Serle Court

Dispute Resolution Department

UK
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A key player in the chancery market that is "excellent from top to tail," Serle Court has some of the leading silks in the commercial chancery world within its ranks, as well as juniors who have been exposed to work of the highest quality. Major pieces of litigation pour through the doors of the set, and recent examples of significant cases undertaken include Re Spartan Capital, Hagen v Hagen, and Glenn v Watson. Barristers here handle work both domestically and internationally, and have much commented-upon expertise in offshore cases. Testament to their reach, they have been handling an increasing number of instructions from the Middle East and the Far East of late.

Client service

"The clerks are great. They are very, very helpful and if we have a problem they sort it." "I find them very easy to work with. They always do their best to find a solution that works for us, which is impressive." Steve Whitaker is the head clerk.

Strengths

Alan Boyle QC
A powerful advocate and a leading figure of the Commercial Chancery Bar, who is head of chambers. He has a broad practice that takes in company law, fraud and insolvency matters, and is particularly noted for his skill in handling high-value trust litigation.
"He is one of the doyens of the Commercial Chancery Bar. If you are in a difficult place where you need a silky, persuasive voice, you go to Alan. He has been around for donkey's years and has so much experience."
Recent work: Acted in a claim in the commercial list in Bermuda arising out of the Madoff fraud. The case concerned two feeder funds claiming management fees of over USD300 million which it said had been paid to the manager on the basis of erroneous calculations of net asset value.

Strengths

Dakis Hagen QC
Has a broad commercial chancery practice, and a very good reputation in the marketplace. Sources particularly highlight him for combining client care skills with technical and commercial intelligence. His practice takes in cases concerning trusts, allegations of fraud or professional negligence and asset tracing.
"There is no other chancery barrister with the same level of experience and understanding of how the family division works." "He is a serious high-flyer and obviously a very good, extremely accomplished barrister."
Recent work: Represented the claimant in litigation concerning the defective establishment of an Employee Benefit Trust structure designed to hold shares in an IT company.

Strengths

David Drake
A senior junior whose commercial chancery practice includes fraud and breach of fiduciary duty matters. Sources highlight his experience of acting in cases involving pharmaceutical companies. His work often has an international element.
"Has an eye for relevant detail, a good understanding of the law, and an ability to write coherently." "He is a nice bloke and wonderfully bright, but he wears it lightly."
Recent work: Acted for the NHS in England in a damages claim arising from allegations that the largest private pharmaceutical company in France used fraud to obtain patent protection for a popular prescription drug.

Strengths

Dominic Dowley QC
Popular with solicitors, he has a strong fraud practice and is also adept at handling large trust cases with important commercial implications. He is described as a measured advocate who interacts well with commercial clients. Source note his offshore and international capabilities, as evidenced by his appearances in the Middle East, USA and Europe.
"A very good commercial litigator, particularly in fraud cases." "He has a really good reputation for contentious trusts and offshore work."
Recent work: Acted in a case of international shipping fraud, involving asset tracing, breach of trust and fiduciary duties.

Strengths

Elizabeth Jones QC
An excellent litigator, praised both for her formidable courtroom presence and for her ability to run a case. She has a broad commercial chancery practice, with a particular focus on company law. She regularly works in offshore jurisdictions and has extensive experience of international disputes.
"In court it's like watching a master class; when she goes in, she absolutely takes them apart. When you've got her, you've really got her – she concentrates on one case at a time and is devastating." "Her strategic decisions and judgement calls throughout a case are without exception first-rate. She handles huge volumes of complex material really well and her cross-examination is lethally effective as a result."
Recent work: Acted in Glenn v Watson, Re Spartan Capital, a case concerning a loan of over GBP120 million paid to BVI joint venture company Spartan Capital.

Strengths

Giles Richardson
Does good work in fraud and company law cases, and also has a strong trusts practice. His work often has an international or offshore element, and he regularly works in the Channel Islands and the Caribbean.
"A very able advocate and clearly someone who has an excellent grasp of detail. Giles gets right to the bottom of the complex cases and is extremely capable." "He is very diligent and can just plough through the detail in a very effective way."
Recent work: Acted for BVI trustees of trusts holding commission payments of over USD100 million received from feeder funds into Bernie Madoff’s New York fund in defending unjust enrichment claims in Bermuda brought by the funds’ liquidators.

Strengths

Hugh Norbury QC
Focuses on cases involving fraud or breach of fiduciary duty. Sources single out his client skills and technical abilities for particular credit, and praise him for his contentious trusts and offshore work. His practice also takes in insolvency and breach of director's duties matters.
"Has a calm exterior in court and comes across as a terribly engaging and pleasant individual. He doesn't cling to bad points and never wastes the court's time."
Recent work: Instructed for the defendant in a claim for GBP10 million arising out of an alleged joint venture. The claim is for improper diversion of profits on high-end properties through breach of fiduciary duty, deceit and breach of trust.

Strengths

James Weale
A capable junior who wins approval from those who have worked with him. He is strategically capable and a good advocate who is praised for his interactions with clients. He handles a broad range of chancery cases from professional negligence and Inheritance Act claims to contractual and property disputes.
"James has no fear and pushes things as far as he can. You can give him a difficult case and he will go in with his tin hat on." "Very convincing in court, he has impressive advocacy skills for someone of his year of call and his drafting is terrific. It's not boring drafting; it gets to the hearts and minds of a tribunal."
Recent work: Acted with Jonathan Crow QC for the successful claimant in a case concerning a claim of USD100 million relating to a real estate development in Moscow which was the subject of an LCIA arbitration.

Strengths

John Machell QC
A strong commercial chancery silk with an excellent reputation for his partnership work. He carries out both advisory work and litigation, and is regarded as a hard-working and technically astute practitioner.
"Completely on top of deadlines, he always delivers when he says he will. He is a very nice guy to deal with, a very bright man and a very strong advocate. Quite measured in his approach, he's not somebody who goes in for fireworks and theatricals. What he says is always very balanced and extremely well reasoned." "He's a very technical lawyer, so you know you'll always get the right answer."
Recent work: Acted for Rothschild in relation to a breach of warranty claim for over GBP50 million arising from the sale of shares in Liongate Limited.

Strengths

Jonathan Adkin QC
A popular silk with a substantial commercial chancery practice. He has a significant international element to his work, and is regarded as a capable advocate and cross-examiner. Adkin also regularly acts in domestic and international arbitrations.
"An accomplished silk" who is "very polished and someone who delivers very smooth and articulate advocacy."
Recent work: Acted in Recovery Partners v Rukhazde & Ors, a GBP200 million claim for alleged breach of fiduciary duties by former employees of the claimant business.

Strengths

Justin Higgo
A personable and effective junior who is regarded as a sensible and capable litigator. He has a broad practice and acts in valuable, high-profile commercial chancery cases. He also has particular experience of working on breach of contract cases in the art world.
"Has a very good ability to simplify and distil the important stuff. He gets right down to the answer in a very good, straightforward, direct manner. Added to this, he is good at handling solicitors and his drafting is top-notch."
Recent work: Instructed to recover multimillion-pound bond investments made under void contracts and to trace assets transferred from a Cayman portfolio.

Strengths

Lance Ashworth QC
An efficient and effective silk who works particularly in the areas of civil fraud and insolvency, and often handles matters with an international flavour. He is respected for his ability to undertake large cases with lots of factual detail. Ashworth has experience handling hedge fund and professional negligence claims and unfair prejudice petitions.
"Very calm and at ease with clients, and someone who displays amazing attention to detail."
Recent work: Acted for University of the Arts London in a claim alleging bribery and unlawful means conspiracy connected with the supply of a multimillion-pound data centre.

Strengths

Philip Jones QC
A considered and technically excellent QC, described by one source as "a chancery all-rounder." He has "encyclopaedic" legal knowledge and is noted for his direct and effective advocacy. Jones is also called to the BVI Bar and Isle of Man Bar.
"Has real clarity of thought and can make very complex ideas sound very reasonable and appealing to judges. He is very easy to use and low maintenance." "Extremely good in hearings, judges listen to him and trust him. He is extremely fair in his presentation and is very knowledgeable."
Recent work: Acted in Axiom Legal Financing Fund v Turnstone & Peacock, appearing for corporate service providers in the Isle of Man who acted as trustees for the Cayman Islands Axiom Legal Financing Fund who were defrauded of substantial sums of money.

Strengths

Philip Marshall QC
A tough advocate who approaches cases with "targeted aggression." He has a busy practice, with strong international and offshore elements, that encompasses company, insolvency and civil fraud cases. He  regularly acts and advises in the BVI, Bermuda and Hong Kong.
"Has absolutely encyclopaedic knowledge of anything and can absorb material very quickly in order to come up with the right answer. He is a real machine, in a good sense." "He is very good at sifting out what's crucial and what isn't. His experience is the key. It enables him to be very responsive and to give a view on a difficult point pretty quickly. He is one of the big beasts of this world, so judges are attentive when he is making submissions."
Recent work: Acted in Carlyle Capital v Conway, a case concerning a claim for in excess of USD1 billion arising out of mortgage-backed securities trading by a Carlyle-associated company.

Strengths

Rupert Reed QC
A respected silk who is described by sources as pleasant, polished and smooth. His commercial chancery practice has an international thread running through it, and he has a particular specialism in work with a Middle Eastern aspect to it. Sources say: "His knowledge of DIFC court law is excellent."
"Very user-friendly and gets down to the detail of a case. He knows what clients want and he is a team player. He is commercial and offers good options based on sound legal principles." "Thorough, well reasoned, approachable, young and dynamic."
Recent work: Acted for the former head of the family office of a late Saudi prince in claiming more than GBP3 million of unpaid expenses incurred in managing the royal household for over 20 years.

Strengths

Simon Hattan
A popular junior who gives pragmatic and clear-sighted advice. His practice includes civil fraud and breach of fiduciary duty cases, and he has acted in the substantial RBS Rights Issue Litigation centred on an allegedly misleading prospectus.
"Takes a good, commercial approach and is committed and incredibly hard-working." "He used to be a banker so he really understands the guts of financial transactions."
Recent work: Acted in the RBS Rights Issue Litigation, a case concerning claims worth approximately GBP4 billion.