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Index of tables

  1. Commercial litigation - Leading sets
  2. Commercial litigation - Leading silks
  3. Commercial litigation - New silks
  4. Commercial litigation - Leading juniors

Commercial litigation - Leading silks

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Commercial litigation - New silks

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Commercial litigation - Leading juniors

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While the very largest disputes continue to be dominated by the top-tier sets, the savvy shopper can often find much better value elsewhere. A common complaint is that several top silks have had their heads turned by cash-rich, litigious oligarchs from Russia and the CIS, to the detriment of other more traditional, yet less glamorous, litigants. The increased blurring of the lines between the commercial and Chancery courts has also seen several traditional Chancery sets rise to prominence, particularly in cases where fraud and insolvency are on the agenda. This has been reflected in the barrister rankings, where counsel at sets such as Serle Court are making a much bigger impression in the general commercial disputes market.

3 Verulam Buildings has ‘excellent strength in depth and some very talented juniors coming through'. The set has gone beyond its banking roots to establish itself at the top for general commercial litigation, as reflected in its involvement in some top cases, such as GDF Suez v Teeside Power, Gudavadze v Anisimov and JSC BTA Bank v Ablyazov. The ‘very client-friendly' clerks are ‘responsive, accommodating and always helpful'; ‘they come up with excellent alternative solutions as and when necessary'.

Brick Court Chambers is often a ‘first port of call for high-value, complex commercial disputes', which is reflected in the set’s recent workload. Excalibur Ventures v Texas Keystone, Constantin Medien AG v Bernard Ecclestone and others, and the Alexandros T dispute, which went to the Supreme Court are all cases of note. Some say ‘there is scarcely a weak link' among the barristers, with ‘strength in depth from top to bottom'. Many also consider it ‘the strongest set for disputes where there are Russian and fraud aspects involved'.

Essex Court Chambers produces ‘a disproportionate number of user-friendly, sound, commercial types who are an absolute pleasure to work with'. Members are involved in some of the UK’s most high-profile cases, including Tchenguiz v Serious Fraud Office, and Pinchuk v Bogolyubov and Kolomoisky. Barrister availability is ‘well managed by the excellent' clerks, who are ‘just what you would expect from a quality chambers'.

Fountain Court Chambers is ‘a first-rate all-round commercial set' that is ‘great for premiership work'. ‘The quality is excellent no matter what level of barrister is approached'; ‘they are always very capable, easy to work with and integrate into the team'. This depth is reflected in the cases, such as the six-week Commercial Court trial Alpstream & Ors. v PK Airfinance and GE Finance, which involved three silks and three juniors.

One Essex Court is a great source of ‘commercially astute, technically excellent, responsive and dependable' barristers. Highlight cases involving numerous members included Pinchuk v Bogolyubov and Kolomoisky, and McKillen v Misland and others. Clients also appreciate the set’s ‘excellent friendly service'. ‘In relation to the day-to-day running of cases, it quickly becomes apparent that the barristers are very well supported by a resourceful and innovative group of clerks'.

7 King’s Bench Walk is ‘a really nice set to work with; very helpful and always willing to take on short-notice urgent work'. The counsel, who are particularly strong on the insurance side, are ‘extremely intelligent and knowledgeable' and there is ‘a strong crop of senior juniors on the rise'. A recent highlight was Excalibur Ventures v Texas Keystone, which involved members of chambers.

Blackstone Chambers is an ‘unstuffy and versatile' set, with ‘excellent and approachable' barristers. The set is particularly noted for its expertise in commercial cases that have a regulatory or public law element. One case that involved several members was Otkritie Bank v Urumov and others, a 12-week Commercial Court trial that went to the Court of Appeal.

Maitland Chambers is ‘a strong set for commercial litigation, with a number of go-to senior barristers and silks'. Having built upon their traditional expertise in commercial Chancery and civil fraud work, members are now highly sought after for the largest commercial disputes, a notable highlight being JSC BTA Bank v Ablyazov.

‘First rate from top to bottom', Serle Court ‘has really raised its profile in major commercial litigation in recent years'. Recent case highlights include Tchenguiz v Serious Fraud Office, JSC BTA Bank v Ablyazov and the Fiona Trust litigation.

4 Stone Buildings is ‘a premium set', equally comfortable in the Chancery Division as it is in the Commercial Court. Its members provide ‘high-quality advice and advocacy, with a strong focus on effective case management'.

11 Stone Buildings is ‘making a name for itself in areas outside its core strength in insolvency litigation'. Recent case highlights include VTB Capital v Nutritek International. Clients appreciate chambers’ ‘refreshingly modern approach', and say ‘there is some really good young talent coming through'.

20 Essex Street houses ‘talented barristers at all levels of call', and has some real heavyweight silks among its ranks. Notably, Iain Milligan QC and Duncan Matthews QC have been involved in some headline cases of recent times such as the Alexandros T case and JSC BTA Bank v Ablyazov.

Erskine Chambers has an almost unassailable reputation as the go-to set for non-contentious and contentious company law advice, including major shareholder disputes. This expertise has helped it gain a foothold in large Commercial Court cases, such as BAT Industries PLC v Windward Prospects Ltd.

At Quadrant Chambers ‘the overall standards are extremely high for commercial and business-oriented law'. Transport and energy-related cases feature regularly.

South Square has ‘immense strength in depth in insolvency-related matters', and is also popular for complex finance and corporate disputes. In this respect, the Libor test case, Barclays Bank v Graiseley Properties, kept several members busy.

Wilberforce Chambers can provide support ‘in almost any area', and in commercial litigation, ‘the barristers are of an exceptional standard'. The set is also praised for its ‘incredibly competitive prices' and ‘excellent level of service'.

XXIV Old Buildings is ‘the go-to set for offshore commercial litigation'. ‘You will often find a barrister from this set involved in most heavyweight cases', such as Aeroflot v Berezovsky & Ors.

4 Pump Court is now firmly establishing itself beyond its more traditional domains in insurance and construction, and its ‘senior juniors are a battalion of silks in the waiting'.

Enterprise Chambers is ‘the go-to set for sensibly priced, quality commercial litigation'. The barristers are ‘all highly capable and technically excellent', and are also known for their insolvency expertise.

Littleton Chambers is ‘one of the pre-eminent sets for restrictive covenants and confidential information litigation'. It has ‘tremendous strength in depth' and a ‘superb range of experience across the board'.

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Legal Developments in London Bar for Commercial litigation

  • Finding the 
right words

    In the recent case of Newbury v Sun Microsystems [2013], the defendant argued that an offer to settle proceedings was ‘in principle' only and that a binding contract could not be formed until further terms had been agreed and a formal contract had been signed. It supported this argument by referring to a statement, in the offer letter, that the settlement was to be ‘recorded in a suitably worded agreement'. 

    - Macfarlanes

Legal Developments in the UK

Legal Developments and updates from the leading lawyers in each jurisdiction. To contribute, send an email request to
  • Home Office announces extension of support service for SMEs

    An online support service for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) which need to recruit skilled overseas workers has been extended until 28 February 2014. The pilot was launched by UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) in partnership with the Greater London Authority (GLA) and provides a step by step guide to sponsoring an overseas worker. This service is available via the GLA website.
  • Penningtons Manches' immigration team considers new changes to the Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance

    The Home Office has recently published new Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance, version 12/13. This guidance is to be used by all prospective and existing Tier 4 sponsors from 11 December 2013.
  • Finding the 
right words

    In the recent case of Newbury v Sun Microsystems [2013], the defendant argued that an offer to settle proceedings was ‘in principle' only and that a binding contract could not be formed until further terms had been agreed and a formal contract had been signed. It supported this argument by referring to a statement, in the offer letter, that the settlement was to be ‘recorded in a suitably worded agreement'. 

  • Behind the corporate veil: is that all there is?

    That companies have an existence entirely separate to that of their shareholders and directors is a foundational principle of English law and commerce.

  • Playing fair with penalty clauses

    It is often difficult to predict what will be recoverable as damages for breach of contract. To provide some certainty, parties will often seek to agree the sum that will be payable in the event of specified breaches. 

  • Restoring environmental damage: putting a price on ecosystem services

    On 7 August 2009 a 40-inch pipeline ruptured, spilling 5,400 cubic metres of crude oil into the soil and groundwater of La Crau nature reserve in southern France, a habitat protected under French and European law. The operator had to excavate and replace 60,000 tons of soil, install 70 wells to pump and treat groundwater and 25 pumps to skim oil from surface water, at a cost in the region of €50m. However, this was just the primary remediation (that is, restoring the site to the state it would have been if the damage had not occurred). The operator was also required to compensate for the damage to the habitats and the loss of the ecosystem services that would otherwise have been provided by La Crau nature reserve. Measures included purchasing land outside of the nature reserve and contributing to its management for a period of 30 years (over €1m), monitoring the water table for 20 years (over €500,000), monitoring fauna over three years (€150,000) and rehabilitation in accordance with best available ecological techniques (nearly €2m). Overall, the compensatory restoration (to compensate for the amount of time that the ecosystem was impacted) and complimentary restoration (to compensate for elements of the ecosystem that had been permanently lost) came to more than €6.5m. 

  • The role of arbitrators in EU antitrust law

    In May 2014, it will be ten years since Regulation No 1/2003 entered into force. When the legislator of the European Union adopted this Regulation on 16 December 2002, its main objective was to decentralise the enforcement of the two main provisions of EU antitrust law, Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (now Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)). Where do the arbitrators fit in this picture?

  • New Immigration Bill, October 2013: cause for concern or appeasing public sentiment?

    The year 2013 has seen a string of reforms to the immigration system by the current coalition government. On 10 October, the government published a Bill aimed at continuing its drive to reduce net migration figures. 

  • New Schengen EU Regulations: impact on short-stay visa visitors

    The publication on 26 June 2013 of the European Union Regulation EU 610/2013 modified the incumbent Regulation EU 562/2006 in relation to third country nationals (ie non-EU citizens) and those travelling on a short-stay visitor visa, as well as those who do not require a visa to enter the Schengen area, Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria. Exceptions include EU and EEA nationals travelling to other EU/EEA states within the Schengen area together with foreign nationals holding either long-stay or residence permits for their destination Schengen countries.

  • New revised guidelines for administrators in pre-pack sales

    Pre-pack sales by administrators are now used frequently enough for most people in business to be aware of them and many have come across them in their business lives. A small amount of controversy still attaches to pre-packs, but it is probably right to say that they are now an accepted part of the UK business scene as a useful means of rescuing a business in difficulty and preserving some or all of the jobs connected with the business.
    - Druces

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