Legal Week: Hot property: Recent events have shaken the normally cosy world of IP. The resignation of 59-year-old IP judge Mr Justice Laddie in June — because he found the work of being a judge "not stimulating enough" and "rather lonely" — caused widespread consternation. The first English judge since 1546 known to have voluntarily given up his job has since become a consultant with Willoughby & Partners, specialists in patent law.: “Geoffrey Hobbs QC has enthusiastic support from several firms. One partner comments: "[He is] possibly the cleverest man in England..”: Thursday 6 October 2005
IP/IT The intellectual property Bar is well-known for housing some of the profession’s brightest sparks. But having a flawless CV is not enough to impress the City’s IP litigators. Dominic Carman speaks to them about which barristers, both QCs and juniors, are currently impressing IP practitioners
A generation ago, John Mortimer QC revealed the secrets of success at the Bar: "No brilliance is required in law, just common sense and relatively clean fingernails".
These days, most practitioners might add hard work, a keen intellect, a good academic pedigree — and maybe a touch of brilliance — as pre-requisites for successful barristers.
Glance through the luminaries in any practice area and you will find an abundance of good law degrees — with plenty of firsts, scholarships and awards scattered about.
Read the CVs of leading intellectual property (IP) barristers and you will discover something else.
In addition to the ubiquitous prizes and awards, most of this particular breed of barrister are qualified chemists, physicists or engineers.
Alongside their outstanding legal qualifications, they list first-class honours degrees in other disciplines: natural sciences, agricultural chemistry and theoretical physics.
Brilliance here appears to be the norm rather than the exception.
But according to one prominent litigator in a City law firm, "in the IP field, this is not always enough. To be really successful, barristers need to be able to work as part of the team, to understand the client and communicate well with them, to inspire confidence".
There are a few who clearly fail the test. "The man’s a nightmare, absolutely impossible — extremely arrogant and appalling with clients," was the criticism levelled at one IP barrister.
"I would never instruct him again — far too clever for his own good. I hated every minute of working with him," one litigator said of another barrister. "Oh him! He likes to experiment with the law, which can prove to be a complete waste of time in court — he also totally lacks common sense".
Perhaps Mortimer had a point after all.
Yet such judgements are very much in the minority.
When Legal Week asked partners in a variety of leading City firms and specialist boutiques for their favourite counsel, many different names were given and much praise was on offer.
Because there is so much work for leading IP practitioners, solicitors routinely complain about the difficulty they experience in retaining their counsel of choice.
When selecting the best barristers, demand inevitably exceeds supply.
Three specialist IP sets of chambers stand out: Three New Square; 8 New Square; and 11 South Square.
A fourth, Hogarth Chambers — the product of two different mergers in the last five years — is generally regarded as being "less fashionable", but with "some noteworthy individuals".
Recent events have shaken the normally cosy world of IP.
The resignation of 59-year-old IP judge Mr Justice Laddie in June — because he found the work of being a judge "not stimulating enough" and "rather lonely" — caused widespread consternation.
The first English judge since 1546 known to have voluntarily given up his job has since become a consultant with Willoughby & Partners, specialists in patent law.
Replacing him on the High Court bench, David Kitchin QC — "the star of the IP Bar" — at 8 New Square has been appointed, leaving several silks competing to be king of the IP realm.
A successful silk since 1989, Simon Thorley QC of Three New Square receives universal praise from the litigators that Legal Week spoke to.
He has "a superb reputation" in the view of several firms."For me, he is the best. What more can I say?" pronounced one prominent solicitor. "He is fantastic, an outstanding lawyer, very good at explaining the law and commercial consequences to our clients and never panics under pressure in court, which is a rare skill among barristers in this field," according to an IP litigators at a City firm."He is my favourite choice. Good with everybody — judges and clients. Very user-friendly, great authority and excellent across the board, very balanced and always impressive," added another.
The "wonderfully broad perspective" of Henry Carr QC from 11 South Square makes him "really excellent" all-round. A silk since 1998 who is seen as being "at the very top of his game", he is described as "absolutely fantastic — a great lawyer with great team skills" and "a wonderful chap, very smart and just the man to have in your team — only trouble is he is always so busy".
Another instructing solicitor comments: "I like him a lot. His cross-examination impressed me enormously, watching him on the other side — so we began using him to great effect."
The head of chambers at 11 South Square, Christopher Floyd QC, is regarded as "very good all-round", "a true professional" and "really able". "We like using him because he always prepares so well," comments a partner at one top-drawer IP firm. A silk since 1992, "Floyd is so very perceptive, excellent with clients and a really safe pair of hands".
The "very clever" Peter Prescott QC of 8 New Square is said by one ardent fan to be "mad, bad and dangerous to know — and he would be happy to hear me say it. On his day, quite wonderful".
A QC since 1990, Prescott attracts other Byronesque epithets — "eccentric" and "idiosyncratic" — alongside "absolutely superb, aggressive and a great fighter; he has the skill as an advocate to see things very clearly indeed".
Another leader from 8 New Square with "a growing reputation" is Daniel Alexander QC.
Appointed a silk in 2003, he is "very hard to get hold of because he is in such high demand". Considered to be "a very clever bloke", he is always busy but "rolls his sleeves up and really gets on with it" once instructed. Variously described as "urbane", "first rate" and "an excellent operator", Alexander is considered "intelligent, thoughtful, nicely laid back — not aggressive, but very smooth" in court.
A silk since 1991, of leading commercial set One Essex Court, Geoffrey Hobbs QC has enthusiastic support from several firms.
His encyclopaedic knowledge of trademark law is widely acknowledged.
One partner comments: "[He is] possibly the cleverest man in England — or at least at the IP Bar." He is seen as "fabulous in the Court of Appeal" and "incredibly able"; solicitors also noted that the IP judges like him. He also "really hates losing", which is seen as a definite plus by some litigators.
Antony Watson QC of Three New Square inspires affection and respect.
A silk since 1986, he is seen by some as "an old warhorse but still one of the best in the business", "a great cross-examiner", "a real fighter of the old school — superb to have in your corner" and "very convivial — clients love him".
Another highly regarded silk at Three New Square is the "very polished and extremely conscientious" Andrew Waugh QC — appointed as a silk in 1998.
Several commentators talk of his "great thoroughness, preparation and attention to detail".
From 11 South Square, Richard Arnold QC is seen as "sharp-witted". One City firm remains "extremely grateful" for his ability to "get [its] client out of a very serious problem so well". A silk since 2000, he is seen as "one to watch in the future". Arnold’s colleague at 11 South Square, Michael Silverleaf QC — a silk since 1996 — "has very strong ideas", "is a good tactician" and "takes his job very seriously". "Clever", "challenging" and "thoughtful", Silverleaf "really gets himself involved in the detail and can produce some very good results", according to one magic circle partner.
Christopher Morcom QC, head of Hogarth Chambers and a silk since 1991, has "a very mild and understated approach. He is not an aggressive cross-examiner but can be very persuasive with some judges". Considered to be a trademark specialist, Morcom is "especially effective in the Trademark Registry". Also at Hogarth Chambers is Roger Wyand QC, who took silk in 1997. "He is much underrated and sometimes overlooked, but is really capable and we use him as much as we can," comments one prominent solicitor. It is a view echoed elsewhere. Another admirer adds: "Wyand is thorough, capable and very competent."
At Wilberforce Chambers, Michael Bloch QC, a silk since 1998, is praised for his skill and his temperament. "I would use him all the time if I could — he is an absolute pleasure," comments one City litigator.
Encouragingly, there is a sizeable pool of available talent among juniors at the IP Bar. The 8 New Square quartet of Richard Meade, Adrian Speck, James Mellor and Michael Tappin all receive a wide range of favourable comments.
Meade (1991 call) is said to be "at the top of the tree", "very capable", "always on the ball" and "an excellent addition to any team".
Speck (1993 call) is regarded as "a real five-star performer", very clever and popular with many City solicitors. Speck is also described as "a real kick-ass litigator — fantastic".
Michael Tappin (1991 call) is considered to be "excellent for paperwork". Described variously as "very thorough", "very able indeed", "a very good cross-examiner" and "extremely clinical", he also stands out for one instructing solicitor for his good humour — "he is really very normal and sensible compared to some other barristers".
James Mellor (1986 call) is regarded as "very good at handling a trial by himself" and obvious silk material.
One partner says: "His quiet style can be very effective, he has an understated charm that works well in court. Clients really like him."
Hard on the heels of these four at 8 New Square is Charlotte May (1995 call). May’s supporters see her as "really excellent" and "very capable", with her feet on the ground and showing sound judgement.
Of the younger juniors at 8 New Square, Iona Berkeley (1999 call) and Jessie Bowhill (2003 call) are both impressing solicitors.
Berkeley is tipped to have "a very bright future, producing work of high quality" while Bowhill, who is only in her third year at the Bar is already regarded as "absolutely first-rate — she may be young but her work has been very impressive", said one solicitor.
At Three New Square, Colin Birss (1990 call) is held in high esteem. "He is very reliable — I would always instruct him if he were available," says one solicitor. "He is very good all-round, a capable solid advocate," adds another to have worked with him. Douglas Campbell (1993 call) is praised for his thoroughness, reliability and "engaging manner with clients".
Thomas Hinchliffe (1997 call) is seen as "conscientious, bright and very helpful as part of the team", as well as being great on detail.
Tom Mitcheson (1996 call) has shown great application in developing "a very good rapport" with several firms. Dominic Hughes (2001 call) is described as "definitely one to watch" according to two firms where he has made a good impression.
At 11 South Square, Piers Acland (1993 call) receives favourable comment for being "very good on detail","incisive" and "a great team player" while Mark Vanhegan (1990 call) is highly rated for his "competence’’ and "tremendous technical understanding".
Outside the specialist sets, Emma Himsworth (1993 call) of One Essex Court is acknowledged as "very bright" and "a very capable junior". Nearly always led by Hobbs, "together they make a very effective team," comments one instructing solicitor.
At Wilberforce Chambers, Anna Carboni has definitely made her mark.
Since arriving at the Bar two years ago — after 17 years at Linklaters where she was an IP partner — "she has shown a very good all-round approach and understanding, making her a really excellent junior" in the view of one instructing firm. "She is also clever and very popular, which really helps," according to another City firm which now briefs her regularly.
Legal Week canvassed the views of 20 leading IP departments at City firms.
Stars at the IP Bar
Daniel Alexander QC, 8 New Square
Richard Arnold QC, 11 South Square
Michael Bloch QC, Wilberforce Chambers
Henry Carr QC, 11 South Square
Christopher Floyd QC, 11 South Square
Geoffrey Hobbs QC, One Essex Court
Christopher Morcom QC, Hogarth Chambers
Peter Prescott QC, 8 New Square
Michael Silverleaf QC, 11 South Square
Simon Thorley QC, Three New Square
Antony Watson QC, Three New Square
Andrew Waugh QC, Three New Square
Roger Wyand QC, Hogarth Chambers
Piers Acland, 11 South Square
Colin Birss, Three New Square
Douglas Campbell, Three New Square
Anna Carboni, Wilberforce Chambers
Emma Himsworth, One Essex Court
Thomas Hinchcliffe, Three New Square
Charlotte May, 8 New Square
Richard Meade, 8 New Square
James Mellor, 8 New Square
Tom Mitcheson, Three New Square
Adrian Speck, Three New Square
Michael Tappin, Three New Square
Mark Vanhegan, 11 South Square
Up and coming junior juniors
Iona Berkeley, 8 New Square
Jessie Bowhill, 8 New Square
Dominic Hughes, Three New Square
Author: Dominic Carman
Source: Legal Week
Start Date: 06/10/2005
End Date: 13/10/2005
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