The Administrative and Public Law (including Elections) section covers key constitutional issues and generalised matters of public law not covered in other areas of the UK Bar guide (including matters as diverse as social welfare and prison law), as well as law concerning elections to offices in local and national government and their campaigns. This section does not aim to include barristers in specialist areas where judicial review is the appeal from executive or quasi-judicial decision-makers: please note our separate coverage of planning, professional discipline, public procurement, EU law, education, extradition, social housing, and immigration, which will cover counsel familiar with judicial reviews in those arenas. Local government (including rating law) is an additional new section. There is some crossover between this section and our civil liberties and human rights rankings, as arguments concerning the European Convention on Human Rights are frequently raised in such cases in parallel to more traditional arguments based on common law.
Administrative and public law (including elections) in London Bar
Highly regarded as 'one of the best and brightest sets', Blackstone Chambers houses 'top quality barristers able to advise on a range of issues', with consistent visibility on important judicial reviews cases and matters that attract a great deal of public attention. Members of chambers led for all parties in R (Elan-Cane) v SSHD, a Supreme Court case seeking the issuance of passports with the sex field marked "X": Kate Gallafent QC, Tom Mountford and Gayatri Sarathy represented the claimants, while Monica Carss-Frisk QC and Rachel Jones represented the intervener Human Rights Watch, and the 'tremendous silk' James Eadie QC represented the government in his capacity as Treasury Devil, the government's first-choice outside counsel. In addition, Hanif Mussa and Daniel Cashman successfully represented the government in R (Andrews) v Minister of the Cabinet Office, defeating a challenge to the use of tactile voting devices for blind voters, which numbered candidates (without naming them).
‘Probably the best set for public law in the UK. They have a range of highly responsive, knowledgeable and hard-working barristers and work hard to provide the best possible service, often to unreasonable deadlines.’
‘Blackstone are obviously a fantastic set with some excellent public lawyers.’
‘Blackstone is the number one administrative and public law set.’
‘Brilliant barristers – one of the best and brightest sets.’
‘Billy Brian and Lewis Walker are both responsive and commercial, and a pleasure to deal with.’
‘The clerking is of a high quality, as you would expect from a market-leading set.’
‘Very good, helpful and efficient, tech-savvy.’
‘First rate. Highly responsive and engaging. Adam Fuschillo has always looked after us very well with excellent service.’
Landmark Chambers is a notable set in this space, housing 'excellent junior barristers who have become specialists in their own right in public law' and giving the set 'real strength in depth', particularly in its core areas of health and social care, social security, education, immigration and local government matters. Galina Ward has been called 'one of the very best juniors at the Administrative Bar': she was part of the successful team for the government in R (SC, CB and eight children) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in a challenge to lack of availability of child tax credit for more than two children; Richard Drabble QC represented the claimants in the leapfrog appeal to the Supreme Court. David Lock QC is notable for his prior role as MP for Wyre Forest during Tony Blair's first term, and Tim Buley QC handles challenges to social welfare and local government policies - he appeared for the claimant in R (Andrews) v Minister for the Cabinet Office, concerning the provision of assistance to blind voters in elections.
‘The set is a powerhouse for planning and public law. As one of the largest sets of its kind there is very little they do not have experience of, and they have some very high-performing individuals indeed.’
‘Landmark is a good set with impressive public and regulatory lawyers. Practitioners are busy and for good reason. The clerking team is approachable and helpful. Chambers also hosts helpful and timely seminars.’
‘This set of chambers has excellent junior barristers who have become specialists in their own right in public law. This has given chambers real strength in depth.’
‘Premier set in CPO/DCO/Planning/Highways sector. Good clerks. Responsive. Excellent choice of counsel and availability always guaranteed.’
‘Very good and highly responsive. Ben Connor is the Practice Director and is most helpful.’
‘Clerks are extremely helpful. Zoe Bluck is very responsive and proactive.’
‘Ben Connor is a problem-solver; approachable and easy to work with. Neil Perry is responsive, helpful, practical.’
‘Good experience of all of the clerks – always responsive and helpful. Bill King and Ben Connor particularly strong/noteworthy – when I contact them, they always remember you and go that extra mile to assist.’
With a reputation for being 'second to none in public law', 11KBW is a top choice for administrative law, with a particularly strong caseload in work for national and local governmental bodies. The set also benefitted from the addition of Elizabeth Prochaska from the Equality and Human Rights Commission in January 2020. Jason Coppel QC represented the Good Law Project and Runnymede Trust in their challenge to various government appointments during the Covid-19 pandemic. The 'superb advocate' Clive Sheldon QC and Christopher Knight represented the Minister for the Cabinet Office in a judicial review brought by a campaign group, 3Million, in R (the3Million Limited) v Minister for the Cabinet Office, concerning the widely-publicised flaws in the polling system for the 2019 European Parliamentary election and associated damages claims. Turning to the set's juniors, Tom Cross represented Fair Play for Women in a judicial review of the Office for National Statistics' guidance on how to detail a person's sex on the 2021 census.
’11KBW is top of the league – a class set of chambers. They have strength at all levels, from the very junior barristers through to their silks.’
’11KBW are a standout set for public law. They can turn their hand to any area.’
‘The best set for public, procurement and information law. Their strength in depth cannot be beat.’
’11 KBW have been second to none in public law matters for decades.’
‘Excellent clerking team, among the best. Lucy Barbet is particularly impressive.’
‘Always very willing and obliging and fast to respond. A class act, like their barristers.’
‘The clerks’ room is first rate. I have had excellent service from Lucy Barbet and Mark Dann.’
‘The clerks are excellent – extremely helpful and responsive, practical and kind. Tom Street is easy to work with.’
‘Mark Dann and Lucy Barbet lead from the front a universally courteous, pleasant and efficient team of clerks.’
'Leading set' 39 Essex Chambers are 'big hitters in judicial review', with members having expertise in a broad range of public law matters on top of its well-known expertise on medico-legal issues, immigration matters (an area in which some of the set's members are instructed for the government in their most sensitive cases), and planning law. James Strachan QC and Nicola Kohn represented the claimants in MDU v Secretary of State for Health, concerning the government's proposal to create a clinical negligence indemnity scheme that the claimants allege would not cover incidents before the policy was introduced. As sole counsel, Nicola Greaney represented the DVLA in a judicial review brought by a member of the public, who cited Article 1 Protocol 1 rights after being unable to renew an expired personalised number plate. Deok Joo Rhee QC defended the London Borough of Redbridge in judicial review to a policy challenge to the way in which the borough makes educational provision for visually impaired children in mainstream settings, with challenges brought on grounds of discrimination under both the ECHR and the Equality Act 2010. A number of members also have experience of acting as a special advocate.
‘Leading set. Real strength in depth – you are getting the best for any level of seniority that the case demands.’
‘Excellent set of chambers, brilliant service and full of lovely people, both the barristers and clerks.’
‘Top tier in terms of knowledge and skills, and has the ability to deal effectively with cases that cross into other areas, such as commercial, environment and CoP.’
’39 Essex are big hitters in judicial reviews, and particularly in my area of immigration related issues, they seem to be one of the go to sets for important cases for the government.’
‘Public sector clerks, Sheraton Doyle and Peter Campbell, provide an excellent service and have a real knowledge of the legal issues and market in the area of public sector work.’
‘Peter Campbell is very skilled at matching counsel to the client and will always listen to even the smallest of points to make sure there is a good fit.’
‘The clerking service is very good: Anthony King is always on hand to assist – whether that’s sourcing appropriate available counsel or assisting with administrative matters during the course of instructing counsel.’
‘The service and clerks’ room has as its foundation a strong and tight knit community with strong internal communication. Jamie Tucker – one of the practice managers in the public law team – deserves particular mention. He is astute, responsive and knowledgeable.’
‘The clerking service is very good. Michael Kaplan has a calm presence and enjoys a good rapport with solicitors and understands the needs of solicitors from the start in instructing counsel to the end in settling counsel’s fees. Alistair Davidson is very courteous.’
Brick Court Chambers impresses with its ‘exceptional quality of barristers at all levels‘ and its ‘strong reputation in the public law market‘. David Anderson QC led Malcolm Birdling as counsel for Heathrow Airport in its Supreme Court appeal against the Court of Appeal’s finding that the Government’s decision to favour a third runway at Heathrow was unlawful, on the grounds of ministers’ failure to take into account the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. In another matter, Maya Lester QC and Birdling acted for the NFU, which challenged the government’s decision to reverse course on a proposed badger cull; the claimants alleged that the decision came after an intervention by the Prime Minister’s now-wife Carrie Symonds. As sole counsel, James McClelland QC – a 2021 silk appointment – represented a food importer whose quota security was forfeited by DEFRA, after a collapse in imports due to unprecedented biosecurity testing of Asian food imports for pathogens.
‘Brick Court is my preferred set for public and administrative law. The quality of counsel is exceptional at all levels.’
‘One of the best sets in the country.’
‘Great quality advocates with very efficient clerking service.’
‘The clerking team at Brick Court have been superlative both in terms of agreeing fees in advance and managing diaries.’
‘Paul Dennison is always helpful and responsive and the accounts team work very effectively behind the scenes.’
‘Professional, approachable and easy to deal with. Among the best at the Bar.’
Matrix Chambers is ‘extremely well-placed in the area of administrative and public law with great strength, especially at QC level‘, with distinguished silks such as Phillippa Kaufmann QC being sought after on human rights cases; Karon Monaghan QC, who continues to advise on the UK Infected Blood Inquiry; and Tim Owen QC, who represented three claimants in a judicial review of the Foreign Secretary’s decision to refuse to extend protection and assistance to Afghan nationals, who asserted they had worked as undercover agents for the UK for many years in the Helmand province. Helen Mountfield QC often represents claimants in judicial reviews where public policy is under scrutiny for being discriminatory, such as representing the Equality and Human Rights Commission in a Supreme Court appeal, SC, CB and 8 Children v Secretary of State for Work of Pensions, a challenge to the availability of the individual element of child tax credit for the first two children only. Leading junior Zoë Leventhal represented claimants in the first case to reach the Court of Appeal about Universal Credit, R (TP, AR & SXC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, a case centered on whether the phasing of Universal Credit and the absence of transitional protection is discriminatory against severely disabled people. In other news, the set also expanded its bench strength at the senior end with the appointment of Mathew Purchase QC, Sarah Hannett QC and Christopher Buttler QC to silk in 2021.
‘In my experience there is real strength-in-depth in the areas of admin and public law / civil liberties and human rights, particularly among junior barristers in the field.’
‘Matrix are extremely well-placed in the area of administrative and public law, with great strength, especially at QC level.’
‘The Chambers are brilliant for all matters relating to public law. There is not a bad barrister in the set. They have it all.’
‘Matrix has an excellent reputation and there are a number of very good senior barristers and silks. You know where you are with Matrix and are never disappointed with the representation.’
‘My experience of the clerks room has been that they are always responsive and helpful, in particular Paul Venables.’
‘The clerking service is very helpful. The clerks are friendly and helpful and Elisabeth Bousher in particular has consistently gone above and beyond to make working with Matrix Chambers a very positive experience.’
‘I am always impressed with the service of the clerks at Matrix. I have complete trust in a timely, helpful response from them.’
‘When making enquiries of available counsel with the clerks at Matrix, I am always provided with tailored responses and suggestions of counsel that would be best placed to take on the instruction dependent on their expertise.’
'Leading public law set' 1 Crown Office Row is home to a 'lot of good juniors', such as Natasha Barnes, who acted as part of the team in the Privacy International v Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs case before the Court of Appeal, in a challenge to a policy authorising MI5 agents to engage in criminal activity in the course of their duties in the UK. Jeremy Hyam QC 'instils confidence', and is noted for his medical law expertise, demonstrated in his advocacy for the claimants in Bell v Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, a high-profile judicial review challenge to the provision of puberty blockers to children and young people by the Trust's Gender Identity Development Service.
‘Strength-in-depth of counsel with experience of acting for the government.’
‘A very good and strong set.’
‘Efficient and well organised.’
‘A lot of good juniors.’
‘Clerks are great – in particular John McLaren and Chloe Turvill – absolute stars.’
‘Clerks are business like, yet pleasant, efficient and reliable.’
Among the 'very top sets for administrative and public law', Doughty Street Chambers is 'often involved in leading cases and has great knowledge across the entire set', which specialises in representing individuals and companies in public law proceedings against the State. Martin Westgate QC represented a claimant in R (Ncube) v Brighton and Hove City Council, a judicial review challenge concerning the issue of local authorities' powers to provide shelter for those without recourse to public funds during the Covid-19 pandemic. Westgate QC is also acting alongside Daniel Clarke and Jamie Burton QC for Liberty, in R (JCWI) v Secretary of State for the Home Department, in a challenge to the “right to rent” scheme, under which landlords must check the immigration status of prospective tenants, with Liberty’s submissions focused on the scope of Article 8 and when the state can be liable for a human rights violation by a third party who is not an agent of the state.
‘Doughty Street are, in my opinion, one of the very top sets for administrative and public law. They have a very strong team of barristers, and are probably the team I would turn to first to instruct in a public law case.’
‘They are a strong set with a lot of strength in depth. I have instructed their juniors a number of times and found them to be very good. They are often involved in leading cases and have great knowledge across the entire set.’
‘Doughty Street is my go-to chambers for most of the work I do. They have such an array of talent, which means they will always have someone to help even in very urgent matters. This is a real positive feature. I find all the barristers to be knowledgeable and skilful, and a great source of help and support.’
‘Doughty Street remains committed to pro-bono work.’
‘The leading set for actions against the police, with a real commitment to using the law to advance social justice.’
‘Luke Christmas is personable, knowledgeable and effective. My go to when I need to a solution to a problem.’
‘Sian Wilkins is wonderfully responsive and provides an excellent all round service.’
‘Melvin Warner is extremely quick and usually able to revert with an answer to a query very promptly.’
‘Very good. Well organised and helpful in finding suitable counsel when needed. Ben Davis is particularly reliable.’
The ‘truly excellent‘ Monckton Chambers is ‘very knowledgeable and generous with its time‘, and members ‘are more than willing to offer pro-bono advice‘. The ‘first-class barrister‘ Anneli Howard QC – a 2021 silk appointment – is acting alongside Gerry Facenna QC for the claimants in R (the3million) v Minister for the Cabinet Office, a judicial review against the government for alleged failings in voter registration, prohibiting non-UK EU citizens from voting in the 2019 European Parliament elections. Tim Ward QC specialises in public law actions against commercial regulators; he represented Uber London in successfully challenging Transport for London’s refusal to renew its licence on the grounds it was not a “fit and proper person” to hold one. Ian Wise QC represented a claimant in a judicial review of the Crown Prosecution Service’s membership of Stonewall’s “Diversity Champions” scheme. In addition, with Imogen Proud, Wise QC represented the claimants in R (Electronic Collar Manufacturers Association and Petsafe Ltd), a case concerning electronic training collars for dogs hinging on issues of Wednesbury unreasonableness as well as Article 1 Protocol 1 convention rights.
‘Monckton Chambers has a wealth of public law and procurement expertise. In particular a strength-in-depth of junior and senior junior counsel to be able to handle even the largest cases requiring a multi-counsel team.’
‘Monckton Chambers is truly excellent. They are very much the go to choice of chambers for our high profile public and procurement law instructions (whether one is acting for claimants/defendants).’
‘Monckton Chambers have excellent strength from juniors to silks. Their top silks are busy but still available. Its very common to see them on at least one side of a case (if not both sides!).’
‘Monckton is an amazing set – the barristers are clever, innovative and demonstrate an impressive and in depth knowledge of their practice areas.‘
‘Steve Duffett ensures clients and instructing solicitors get the best service from Monckton’s barristers. He helps select the right barrister for the task. Steve ensures the barristers he works with juggle their competing interests so their clients can get time in counsel’s diaries.’
‘The clerks are great and responsive. Jaden Maloney in particular is excellent: he is hard working and responsive.’
‘I have worked more with Gemma Rawlinson and Jaden Maloney both of whom have always been incredible and done all they can to assist. They’ve even arranged to assist to go and lodge an urgent bundle at court which was incredibly helpful. ‘
4-5 Gray's Inn Square 'has an established reputation in public law' and is noted for its 'leading silks in election law', who are 'supported by many excellent juniors'. In one such example, Timothy Straker QC and Vivienne Sedgley successfully defended the London Borough of Newham in a case brought by campaigners submitting a petition seeking a referendum on abolishing the role of elected mayor in 2020. The matter featured issues of coronavirus legislation, which had stopped petitions being brought as part of the one-year freeze on local elections, and a breach of the embargo on the judgment by the campaigners.
‘4-5 Gray’s Inn Square has an established reputation in public law, election law, local authority, housing work, professional regulation and mediation. Chambers has silks and juniors across all areas, who provide strength in depth.’
‘The service provided by Vicky Thompson, the CEO, Emily Martin, Stephen Somerville (Acting Senior Clerk) and their team is outstanding. They have worked assiduously to keep chambers going during the pandemic in difficult circumstances.’
Cornerstone Barristers has a 'good and well-deserved reputation in public law', and is active in a number of high-profile cases. Philip Coppel QC is representing Heathrow Airport Limited in a dispute with the Information Commissioner, concerning issues of whether the airport operator is a public authority. Kuljit Bhogal has specific expertise in public spaces protection orders, including representing Wycombe DC in the first appeal against one to be heard by the High Court, which found that a fine for drinking a supposedly non-alcoholic beverage from a branded lager can was valid. In a high-profile judicial review, Estelle Dehon represented the claimants in a proposed challenge to the decision to use an algorithm to grade the 2020 A-level cohort in England, which proposed to downgrade over 40% of teacher assessments in favour of calculations based on previous years' results; the government reversed course.
‘Cornerstone are a chambers with a good and well-deserved reputation in public law, environmental law and planning law.’
‘The clerks are very good and always friendly and helpful.’
Garden Court Chambers 'is in the top category of claimant-focused administrative and public law sets', with a practice grounded in immigration, civil liberties and public law. Its members often represent vulnerable groups and individuals in cutting-edge challenges to decisions by the Home Office, local governments and other governmental bodies. Amanda Weston QC represented the local authority in Home Secretary v Suffolk County Council, defeating an argument by the Home Office that not only was it not bound by family court FGM protection orders, but that the family court was bound by immigration tribunal decisions. Stephanie Harrison QC is 'fantastic at mastering the detail of a case'; she represented the claimant in R (FB) v Camden Council, a challenge to the local authority's decision to place a female survivor of domestic and sexual abuse in mixed-sex accommodation. Turning to the juniors, Nicola Braganza is representing a number of former servicewomen whose rape cases were dropped by the SPS or resulted in acquittals by courts-martial; these claimants are challenging the Ministry of Defence's non-implementation of a proposal in the Lyons Review to transfer such cases into the civilian courts.
‘They are a strong set with a lot of strength in depth. I have instructed various silks, senior juniors as well as junior juniors. Even the junior juniors have been very impressive. They are often involved in leading cases and have great knowledge across the entire set.’
‘Garden Court Chambers are a fantastic set of excellent barristers and always have someone with the expertise you need when needing to instruct, whether on an urgent or less pressing basis. The barristers have an amazing depth of knowledge and expertise between them, all seem very personable, and have particular strengths in human rights claims.’
‘Garden Court is in the top category of claimant-focused administrative and public law sets. There is strength throughout the team.’
‘The service received from the clerks is always of high standard. Harriet Massie definitely requires recognition; she is most efficient, quick to respond and very solution-focused to any enquiry raised. ‘
‘The clerks are always very helpful, efficient and responsive – helping to find counsel, arrange conferences, meet any needs that arise. Lisa O’ Leary and Harriet Massie are always a pleasure to work with.’
‘Very experienced team headed by the peerless Colin Cook who know everything there is to know about clerking and the stresses of running a difficult case. He will solve issues without fuss and in a very diplomatic low key way.’