CHAMBERS UK, 2011
Chambers UK 2011 made 54 recommendations over 10 fields.
ADMINISTRATIVE & PUBLIC LAW
Monckton Chambers launches into public law from the springboard of its undoubted strength in competition and EU law. Commentators question the number of silks it can devote to the sector but note with approval the bevy of talented juniors on offer.
Jon Turner QC has a strong reputation as a decisive competition litigator with strength in complex regulatory judicial review. Recent matters for him include acting for the Secretary of State in the Administrative Court and consequent proceedings in the ECJ over the validity of an EU-wide law capping the price of mobile roaming services. Christopher Vajda QC is an accomplished competition counsel who regularly appears in high-profile judicial reviews for and against regulators. He is "strong technically and a doughty opponent."
Sources speak highly of Tim Ward as an "excellent pure public lawyer". He has been attracting attention on a number of significant judicial reviews challenges, including acting for Ofsted in the Sharon Shoesmith judicial review and for BAA in a challenge to the exercise of power to detain aircraft for non-payment of airport charges. Gerry Facenna "does a superb job" in public law cases, and has extensive discrimination and European law expertise. He was recently led by Dinah Rose QC in R (Lunt & Allied Vehicles) v Liverpool, a significant test case on the positive equality duty under the Disability Discrimination Act. Ian Rogers is recommended for his human rights and EC law expertise. He recently acted for Notts County Council in an important public law case raising the competing rights of public access to the accounts of public bodies and third-party rights to commercial confidentiality.
Fully supported in the market [is] Piers Gardner of Monckton Chambers. Sought out for his expertise in Strasbourg, Gardner continues to act in politically sensitive and complex human rights matters in the ECHR. Recent cases include Yukos Oil Company v Russia.
COMPETITION/EUROPEAN LAW ~ LEADING SET
Monckton Chambers is "an instinctive choice for competition work on account of the impressively accomplished professionals in its ranks". One solicitor commented: "Bad barristers within the ranks of this set are rarer than hens' teeth." The set may have lost the hugely respected Peter Roth following his departure to the Bench, but it remains the first choice for many solicitors, some of whom informed interviewers that they would never go elsewhere. That this should be the case is due to the fact that "the set is distinguished by both the quality of its barristers and its responsiveness to lay and professional client needs."
Paul Lasok QC is "a superbly clever and compelling barrister who provides heavyweight intellectual input." He acted for ISG Pearce in appealing against a fine imposed against the company by the OFT for price fixing in the construction industy. Jon Turner QC is lauded as "an incisive, commercially focused and adaptable team player" who hoovers up much of the best work in the market. His highlights include acting as lead counsel for National Grid in connection with an abuse of dominance matter before the CAT. If you're looking for "a highly versatile and proactive EU and competition adviser," Christopher Vajda QC fits the bill. A seasoned campaigner, he acted as lead counsel to Ballast Nedam in the construction industry cartel matter. Vastly experienced as Vajda is, he has nothing on Sir Jeremy Lever QC, one of the most senior and respected figures at the Competition Bar. Still active after half a century in practice, he is someone who "really has nothing left to learn in this business."
Nicholas Paines QC's talents tend towards broader EU law issues, although he has shown himself to be "admirably proficient" in straight competition matters. He acted for the plaintiff in Ben Byrne v Motor Insurers Bureau & Secretary of State, a dispute concerning the UK's alleged breach of EU law. "An engaging style and skilled command of the law" mark out John Swift QC, a lawyer who gives "swift, comprehensible advice." His recent highlights include advising the Competition Commission in the Court of Appeal dispute concerning Sky and Virgin.
Standing counsel to the OFT, Daniel Beard is arguably the most prominent junior acting in this field. Sources were particularly complimentary about his "towering performances in court," stating that they are of a silk standard. He is "an exceptionally effective adviser without ever being pompous." Key work highlights for him include Cooper Tire & Rubber v Shell, and National Grid v ABB, Alstom, Aveva and Siemens. Meredith Pickford's background as an economist ensures "he grasps the salient issues in any case with considerable speed," according to sources. He assisted National Grid in obtaining the reduction of a fine imposed by Ofgem for abuse of dominance. Paul Harris wins recognition for his "diligence and consistently commercial advice." "Impressively aggressive as conditions dictate," he is not one to shirk the fight. Of late, he has acted in such cases as British Afternoon Greyhound Services v Amalgamated Racing.
The calibre of Josh Holmes's work has not gone unnoticed. Increasingly popular, he has appeared in well-publicised matters such as the Spectrum litigation, and has also had roles in such matters as Carphone Warehouse v Ofcom & BT. "His initially unassuming, quiet manner belies the fact that he is a really punchy advocate," according to interviewees. The "proficient and experienced" George Peretz recently led legal teams for both Renew Holdings and Robert Woodhead Holdings, in appealing the OFT's construction industry cartel decision. He wins admiration along with Kassie Smith, who is recognised for the fact that "she gets to the crux of a problem quickly." Smith acted unled for Waitrose as intervener in Tesco's appeal against the OFT's decision to make various impositions upon it following an investigation into the groceries market. Smith sits in the tables alongside Tim Ward, who practises both competition and EU law to a high standard. His "solid performances and carefully considered advocacy" ensure he maintains a good profile in both areas. His recent sorties include appearing for ASDA in a judicial review before the CAT.
Philip Moser has built an enviable EU law practice and has handled a lot of work for HMRC. Highlights for him include acting in Calltel, Mobilx & Bluesphere v HMRC, a Court of Appeal dispute concerning missing trader intra-community fraud in the UK. Anneli Howard is a qualified solicitor, as well as "a fine choice for when methodical and alert competition assistance is required," according to interviewees. She acted for the plaintiff in Burgess v Nominet, a case concerning the .uk Internet domain name registry. Sources report "pleasant and successful dealings" with competition specialist Ronit Kreisberger. Like so many in the set, Kreisberger is perenially busy, with one recent example of her work being an appeal on behalf of CDI Corp against the OFT's decision following its investigation into cartel activity in the construction recruitment industry. Alistair Lindsay has come full circle following his return to the Bar after eight years as a partner at Allen & Overy. "A decisive and practical adviser, once he has reviewed the facts and made up his mind, he provides delightfully consistent advice," enthused one solicitor. Lindsay recently acted for Eventim on competition issues relating to the merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster. Also recommended is the "bright and user-friendly" Ben Rayment, who brings substantial experience to the table as a former legal secretary to the UK Competition Commission and the CAT. He acted for European wax blender Ser with regard to litigation surrounding an alleged paraffin wax price-fixing cartel.
Michael Bowsher QC of Monckton Chambers is renowned for his depth of knowledge and is recognised as having virtually cornered the market on procurement work. He earns wide praise for his speed of turnaround, and the ease with which he communicates with a wide variety of clients. Recent highlights include advising on Henry Brothers v Department of Education of Northern Ireland, a challenge to a £500 million governmental construction programme.
Monckton Chambers is "a technically impressive and efficient set," which is highly respected for its individual barristers' expertise in an array of areas, including EU law, environmental law and procurement and state aid.
Jon Turner QC is a leading competition and telecoms expert with additional strength in public and environmental law. He recently represented a coalition of environmental NGOs involved in a judicial review brought on behalf of the Air Transport Association of America seeking to overturn the EC's greenhouse gas trading programme for aviation activities.
Kassie Smith is recognised for her experience of EU and domestic environmental law. She has been particularly active in various matters on behalf of the Environment Agency, and also advised Greenpeace on a number of issues, including on the challenge to plans designed to increase air traffic at Stansted Airport. Gerry Facenna's reputation as "an excellent and developing young advocate" is on the rise. He is particularly commended for his work on behalf of regulators.
The large and highly adept public procurement group at Monckton Chambers is impressive in every way. It provides suppliers, contracting authorities and utilities with the full ambit of services, ranging from contentious advice during the tender process to astute advocacy once matters go to court. "Monckton's barristers have far more experience than any of the others, so when we need the comfort of cast-iron opinion there are very few sets we'd turn to," said one impressed solicitor.
Michael Bowsher QC is still the undisputed market leader. He provides the finest advice and draws heavily on his vast EU law expertise to win the most complex cases. "As a litigator in the UK he pretty much invented the subject," stated one solicitor. Bowsher "has an incredibly quick mind, is one of the most client-focused practitioners at the Bar and is incredibly good at smoothing things over when cases get into difficulties." His recent matters include Henry Brothers v Department for Education in Northern Ireland, a successful challenge to the procurement procedure surrounding a £500 million government construction programme. Head of chambers Paul Lasok QC is considered to be one of the top individuals in his profession and is noted for his ability in competition, procurement and EU law. He acted in Breyer Group v University of Westminster, appearing for the claimant. "Lasok is very experienced, a highly effective performer and a super-intelligent barrister," noted one solicitor. Another added: "He is a true heavyweight whose clarity of thought and presentation skills are great assets." Commentators consider him to be particularly useful where there is a tax dimension to a case.
Christopher Vajda QC has been busy this year with cases in the administrative court, specifically Juliet Prew v Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, where the court sought to determine whether the Academy Schools programme complies with the public procurement rules. He has also been involved in several notable actions on behalf of local councils. One source commented: "He is a formidable competitor who is a very worthy opponent for anyone." Also effective, general EU practitioner Nicholas Paines QC performs a large amount of procurement work, and also covers tax and other procurement-related areas.
Jennifer Skilbeck has an extremely good grip of the area, and is active on both the advisory and litigaton fronts. She performed well in Lion Apparel v Firebuy Ltd, a matter which concerned the procurement of firemen's uniforms. "Highly considered in her approach, she comes up with some superb solutions to clients' problems," according to solicitors. They further note that she is "user-friendly and commercial to the core." Elisa Holmes is another well-regarded public procurement junior at the set. She has been instructed in several significant cases, including Letting International v London Borough of Newham and Leadbitter v Devon County Council. She instils confidence as she provides "acute legal thinking and has an elegant style in court." High-profile clients such as the BBC and the MoD are anxious to employ her services.
Valentina Sloane is a widely respected junior, who has an exceptional VAT practice to match her procurement work. "She picks things up quickly, has a good knowledge of the law and turns things around with great efficiency." Along with Paul Lasok QC, she has been acting for the Environment Agency with regard to a troubled IT procurement for the agency. Proceedings were brought in the High Court by ATOS, which is claiming damages for loss of profit and wasted bid costs. She wins support in the market along with Rob Williams, "a fine procurement lawyer who is very approachable and great to work with." He recently acted for the Home Office in relation to a challenge brought by 3M to a procurement concerning the production of the new biometric e-passport.
Paul Harris of Monckton Chambers is another with a tremendous profile within the sports sector. He is frequently involved with sports cases from a competition angle, and draws praise for his advocacy style, which is “straight up and direct – he understands that you need to avoid the kind of pyrotechnics which some of his peers tend to use and which alienate sports tribunals.”
TAX: INDIRECT TAX ~ LEADING SET
This impressive set is home to one of the largest VAT teams at the Bar, that acts largely for HMRC, but does undertake a fair amount of taxpayer work. Sources say that the set is especially strong as it has an excellent knowledge of EU law which it can bring to bear. Those that instruct it are particularly pleased as both barristers and clerks are very approachable and willing to have an informal discussion of a case before the question of costs arises.
The "always persuasive" Paul Lasok QC is a European law specialist, whose wide practice takes in competition, public law, telecommunications and trade matters. A leader in the field of indirect taxation, he has a client base that includes private clients, public companies and government departments. His set includes the "polished and charming" Melanie Hall QC, who handles VAT and customs duties matters, often appearing in the House of Lords and the ECJ. Sources say that she "always presents compelling arguments before the most demanding of tribunals." Also respected, Christopher Vajda QC "is very good on the analysis," according to interviewees. He advises on European, competition, public and tax law, often appearing before the House of Lords, the Court of Appeal and the ECJ. Peers praise his "straightforward, clear approach."
Valentina Sloane is an accomplished advocate who handles VAT and other indirect tax matters. Recommended for her knowledge of European law and her "crystal-clear opinions," she is never less than busy. Colleague Peter Mantle represents both private clients and HMRC and has a similarly strong reputation to Sloane. He has appeared in over 50 reported VAT cases, and was recently involved in FJ Chalke Ltd v HMRC, a compound interest group litigation, which was the first of its nature to go to trial. Philip Moser is a "very good, experienced advocate," say sources. He advises on EU law cases and has niche expertise in VAT carousel fraud. Both individuals and public and private companies count amongst his clients.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS ~ LEADING SET
This set comes especially praised for the strength in depth of its senior juniors, who as a unit present as "a battalion of little walking brains." Each of them is thoroughly proficient and capable of handling matters at the extreme end of the complexity scale. They are assisted in their endeavours by clerks who are "straight, reasonable and are prepared to be flexible." According to one solicitor, "they are excellent because they package things in a way that can be easily presented to the client."
"Impressive in his focus and strategic thinking," Jon Turner QC is "a courtroom king who can dance round opponents." He is popular as he is "a principled barrister who won't run any old argument, preferring to speak with real conviction on issues he has thought long and hard over." Never short of a brief, he recently represented T-Mobile in a joint appeal with Vodafone and other mobile operators against the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) ruling that charges for mobile call termination should apply retrospectively. Colleague Christopher Vajda QC appeared before the ECJ representing the UK against several mobile phone companies on a ruling that resulted in HMRC not having to pay a VAT claim for over £3 billion brought by the winners of the third-generation mobile phone spectrum auction in 2000. Sources say: "He is excellent on the practical workings of networks and the application of competition law principles to those that operate them."
Renowned leading junior Meredith Pickford is "a bright, practical and hard-working lawyer with considerable telecoms experience." One example of his full caseload was his representation of T-Mobile in its joint appeal with Vodafone against a CAT ruling that charges for mobile call termination should apply with retrospective effect. He also appeared in Nokia v Ipcom. Pickford is described as "an especially good lawyer on the technical side who is a good team player as he is in no way precious." Praised for being "polite but persistent," Josh Holmes is "a highly persuasive advocate who profoundly analyses his cases." His recent cases include acting for Ofcom in Carphone Warehouse v Ofcom & BT, a telecoms price control case before the CAT. Also good when it comes to analysis, Anneli Howard is a highly proficient performer who attracts some significant clients. By way of example, she acted for BT, the appellant, on BT v Ofcom at the CAT. She is recommended along with Ben Lask, who is praised for his confident manner. He acted in JML Direct v Freesat UK, in a challenge to the allocation of channel numbers on an electronic programme guide by Freesat. Finally at the set, Tim Ward is recognised as "a coherent and well-reasoned advocate." He impressed with his work for the Secretary of State on the roaming charges case, Vodafone & O2 v Secretary of State.