CHAMBERS UK, 2012
Chambers UK, 2012 made 58 recommendations over 10 fields including Client Services
CLIENT SERVICE AT THE BAR
Monckton Chambers is "a particularly well-run operation" that rakes in praise for its "modern outlook and commercial approach." In part this is because of its "friendly and reliable" barristers, who are never "haughty" and who work well together to foster a much-praised and much-appreciated "non-stuffy" atmosphere. The "excellent clerking" deserves credit for its part in cultivating this congenial climate. Under the command of senior clerk David Hockney, the "personable and commercial" team is on the ball, "super-responsive and accommodating." Clients are especially impressed by the way the clerking team "keeps itself in the loop." This enables it to quickly identify any issues that arise and respond effectively with solutions. In keeping with its modern outlook, Monckton doesn't go in for "dusty meetings in cluttered rooms," offering instead a "fantastic series of conferences" in a modern, agreeable environment.
ADMINISTRATIVE & PUBLIC LAW - LEADING SET
Monckton Chambers, a dominant force in competition law, has wider expertise in public law generally, and focuses heavily on challenges to the exercise of the state's power in the commercial arena. The set, which has an impressive 22 members on the Attorney General's Panel of Counsel, proves impressive at handling judicial reviews involving EU, procurement, competition, and customs and excise issues. Sources were eager to shower praise on the clerical support offered the members here, with one solicitor commenting "they are the best, overall, of all the clerks we deal with."
Jon Turner QC's talents tend towards competition issues, and he is widely seen as being "a man of fabulous intellect, who always offers great support to those that instruct him." He has been a notable favourite for telecoms operators over the past year, acting in several challenges to Ofcom decisions in all levels of court. Christopher Vajda QC is another talented competition practitioner with a flair for judicial reviews involving regulators. He is a favourite in Competition Commission investigations, and recently acted in the first ever judicial review challenge of VAT charges on postal services. Interviewees agree that the "first-class" Tim Ward QC well deserved his promotion to silk. He has lately acted for Vodafone in a successful challenge to the jurisdiction of the Competition Appeal Tribunal, and also successfully handled a judicial review for ShopDirect in a challenge to the Competition Commission's findings on payment protection.
Gerry Facenna has a fine public law practice with a heavy emphasis on EU law. "Very focused in all he does and always working to a high standard," he recently demonstrated his skills in a case before the European Court of Justice. He has also been involved in a high-profile Information Tribunal case on behalf of the Cabinet Office.
CIVIL LIBERTIES & HUMAN RIGHTS
Also recommended, Piers Gardner of Monckton Chambers is "exceedingly clever and has a real eye for the strategic." Sources further commend him for his "sound understanding of the law and the whole litigation process."
COMPETITION/EUROPEAN LAW - LEADING SET
Competition law forms the very lifeblood of Monckton Chambers. One of the real pioneers in the field, it has a tradition of handling the best work that goes back 30 to 40 years. Its members "have always worked to rigorously high standards" and are noted for the "real strength and breadth of expertise they offer." "Straightforward and client-friendly," they are extremely pleasant out of court but "well capable of mixing it with the best once in a courtroom scenario." They are part of a set that has long been regarded as one of the big two in this field, and one that is felt to be going from strength to strength following the appointment to silk of a number of its members in the recent past.
The well-respected Sir Jeremy Lever QC "is the godfather of competition law," according to market commentators. Recent work of his includes acting in an appeal against the CFI ruling that the Commission had a duty to investigate evidence as to the existence and amount of state aid provided by a recipient of alleged state aid. Another main figure at the set is Nicholas Paines QC. Something of a generalist, Paines wins admiration for his long-standing expertise in EU and competition law, being especially well noted for his pensions and employment expertise. Those that have used him extol his written work and say that "when he really believes in a case he's unstoppable." His recent work includes Verbeke v Homawoo, the ECJ application of the Rome II regulation in a cross-border claim. Another fully committed performer is the "user-friendly" John Swift QC, who "is enjoyable to work with and, as a former regulator, offers extremely valuable insights into matters that others don't." "Not afraid to get stuck in," he is much appreciated by quality solicitors. Recently, Swift acted for the Competition Commission in a dispute concerning the proposed merger of Sports Direct and JJB. Swift's head of chambers is Paul Lasok QC, " a heavyweight in the field who has a deep understanding of the EU framework." He acted as lead counsel on behalf of ISG Pearce in its appeal against the OFT decision to fine the company £5 million following its involvement in price fixing in the construction industry.
Jon Turner QC receives high praise from sources, who state that "he is hands-on, tenacious, and worth his weight in gold as he knows the OFT inside out." "Hard-working and tactically astute, he is simply excellent to work with," according to solicitors. His many notable cases have included leading the team for Reckitt Benckiser in relation to the OFT's abuse of dominance investigation for its conduct in the supply of the stomach remedy Gaviscon. Turner is one of the set's big names along with Christopher Vajda QC, "an outstandingly good community and UK competition lawyer." Impressed clients say of him: "He is a very careful lawyer, who knows a lot of law and is very good at applying it." He led the team on behalf of Ballast Nedam in appealing an OFT decision to fine the company for price fixing in the construction industry. Recent silk Daniel Beard QC comes highly recommended for his competition law expertise and has been dubbed "the star of his generation" by a number of market commentators. Instructing solicitors applaud his "outstanding feel for, and understanding of, competition litigation in the UK," noting that he "perfectly comprehends the workings of the Competition Appeal Tribunal." He was recently instructed by the defendant in Emerson Electric v Morgan Crucible, with regards to a follow-on claim against members of an alleged cartel which produced motor components. Another popular new silk is Paul Harris QC. Commended for his expertise and skill, he is described by solicitors as "a fantastic street fighter in court." He has been acting in the high-profile recruitment industry cartel case Hays Specialist Recruitment Ltd v Office of Fair Trading. Finally, Tim Ward QC is seen as a "class operator" by those that use him. He was instructed by Freesat in BSkyB & Others v Ofcom, a dispute as to wholesale access to Sky's premium sports channels.
Highly sought after junior Josh Holmes "is a delight to work with," according to his solicitor fan base. "He is a really easy person to get on with, extremely clever in an understated way and very collaborative in his approach," say those that use him. He has been instructed on appeals against the gas-insulated switchgear cartel decision and is also acting in a major state aid appeal. Stablemate Meredith Pickford wins admiration from instructing solicitors as an "outstanding junior." He is instructed as junior for Sky in its case over Ofcom's decisions to force Sky to license its premium sports and movie channels to its competitors at Ofcom's set rates. Also impressive, Ronit Kreisberger offers both "incisive analytical skills and compendious legal knowledge." A "quietly destructive advocate who produces easy-to-follow oral submissions," she is someone with "endless drive and determination." "Intellectually stimulating to work with," she acted for Cathay Pacific in its appeal against the European Commission's decision to impose fines on 11 air cargo carriers for participating in a worldwide fuel and security surcharges cartel. Former Allen & Overy partner Alistair Lindsay wins praise as "someone who eschews prolix opinions and comes straight to the point." Appreciated by instructing solicitors as "forward thinking and an excellent team player," he has been acting on behalf of Fortis regarding an OFT investigation into the motor insurance market.
George Peretz is a junior who acts unled much of the time, prompting many to speculate that he cannot be far off silk. He has been appearing in the construction industry price-fixing litigation as well as Oxley Threads v European Communities, an important case on cartel fines. Instructing solicitors seek him out as they do Kassie Smith, who brings to the table "a commonsense approach and all-round legal excellence." She has been acting for the Competition Commission in Stagecoach Group Plc v Competition Commission. Philip Moser is another highly regarded junior at the set. His recent work includes acting for Defra/UK government in a case concerning the calculation of the sugar levy. Moser is well respected alongside accomplished courtroom performer Anneli Howard. Howard's past expertise both as an associate at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and as a Référendaire at the ECJ means she is an able hand when it comes to competition and EU law matters. She has been acting in the OFT investigation into price fixing between tobacco manufacturers and a large number of high street supermarkets. Ben Rayment is seen as having a fine future ahead of him. "Exceptional and something of a rising star," he has a background as the legal secretary to the UK Competition Commission and the Competition Appeal Tribunal, and is noted for his strong advocacy skills. He acted as junior in BAA Plc v Competition Commission, a judicial review challenge to the Commission's decision to order BAA to divest itself of a number of its airports.
Michael Bowsher QC of Monckton Chambers is the lead name in the sector for construction-related procurement instructions. Sources state that he is "the premier counsel bar none" on such issues.
Sources assess the overall level of service at Monckton Chambers as being of a very high standard, with its clerks winning particular praise for their "responsiveness, friendliness, and reliability." The set is home to a group of "highly knowledgeable and very firm advocates," who have a particularly strong reputation in EU law. They are much sought after by clients seeking advice on the impact on domestic law of EU environmental legislation. The set also maintains a fine track record for work on behalf of regulators.
Jon Turner QC is "extremely thorough and excellent on his feet." In addition to his expertise in public and environmental law, he is very popular in the competition and telecoms arena. Recently, he represented the Environment Agency in a judicial review brought against it by landfill operator Anti Waste. This case hinged on the agency's approach to compliance with EU-wide landfill laws and EU groundwater protection laws.
Kassie Smith has an excellent track record in both domestic and EU environmental law, and is currently representing a transatlantic coalition of environmental groups in an intervention to a case brought by a group of airlines and their trade association. The case concerns Europe's right to tackle carbon emissions from aircraft that travel through Europe. Sources are quick to praise her "fine attention to detail and practical and pragmatic advice." Gerry Facenna is singled out for his "personable manner" and "ability to be both swift and yet careful in his approach." He is highly regarded for his expertise in EU environmental law and also continues to win praise for his work on behalf of regulators. Examples of his work include representing the Environment Agency in a judicial review by a campaigning group challenging the UK's implementation of the Environmental Information Directive and EU regulation on persistent organic pollutants. Peers further describe Facenna as being "a sound, focused and highly creative advocate."
PROCUREMENT - LEADING SET
Monckton Chambers has been the dominant set in the procurement field: in terms of numbers, experience and broadness of knowledge it can't be beaten. The set houses a large team of specialists, who are praised for their "modern outlook and commercial approach." They represent suppliers, utilities and contracting authorities in both heavy litigation and non-contentious matters, and are described by sources as being "really on the ball - they have the edge when it comes to procurement."
Michael Bowsher QC handles more public procurement cases than anyone around. Active in the field long before many others, he is "the UK's most prominent procurement silk." His many clients go to him as he has "unmatched insight into how the procurement law world is developing." They also appreciate his "measured, understated delivery," and the fact that "in court he constantly gets the judges on his side." Paul Lasok QC's "encyclopaedic knowledge of EU law brings an added dimension to his procurement practice," note sources, who are also quick to highlight his strong reputation in the competition and state aid arenas. He leads a set that also houses experienced litigator Christopher Vajda QC, who receives widespread acclaim for being "a calm, thoughtful and diligent leader who approaches things excellently, no matter how difficult a case is." He recently appeared in Juliet Prew v Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, a case looking at whether the academy schools programme complies with public procurement rules. He is a popular figure along with Nicholas Paines QC, who has a broad and highly rated procurement practice. He was recently involved in a High Court dispute which raised issues surrounding the approach to awarding framework contracts.
Jennifer Skilbeck is "pragmatic, knowledgeable and charming." Solicitors favour her as she "is collegiate in her approach and quickly earns the client's confidence and admiration." Led by Michael Bowsher QC, Skilbeck represented Sita in Sita UK v Greater Manchester Waste Development Authority, a case looking into the award of the contract for Europe's largest PFI waste project, worth £4 billion. Valentina Sloane elicits strong praise from peers due to her "clear experience of and skill in handling procurement work." Her qualities were recently demonstrated when she handled a procurement claim relating to the Sandwell Waste Improvement Programme. Rob Williams has had a busy year, being involved in the high-profile case of Alstom v Eurostar Project and also acting for Mehler in a successful challenge concerning the procurement of armoured vests by the Metropolitan Police. He is "an excellent analyst and a sensible advocate who always has his feet on the ground," say commentators. "Committed, analytical and combative," Elisa Holmes is a noted procurement specialist who has recently represented the Secretary of State of Justice before the High Court. She is also instructed by the BBC on all its procurement matters.
Philip Moser has been involved in a large number of procurement cases in the past year, acting for contracting authorities and private contractors on a range of both litigation and advisory matters. He is trusted by clients as a result of his "pragmatic, user-friendly and solution-oriented approach to procurement issues." Like Moser, Ewan West has a wide-ranging procurement practice. Formerly a Senior Civil Servant in the Department for Transport, he understands the workings of the public sector better than most. This additional perspective proved invaluable when he successfully represented Eurostar after Alstom sought an interim injunction preventing it from entering a contract to purchase trains from Siemens. Interviewees note that he is "personable and intelligent; he gets the bigger picture as well as the finer details, and goes beyond the extra mile to get the job done."
Also well supported in the market is Paul Harris QC of Monckton Chambers. He may have only recently taken silk but, in terms of the sports market, is already considered to be amongst the most luminous of the Bar's leading lights. His elevated standing is affirmed by his case list, which includes some of the year's biggest sports issues, such as an intervention in the Premier League v Ofcom on behalf of each of The FA, the European Golf Tour, the Football League, the Rugby Football League and the RFU. He also acted in RBS v Hicks & Gillett. Sources believe Harris is "both an absolute A* practitioner intellectually, but also top-notch on the practical side of things, and a man who understands the nuances of a case." Clients from within the sports industry are unequivocal in their praise: "Harris is a no-nonsense barrister who knows the sports industry intimately and understands exactly what sports people want."
TAX: INDIRECT TAX - LEADING SET
Sources were quick to heap praise on this "standout chambers," pointing out the sophistication with which its members tackle VAT work. Strong on the litigation front, the set is well known for its representation of HMRC, but does also regularly appear for taxpayers. Its barristers have broad expertise in indirect taxation, and impressive knowledge of EU, human rights and public law. Together they form a team that has the largest number of indirect tax specialists at the Bar and one that can handle the lion's share of the government's work.
"Ferocious, tenacious and courageous" advocate Paul Lasok QC has a broad EU law practice which incorporates VAT work. He has been involved in some of the most significant recent VAT matters, including the Phonecards Main Appeal and Grattan PLC v HMRC. Melanie Hall QC is regarded as "calm, collected and analytically spot-on" by commentators. Her recent work has included the major Calltel, Mobilx and Blue Sphere VAT case in the Court of Appeal. Her set includes experienced litigator Christopher Vajda QC, who handles various matters before specialist competition and tax tribunals. His tax practice functions alongside a broad caseload that takes in EU/competition, judicial review and regulatory law. Clients admire the comprehensibility of his advice, whilst his rivals applaud that "he is a very decent opponent who won't pull dirty tricks on you."
The "extraordinarily bright" Valentina Sloane is held in the highest regard by interviewees, with peers singling her out as a "formidable opponent." As well as tax, her practice incorporates European, procurement and competition law. On the tax side she deals with VAT, customs duties and excise duties on behalf of accountancy firms, tax consultancies and solicitors' firms. VAT and indirect taxation specialist Peter Mantle has been involved in various significant matters, none more so than a series of compound interest cases arising from the first ever VAT group litigation to make it to trial. This high-value dispute has involved the Court of Appeal, the ECJ and the Upper Tax Tribunal. "Very effective advocate" Philip Moser has been involved in various missing trader intra-community (MTIC) cases, including Goldex International v HMRC; in all of these he has represented the Revenue. He has an extensive practice in the niche area of VAT fraud. New entry Raymond Hill is described by sources as a "very thoughtful and practical barrister," who is particularly good on EU-related VAT matters.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS - LEADING SET
This set occupies, alongside Blackstone Chambers, pole position as the stable of choice for regulatory telecommunications instructions. Blessed with a plethora of leading QCs and also celebrated for the quality and range of its senior juniors, it is considered to be one of the best-value options going. Observers report that it is particularly good when advice on tricky technical matters is required and only the best sector specialists will do.
Jon Turner QC has "got the lot - he's a brilliant advocate, and really gets to grip with the case." Famed for his mastery of public and regulatory law, he acted for Carphone Warehouse in one of the largest pieces of telecommunications litigation of 2010, which ran both in the CAT and before the Competition Commission. It consisted of two related, and ultimately successful, appeals against Ofcom decisions concerning the pricing of BT's 'copper wire' telephone and broadband wholesale products. Stablemate Christopher Vajda QC is "amenable and very clear in his advice." He appeals to clients as he "exudes considerable gravitas in court." Of late he has been leading in a major High Court damages action alleging cartel activity launched by Nokia against a number of manufacturers of liquid crystal displays.
Distinguished advocate Paul Lasok QC recently took part in a judicial review of the lawfulness of a decision by the OFT to close an investigation into cartel activity in the seabed cabling industry. He wins strong market approval as does new silk Tim Ward QC, who is "calm, measured and plays his hand well." He recently defended the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform in an ECJ challenge by Vodafone and O2 to the validity of the EU-wide roaming regulation, which imposes a cap on the prices mobile telephone operators can charge for cross-border services. Fellow new silk and expert on competition law Daniel Beard QC is praised for being "commercially focused, super-bright, cogent in his advice and decisive in his interventions." He recently acted for Cable & Wireless in BT and Everything Everywhere v Ofcom in the CAT. This case looked at the pricing of calls to 0845 and 0800 numbers.
Josh Holmes "impresses clients and speaks their language." A man with "considerable commercial acumen and strong analytical skills," he offers "perfect off-the-shelf advice and he gets it spot-on every time." Holmes regularly appears for Ofcom. Scarcely anyone can remember a major telecommunications regulatory challenge in which Meredith Pickford hasn't been involved. He originally trained as an economist, and so his commercial and strategic understanding is highly prized by solicitors and their clients. As someone who can very easily lead a case in the CAT without a QC, "he is a compelling choice for such instructions and an assured advocate who comes up with novel approaches as to how to run a case." The "outstanding" Anneli Howard is "a client's dream counsel - a real class act." She advised BT as sole counsel in the preparation of its appeal against Ofcom's market review statement for the fixed wholesale narrowband services market. Ben Lask is fast becoming a favourite junior for Ofcom in its high-profile battles with market-leading operators. One case he handled was Sky v Ofcom, an appeal in the CAT against a decision by the regulator to impose a wholesale must-offer obligation on the broadcaster in respect of Sky Sports channels.