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All you need to know about the UK Bar 2020

John van der Luit-Drummond provides an overview of the latest Bar rankings, some general submission feedback, and news on what’s to come in our next research round

Congratulations to every barrister and chambers that appears in The Legal 500’s 2020 UK Bar rankings. The latest rankings are a culmination of all your hard work and expertise as well as the painstaking research carried out by our dedicated and talented research team.

This latest guide is our most expansive yet. The 2020 guide recognises almost 4,500 barristers and arbitrators from more than 190 chambers, as well as featuring new Agriculture and Data protection rankings for the London Bar, and separate clinical negligence and personal injury rankings, along with a new immigration section, across the circuits. Our biggest development, however, was the introduction of tiered rankings for the regional Bar, a feature we’ve long had for the London rankings. But with all those developments, which sets came out ahead overall?

Once again leading the Bar, with an improved ten tier 1 rankings, is Blackstone Chambers. Those sets closest to Blackstone are Essex Court and Monckton with six top tier rankings each. When it comes to chambers with the most leading set rankings, Blackstone again leads the way with a whopping 24 rankings, and followed by 39 Essex Chambers and Matrix Chambers with 19 and 18 rankings respectively.

But what about the individual rankings? Starting with leading silks, 39 Essex Chambers takes gold here, with 40 Queen’s Counsel ranked to Blackstone’s and Essex Court’s 39 silks each. At the junior end, this year sees Garden Court Chambers overtake No5 Barristers Chambers, with 73 juniors ranked to the latter’s 68; national sets 3PB and Kings Chambers come in a very respectable joint third, with 56 junior rankings a piece. And finally, what about the overall number of barrister rankings? This year Garden Court Chambers takes the crown, with 99 silk, new silk, and junior rankings, while 39 Essex Chambers are just behind on 98 rankings, and No 5 Barristers in third thanks to 83 rankings.

While congratulations are due to all chambers, it’s time to turn to our next guide and some exciting new developments. The 2021 rankings will see the introduction of a brand new barrister ranking – Rising stars. This new section is designed to highlight junior barristers between four and eight years call undertaking legally complex and challenging cases, either unled, or as a first or second junior to senior counsel. They will already be recognised by clients and peers as leading juniors in the making. This new section is open to counsel in London, the regions, and Scotland.

As for new practice areas: in London, please note some updates to pre-existing practice headings and the introduction of a new section, Local government (including rating law). In the regions, we have expanded and rearranged our practice areas – please see our guidelines for full details – including new practice rankings for Agriculture, Professional disciplinary law, Professional negligence, and Social housing, among others. Meanwhile, in Scotland, we have also tweaked our practice headings, with the separation of Personal injury and Medical negligence of particular note for stables. Again, please see our new guidelines for full details and practice area definitions.

Referee confusion

In conversation with various chambers it is clear that not everyone appreciates our policy on referees. In short, you are not limited to just five referees; you can provide as many as you want, and the more the better. Moreover, barristers are not limited to just instructing solicitors; you can also include your lay and in-house clients, opponents, leaders, and juniors from the cases you work on throughout the last year, even those members from within your own chambers (although the weight we give these will be slightly less than those from other sets). All referees will be contacted as long as our referee spreadsheet is filled in correctly. Please see our guidance online for more information.

Ease of submission

Finally, ahead of the 2020 UK Bar guide, The Legal 500 introduced its first-ever submission template for chambers use. The reason for doing this was twofold: first, to ensure every set was on a level playing field and aware of all the factors we consider when ranking individual barristers and chambers; second, to ensure our researchers have, at their fingertips, all the information they require to accurately and efficiently research the independent Bar.

I’m pleased to say that a large number of sets across the UK saw the sense in us introducing this new template and have praised various elements of it. That is not to say, however, that the 2020 template was set in stone and we were not willing to make amendments where constructive feedback was provided. In consultation with the recently established Marketing in Chambers Group (MICG), as well as members of the Legal Practice Management Association (LPMA), we have made some alterations to our template ahead of the 2021 research.

These changes, along with the launch of ConvertNow for the UK Bar, produce the most efficient submission form for chambers to use, while also providing The Legal 500 with the depth of detail needed for its researchers to continue to produce market-leading research. Full details of how to use ConvertNow is available on our website.

If you have any queries about the new guidelines, then please do not hesitate to get in touch (john.vdld@legal500.com). Otherwise, I wish you the very best of luck with your 2021 submissions.