cadogan Petroleum, successfully obtaining partial summary judgment, document disclosure and a reduction on the terms of a freezing order brought by Cadogan. Others to impress here include the "rather excellent" John Lockey QC. He has advised in recent months on disputes arising from the Lehman Brothers administration, the Japan earthquake and the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.
Graham Dunning QC is a "highly effective cross-examiner" and a "hard but fair" opponent. Instructing solicitors say he is particularly knowledgeable in relation to jurisdictional disputes, an area where he has had many successes.
Sources say they are impressed with Paul McGrath QC in the courtroom. McGrath is widely regarded as a commercial fraud expert, and recently acted on a dispute relating to USD200 million of artificially inflated Argentine warrant bonds.
"Talented advocate" Geraldine Andrews QC is "a real fighter who knows the best commercial points to take." Instructing solicitors were full of kind words for her, emphasising the fact that she is "helpful, practical" and "good on her feet." They also had a lot of time for Claire Blanchard QC as she has a "very commanding grasp of legal and factual points." This "excellent performer" is known for being very patient but also highly robust "when dealing with difficult clients."
The "very user-friendly" Huw Davies QC is "a good straight hitter," who presents as "a very calm and effective leader." He is useful to those that use him not just because of his evident legal skills but also because he is "eminently capable of delivering difficult advice clearly and without pomposity."
Jeffrey Gruder QC is recommended for his "painstaking attention to detail," his "ability to swiftly master his brief," and above all for his "calmness under fire and willingness to be a real team player." Sources enthuse that the "wise" and "user-friendly" Gruder "adds value" throughout. Finally among the silks, the "clever and commercial" James Collins QC is an "excellent all-rounder for a variety of commercial matters." The market sees him as being both "a great advocate and a great tactician."
Stephen Houseman is a "hard worker," who is "utterly reliable." His recent instructions include being engaged by BNP Paribas to seek anti-suit relief against Deripaska-owned companies Russian Machines and Ingosstrakh Investments, in which he was successful.
Praised as an excellent draftsman, and possessed of keen judgement, Edmund King is spoken very favourably of by sources. He recently acted on a high-profile dispute arising out of the financial downturn, which concerned rights under a mezzanine loan agreement between Saltri and JPMorgan.
Nathan Pillow "is prepared to get stuck into the detail, is always responsive and takes a very commercial approach." "The quality of his work is extraordinary at times," say solicitors, and "he is one of the calmest people you will ever come across."
Praised for his work ethic and commitment, Ricky Diwan remains a popular choice with instructing solicitors, though admittedly his practice focus lies more heavily on international arbitration work these days. He impresses alongside the "hard-working, thoughtful and intelligent" David Scorey, who is "a joy to work with." Scorey is acting for Kuwaiti Airways to enforce judgments of over USD1.2 billion arising from Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent theft of its air fleet.
David Davies recently acted for principal defendant Yuri Nikitin on the headline-grabbing Fiona Trust appeal proceedings. In November 2011, he also acted on a jurisdictional challenge for a structured product mis-selling claim heard before the Dubai International Finance Centre.
Paul Key is having an extremely high-profile year. He is one of the juniors instructed to defend Oleg Deripaska, the wealthiest of Russia's oligarchs, from enormous claims made by Michael Cherney relating to shares in RUSAL.
Sources say that James Willan is an adept young advocate, with a natural talent. He is "stunningly impressive" and has "thoroughly arrived," according to market observers. "Certainly one to watch for the future," he has "a flourishing practice" and is noted for his "ability to assimilate large amounts of information very quickly."
Jeremy Brier has a broad-ranging practice with an emphasis on commercial shipping disputes. He recently succeeded in a jurisdictional challenge on behalf of claimants Finmoon and Megafruit relating to cargo damages claims arising out of banana shipments.
Praised for his "fantastic advocacy," "clever solutions provider" Edward Brown is well liked by instructing solicitors due to his pragmatism and "willingness to get directly involved with clients." Sources also say he is "excellent in giving an opinion which is thorough, well balanced and firmly committed to its conclusions." Essex Court is fortunate in having talent at all levels and in Emily Wood it has a young junior who is making waves. "Positive and user-friendly," she displays a "huge appetite for work" and is "absolutely fantastic technically."
Another young junior worth paying attention to is Anna Dilnot, who joined the set from 3 Stone Buildings in May 2011. Her practice encompasses commercial litigation, fraud and commercial chancery work.
Essex Court Chambers remains the premier international arbitration set in a rapidly growing market, and houses practitioners who "surpass all others in their mastery of international matters." Its expertise in all aspects of international arbitration is illustrated by the plethora of leading arbitrators and advocates it offers, and the "strength and depth" that is visible at all levels of seniority. Its "user-friendly and committed" barristers are ably supported by a clerking team that is "clearly geared towards providing the best service that it can."
Those looking for "the genuine article" in international arbitration need look no further than "complete star" Toby Landau QC. He is consistently highlighted as "a true arbitration specialist who knows all of the rules backwards" and offers "exceptional skill and technical knowledge" in all aspects of the field.
Graham Dunning QC stands out as a "very effective" advocate and "the first barrister to seek advice from if there are difficult conflicts of law or jurisdictional issues." He is adept at both commercial and investment treaty arbitrations, and recently represented an eastern European state-owned entity in a billion-dollar ICC dispute.
David Foxton QC is a highly experienced commercial expert and a "complete superstar" in the arbitration arena. Instructing solicitors comment that he is "very user-friendly and responds promptly with clear advice."
Like Foxton, Richard Siberry QC is highly acclaimed by market commentators. "Precise, meticulous and fluent, he's a barrister's barrister." His work as international arbitration counsel draws on his widespread commercial expertise.
"Smooth as marble," Joe Smouha QC is "one of the best advocates in London," and is praised for his mastery of the commercial international arbitration arena. He is particularly respected by instructing solicitors for his ability to involve himself immediately in the key issues, and is commended as a "team player with a phenomenal capacity for work."
David Joseph QC is another highly valued member of the set whose practice encompasses international arbitration disputes held under a wide range of rules in many jurisdictions. He is "extremely hard-working and user-friendly - a real team player who goes the extra mile for clients." He recently acted as lead counsel for the claimants Astro All Asia Networks in a successful SIAC arbitration in which an award totalling over USD200 million was issued.
Jeffrey Gruder QC impresses sources with his "approachable and user-friendly" style, and is experienced in both commercial litigation and arbitration. He has acted in multiple disputes held under the auspices of institutions including the LCIA, SIAC, ICC and LMAA.
Market commentators hold Vernon Flynn QC in high esteem due to his "excellent knowledge of the leading arbitration cases" and the fact that he has "a very extensive practice." His broad-based commercial expertise sees him instructed on high-value matters as counsel and arbitrator, and he is noted for having a "brilliant mind and wonderful client skills."
Richard Millett QC garners praise for his strategic thinking and is an experienced advocate who has appeared in a range of disputes. He offers particular expertise in matters relating to insurance and reinsurance, banking, energy, media and insolvency.
Steven Berry QC is highlighted by sources as one to watch in this area and a "very user-friendly and charming advocate." He has appeared in LMAA, LCIA and ICC arbitrations as counsel, and also sits as arbitrator in a range of disputes.
Paul Stanley QC has extensive international arbitration expertise, and is "a first-class performer on insurance and Bermuda Form-related matters." Market commentators confirm that he is developing an increasingly impressive practice in the field.
"One of the most incisive and insightful juniors at the Bar," Paul Key is recognised as an expert in commercial arbitration and litigation. Sources view him as "a true gentleman with the intellect of an Einstein." His recent work includes appearing for the ICC as intervener in the key Supreme Court case of Jivraj v Hashwani.
Ricky Diwan is another "excellent junior" at this set, and is commended for his work ethic and international commercial arbitration expertise. He practised as a US-qualified attorney at Debevoise & Plimpton, and has acted as counsel on a wide range of arbitrations.
Sam Wordsworth is "a superb, very erudite barrister," who focuses his practice on international arbitration and public international law. As such he has particular expertise in investment treaty disputes, but has also been instructed on ICC, LCIA and UNCITRAL arbitrations.
Instructing solicitors comment that David Scorey is "the first choice as junior in Bermuda Form cases and is very good in jurisdictional disputes." His expertise in insurance and reinsurance arbitration is complemented by his "very client-friendly" approach.
The "very impressive" Salim Moollan enters the rankings this year on the back of copious praise from the market, and is recommended as "a class act and easily one of the best juniors at the Bar." He has been called to both the Mauritian and English Bars, and is currently the chairman of UNCITRAL. One client commented: "He is highly intelligent and articulate, and thinks like an advocate all the time."
Another up-and-coming junior drawing acclaim from market sources is Siddharth Dhar. He focuses his "very impressive international practice" on arbitration, and is a highly experienced commercial practitioner.
Damien Walker has extensive experience in the commercial litigation and arbitration field, and is singled out by several sources as an impressive junior at the set.
The "absolutely excellent" James Willan is another experienced commercial junior who handles arbitrations with aplomb. A recent highlight of his work was in acting for YUKOS in its attempts to enforce arbitration awards issued against Rosneft Oil.
Essex Court Chambers is seen as "one of the top chambers for arbitration" and a large part of its appeal lies in the stellar quality of its international arbitrators. V V Veeder QC is a prime example and is universally acclaimed as "the king of arbitration." He has a real depth of expertise and adopts a "user-friendly" approach that ensures he remains a popular choice in all forms of arbitration.
Also at Essex Court Chambers is the "brilliant" Michael Collins QC, who is highly acclaimed for his wide-ranging practice as an arbitrator. He spends time in both the USA and the UK, and is considered a "well-prepared and extraordinarily good" person to appoint.
Ian Hunter QC, another highly recommended member of the same chambers, dedicates a significant amount of time to sitting as an arbitrator. He offers significant expertise in insurance and reinsurance arbitrations.
Toby Landau QC, another housed at Essex Court Chambers, is praised by sources as "the obvious superstar arbitrator" and offers a "tremendous amount of experience" both in this role and as advocate. He has been appointed in commercial and investment treaty arbitrations held under the auspices of multiple institutions.
Richard Siberry QC at the same set is increasingly recognised as an "outstanding arbitrator" who has sat in several LMAA, LCIA and ICC proceedings. His experience spans several different areas and includes commercial, energy and shipping-related matters.
Also at Essex Court Chambers is Joe Smouha QC, an "exceptional individual" who is highly acclaimed both as an arbitrator and as counsel. His commercial nous is applied to a broad spread of disputes, and he has sat as arbitrator in a range of jurisdictions.
David Williams QC, of Essex Court Chambers but based in New Zealand, offers significant expertise in investment treaty and commercial arbitrations. Market commentators are quick to praise his capabilities as arbitrator, with one source commenting that "he controls proceedings brilliantly as chairman."
Martin Hunter led the international arbitration group at Freshfields before joining Essex Court Chambers, and is identified by sources as "clearly a leading arbitrator." His vast experience has seen him appointed in disputes held under a broad range of institutional rules.
Essex Court Chambers is consistently regarded as the leading public international law (PIL) set in the market in terms of both expertise and presence. It fields "juniors and silks who have incredible experience of international matters" and houses some of the leading practitioners in the field. This leading bench of star performers seamlessly pulls together the diverse threads of a broad-based PIL practice; its premier arbitration capabilities sit alongside equal strength in human rights, environmental law, state and diplomatic immunities, maritime and land boundaries and investment protection.
The "exceptional" Vaughan Lowe QC has long held sway as a true expert in the PIL arena, and is a "fantastic advocate" whose "clarity of thought and expression is just great." He is highly regarded for his work as both counsel and arbitrator in investment treaty disputes, and also offers "real expertise in law of the sea." His recent work amply demonstrates the breadth of his PIL capabilities, and includes representing Pakistan in its dispute with India over the diversion of Kishenganga River waters.
The "excellent, responsive and pragmatic" Malcolm Shaw QC is considered "one of the best barristers in the field of PIL" by market commentators. His expertise in advising a range of clients sees him regularly appear before the ICJ and the ECHR. His recent work includes representing an Azerbaijani national in an application brought against Armenia. This took place against the background of a wider dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Toby Landau QC is "pre-eminent in the field of international arbitration" and is "taken very seriously in the investment treaty world." He is a highly experienced advocate and arbitrator, and represents states, state-owned entities and investors with equal aplomb. When asked about his expertise in matters related to bilateral investment treaties (BIT), sources note that "Toby is an expert on the law and procedure, and gives intelligent, strategic direction."
Market commentators affirm that Franklin Berman QC is a highly respected senior figure at the PIL Bar, who is particularly noted for his work sitting as arbitrator in ICSID disputes. He has expertise across the full PIL spectrum and tackles issues relating to the law of treaties, maritime demarcation and international organisations amongst others.
Leading junior Sam Wordsworth is someone sources would "pick out as a real star" in the arena due to his "deep knowledge of international law." He impresses a whole host of market commentators with his expertise in investment treaty arbitrations, state-to-state disputes and non-contentious PIL advisory work. He is praised as being "extremely capable, extremely clever, very easy to work with and thoroughly hard-working."
Dan Sarooshi is a "highly knowledgeable and personable" junior whose "very broad knowledge of PIL and investment treaty arbitration law" garners him particular acclaim. His deep expertise in WTO matters also draws praise from commentators, and is exemplified by his recent work advising BAT on a trade-related dispute with a state. He also acted as junior to Lord Pannick QC in the highly significant FG Hemisphere Associates v Democratic Republic of the Congo and Others case in the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.
Also at the set is the respected and "long-established professor" Alan Boyle, whose experience in this field sees him work with NGOs, governments and international organisations. His "environmental expertise" sits alongside his focus on dispute settlement and the law of the sea.
PIL remains the mainstay of Amy Sander's practice. Her notable prowess in this area sees her caseload span diverse areas such as sanctions matters, human rights and investment treaty disputes. She recently acted for the Russian Federation at the ICJ defending proceedings commenced by the Republic of Georgia. The ICJ determined that it did not have the jurisdiction to continue with the application made by Georgia.
This top-rated commercial set continues to enjoy a strong reputation in complex energy disputes that feature novel or international dimensions. Sources cite its breadth of experience as a particular draw, noting that it is "able to take on the full gamut of energy disputes and go through every phase from beginning to end."
Experienced silk David Foxton QC is "a class act." As an advocate he eschews the dramatic and overstated in favour of "a quiet and thoughtful advocacy style that is incredibly appealing to judges." Foxton is frequently sought after for his ability to handle complex, high-value cases, and recently tackled a matter concerning the sale of an oil refinery.
The energy practice of the "phenomenally clever and hard-working" Simon Bryan QC is bolstered by his knowledge of shipping and insurance law. In the last year these areas of expertise were usefully synthesised in the matter of Arash Shipping v Groupama. In this matter he acted for the Iranian state tanker fleet when UN sanctions against Iran resulted in a loss of insurance coverage.
Bryan's head of chambers is the near legendary Gordon Pollock QC, who is widely acknowledged as "one of the finest barristers of his generation." A fine litigator and arbitrator, he is someone who has seen and done it all.
Richard Siberry QC is "a first-class barrister who is very very smart and extraordinarily quick at picking up complex technical points." He is also commended for his "intellectual approach" and "very persuasive advocacy."
The well-respected Claire Blanchard QC is lauded for her skills as both an adviser and an advocate. She "is a very good analyst and knows the energy area well." In conference, clients appreciate the clarity of her advice, and particularly like the way she is "forthright and tells you as it is." In the courtroom she proves a "very good and ferocious fighter."
Esteemed silk David Mildon QC is "hugely experienced in energy-related disputes." Possessed of a "brilliant analytical mind that gets straight to the point," he is "two steps ahead at all times," say those that use him. In court he "is an impressive advocate and deservedly commands respect." Solicitors appreciate both his "responsive and approachable" nature and his "willingness to go the extra mile and leave no stone unturned."
This magic circle set is able to deploy its impressive range of commercial expertise in high-profile civil fraud cases. It can staff cases of all sizes due to its impressive roster of barristers, and has been involved in numerous mammoth disputes requiring multiple silks and juniors. Interviewees praised the flexible and commercial clerking here and the set's overall "user-friendly" nature.
Joe Smouha QC is "outstanding" according to many sources. This legal titan's recent standout cases include his involvement in the Fiona Trust matter.
Interviewees praise Paul McGrath QC for his "wonderful judgement" and the doggedness with which he approaches difficult cases. He recently acted on behalf of Russian bank VTB in its dispute with Malofeev over an alleged USD200 million fraud.
Head of chambers Gordon Pollock QC is a "terrific" fraud silk, who has acted in a number of complex international disputes, including an USD8 billion claim brought by a company owned by the Emirate of Sharjah against the National Iranian Oil Company. He was instructed by YUKOS in its dispute with Rosneft.
Paul Stanley QC is "a particularly talented advocate" and a " good cross-examiner" who is "very willing to roll up his sleeves." He has recently been exercising his talents in Michael Cherney's dispute with Oleg Deripaska.
Graham Dunning QC is an "incredibly professional" performer. Clearly a silk to watch, he has recently appeared in the Fiona Trust case and has acted in a dispute between RBS and a Texan investment manager. Impressed sources reflect: "I think all silks are bright but he consistently comes up with more quality points than anyone I've instructed before."
Nathan Pillow is a "super" fraud junior, and has appeared in such high-profile cases as the Ablyazov litigation, where he has been acting for the claimant Kazakh bank. Sources heap praise on him, saying: "His documents are highly professional. He's very smooth and he combines that with being nice and approachable."
The "extremely good" Edmund King frequently acts as lead advocate in high-value international fraud cases. Recent key instructions saw him act in a mortgage fraud dispute between the Bank of Scotland and a firm of solicitors, as well as a billion-dollar dispute involving a foreign mining company.
Jern-Fei Ng is "a very able man indeed," and has acted in some important hedge fund fraud cases, including the Fiona Trust litigation and the Ikos litigation, a dispute about the stewardship of a hedge fund that controls around USD1.5 billion worth of assets.
Though relatively recently called, junior Anna Dilnot brings with her six years of experience as a solicitor and solicitor advocate at Stephenson Harwood. She impresses interviewees with the strength of her written submissions and is "one to look out for" when it comes to her fraud work.
Notable for his appearance in the Fiona Trust litigation, he has also been acting in the Chancery Division in a case related to the alleged bribery of senior executives at a British oil and gas exploration company. Impressed interviewees praise him for being a "calm, assured" junior who "shows good judgement and legal analysis."
Essex Court Chambers is a commercial litigation and international arbitration giant that is a first port of call for clients seeking counsel on complex insurance and reinsurance cases. As one source points out: "The single common feature among all the barristers in the set is that they all have first-class legal brains." Interviewees praise the barristers' diverse skill set which is deployed to great effect in both contentious and non-contentious matters. The clerks also win praise for their approachable and friendly manner.
David Foxton QC is "a top-class cross-examiner, who goes for the jugular and never resorts to theatrics." He recently acted on the Venetico Marine v International General Insurance Company case which involved a marine insurance claim for constructive total loss.
John Lockey QC has extensive experience in insurance disputes and arbitrations. One peer states: "He is a formidable opponent, who is tenacious yet affable and pleasant to work with."
Steven Berry QC wins praise for his "smooth advocacy style." He is particularly active in the shipping, banking and commodities sectors.
Richard Jacobs QC is an expert on Bermuda Form excess insurance contracts. He also commands respect for his skills as an arbitrator. One observer remarked of him: "He is thorough and engaging, and has a keen intellect."
Paul Stanley QC has advised on and acted on a great number of insurance-related arbitrations. He is also considered an expert in the field of European Community law. Sources highly rate
Claire Blanchard QC for her remarkable analytical skills and down-to-earth approach. She recently advised on a major insurance claim relating to damage of an oil rig.
Chambers' head Gordon Pollock QC remains a towering figure on the UK insurance scene. Peers praise his wide-ranging expertise and unparalleled depth of knowledge.
David Scorey is a talented junior who is "bright, and analytical in his approach." He is particularly experienced in Bermuda Form cases and jurisdictional disputes.
"Outstanding practitioner" Stephen Houseman has recently acted on a big-ticket insurance dispute relating to the world's largest hydro-electric project in Brazil.
Essex Court Chambers' shipping strength principally lies on the dry side. Its members handle issues relating to contracts of affreightment, cargo claims, pollution law, ship purchase and sales, and shipbuilding. In addition to this, they are increasingly interesting themselves in wet work, and are rapidly gaining a reputation for their strength in collision cases. Members of the set are well supported by a clerking team that "consistently delivers a high level of service, and is clearly geared towards providing the best service it can."
Steven Berry QC is much appreciated by clients, who are pleased by his approachable style. "He's an advocate you can just pick up the phone to - it's unusual and fantastic to have that access to someone of his stature," say solicitors. They further comment on the efficacy of his "smooth and seductive advocacy."
Graham Dunning QC is "one of the first names on the team sheet if the case involves a need for really penetrating cross-examination," according to sources. Dunning is a formidable advocate, who is "a very good man to have on your side because he's absolutely relentless" and "very good at crushing the opposition." He represented a key defendant in the high-profile Fiona Trust trial in the Commercial Court.
Claire Blanchard QC is another of Essex Court's stable of formidable advocates. "She takes no prisoners and is incredibly forceful," and is "such a ferocious fighter" that peers admit they "dread having her on the other side." She was recently heavily involved in the Cendor MOPU case.
Vernon Flynn QC has a very broad commercial law practice, and while shipping and commodities law forms only a small part of his caseload, his considerable expertise and skilful advocacy ensure he receives frequent instructions in this sphere. Instructing solicitors refer to him as being a "very tactically aware and very bright" lawyer who has "the capacity to make the best of even a dog's breakfast of a brief."
Peers state that Christopher Smith QC's tremendous abilities and impressive caseload currently outstrip his reputation, and are keen to put right this wrong. "He's not necessarily one of the names you hear bandied around, but he's amongst the leading shipping silks in London," they say. As an advocate he is "very punchy, very commercial, and he really grabs hold of a case and doesn't let go."
Simon Bryan QC has over 20 years' experience of shipping and commodities disputes and maintains a busy practice in the sector. He recently acted for Arash Shipping, the Iranian state tanker fleet, in an expedited Court of Appeal hearing regarding the cancellation of the fleet's insurance following UN sanctions.
David Foxton QC is regularly instructed in major shipping disputes. He "knows shipping law backwards" and provides such concise and incisive advice that he is "a complete joy to work with," according to those that instruct him.
Philippa Hopkins has a broad commercial litigation practice, and is highly regarded for her expertise in shipping and commodities law, particularly on the dry side. She is a "tremendous advocate" who "knows shipping law so well you can guarantee she will give you the right answer every time."
Edmund King is a "phenomenally intelligent" barrister who is one of the rising stars of the Commercial Bar. He has a broad practice which encompasses international arbitration, banking, commodities, fraud, and shipping and commodities law. He was recently instructed in a case relating to the cradle design for a Transpac 52 competitive racing yacht which blew over in a storm in Marbella.
Nathan Pillow has been acting for the key defendant in the appeal of the Fiona Trust case. He is a hugely talented junior who receives considerable praise from peers, who laud him as "omniscient - he's on top of everything. It's like having a human computer on the team."
Nigel Eaton has developed some considerable expertise in shipping and insurance disputes, and "has made it his business to know both the concepts and the law better than his peers." As one satisfied instructing solicitor noted, "I judge a junior on how easy they make my job; with Nigel there is no point in double checking his opinions - he's always right."
Commercial law giant Essex Court Chambers has a small number of "really great" indirect tax lawyers within its ranks. Amongst these it has a star silk in the field who regularly handles test cases in the ECJ, and a number of juniors who are capable of handling some very complex matters. They have been involved in many of the past year's reported cases, such as Innocent v HMRC and GlaxoSmithKline v HMRC.
Roderick Cordara QC is a hugely knowledgeable barrister who is an "incisive thinker, great advocate and inclusive team leader. His recent highlights have included a successful appeal to the Upper Tribunal concerning the classification of Lucozade Sport. This is a case which will have a significant impact on VAT application.
The "very clever" David Scorey acted without a leader in Baxi v HMRC, a case where he made submissions to the ECJ. More recently he has further cemented his reputation by successfully representing a national sports club in a VAT appeal. "Hard-working, thoughtful and intelligent," he is "an extremely stylish lawyer" whom it is "a joy to work with."
Paul Key is primarily a general commercial lawyer but he has immense expertise in all areas of indirect tax such as duties and excise, VAT and insurance premium tax. He has experience of presenting arguments to the ECJ, and was described as "a true gentleman whom you bring in when you have a case which needs a lot of the grey matter to be applied to it."
The "established" Edmund King is equally highly regarded. VAT makes up a substantial part of his practice, and he is adept at achieving settlements for clients. He recently participated in the ground-breaking Blair Endersby v HMRC matter, and has experience of acting in Fleming claims.
Jern-Fei Ng "is impressive and knows his stuff," according to commentators. He recently acted as sole counsel for RBS in the ECJ case of RBS Deutschland Holdings, one of the most well-publicised Revenue tax challenges of recent months.
Commercial dispute resolution and international arbitration experts Essex Court Chambers have a solid grounding in banking disputes. The set acts on some of the highest-profile cases in this field, despite having only a small cadre of barristers devoted to the area.
David Foxton QC "is clearly set for a stellar rise through the ranks to the very highest reaches of the Bar." Commended as a "younger, hungrier QC" with a "formidable intellect," he adopts a "client-oriented approach" that means his services are always in high demand.
Richard Millett QC wins praise for his "imaginative approach" and "tactical sense." His "narrative advocacy style" and "buccaneering exuberance" make him a particularly difficult opponent, according to peers.
Stablemate Joe Smouha QC is "a brilliant advocate" who is "known for being good at everything" he turns his hand to. Banking forms but one part of his much-vaunted commercial litigation practice but there is no doubting his capabilities in this regard.
Jeffrey Gruder QC has experience of handling a number of high-profile banking cases in recent times including RZB v RBS, and Sam Tak Lee v Société Générale. "Very experienced and very bright," he is a stiff opponent even for the very best at the Bar.
Others at the set to win favour include Geraldine Andrews QC, who is a leading specialist in the bank guarantees area. She gives "clear and pragmatic advice" and is widely seen as a "sensible, hard-working and incisive performer."
At the junior end, Edmund King "punches above his weight" and is praised for being "in tune with clients." He has handled a number of serious pieces of litigation recently and had a role in UBS v Proton, a piece of litigation that until it settled had looked like being the first piece of credit crunch-related action.
This set is recognised in the market for having a small number of "really excellent employment barristers." Members act for claimants and respondents in the full range of disputes, including those relating to unfair and wrongful dismissal, discrimination and equal pay, and industrial relations. Sources say the clerks are "highly amenable," "easy to deal with" and "helpful and attentive."
"Fabulous advocate" Andrew Hochhauser QC is commended for his "ferocious" approach and for the fact that he "has a boldness that can take your breath away." He is frequently instructed in high-profile cases of great complexity. Recent highlights for him include appearing in the Court of Appeal in a case about bonuses in the banking sector.
Martin Griffiths QC is "tough" and "really good on details," sources say. His recent highlights include appearing in Customer Systems v Ranson, a successful breach of fiduciary duties and confidential information claim brought by a former employer against departing employees. He has recently been instructed in a substantial arbitration claim.
The "highly commercial" David Craig is "able, hard-working" and "excellent at constructing arguments." He has notable expertise in employment cases with a commercial crossover and recently appeared in Clyde & Co v Bates van Winkelhof, an application for an injunction to prevent a former partner suing for discrimination and whistle blowing rather than using an arbitration procedure.
Charles Ciumei is "tenacious" and gives "very clear analyses," impressed sources say. He is a favoured choice for employment cases with a commercial aspect.
Edward Brown receives praise from sources for his level-headed approach and his excellent advice on a range of employment disputes. Recent highlights for him include successfully acting for UBMA in a sex discrimination and unfair dismissal claim.
Hugh Mercer QC of Essex Court Chambers stands out for his knowledge of EU farming regulations, particularly Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms. A barrister with an excellent knowledge of European legislation, he is "extremely clever" and "a true expert on rural payments." In the past year, he enjoyed a notable victory against the odds in the Supreme Court in Bloomsbury International v Sea Fish Authority. This case looked at whether an industry levy was lawfully imposed on all sea fish sold in the UK or whether that levy can only lawfully apply to sea fish first landed in the UK.
David Peters of Essex Court Chambers impresses with his handling of a spectrum of commercial, fraud, insolvency and company issues. He recently acted in Re Bickland, a case concerning an administration application's costs. He shares a set with Edmund King, who spends a large amount of his time on chancery matters. Clients laud King's client manner and drafting skills, with one noting that he is "very confident and has good judgement."
Tim Eicke QC of Essex Court Chambers continues to be held in high esteem for his multifaceted EU law practice. Sources comment that he "pays a lot of attention to his clients and really tries to understand their needs." Eicke recently acted as lead counsel for the Secretary of State for the Home Department in a Supreme Court case regarding the principle of equivalence under EU law.
Hugh Mercer QC is also at Essex Court Chambers and remains highly rated by market commentators. His expertise in EU law spans a wide range of areas such as damages actions, state aid, free movement and competition law. Those who have instructed him confirm that "his knowledge in terms of EU law is fantastic," and highlight the benefits brought by his foreign language capabilities. He was instructed by Defra in Bloomsbury International v Sea Fish Authority, an appeal concerning a levy applied on sea fish.
Tim Eicke QC of Essex Court Chambers regularly appears in the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the European courts, and brings valuable EU law expertise to his immigration practice. He is described as "a proper immigration silk - he knows his stuff and has done so for a long time."
Essex Court Chambers' Richard Millett QC is a "hugely successful advocate" who "thinks quickly on his feet and presents clearly in court." He expertly handles the most complicated of commercial disputes, and has appeared frequently in the BVI, Anguilla, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the Isle of Man over the years.
Millett's stablemate Joe Smouha QC is also no stranger to complex disputes, as he is widely considered to be one of the best commercial litigators of his generation. While he may not handle as many cases offshore as some of his peers due to his buoyant domestic practice, the work he does do is of the highest quality.