Scottish Stable Overviews
Ranked in 13 practice areas
Those in search of top-quality representation at the Scottish Bar need look no further than Axiom Advocates, which by a considerable margin holds Band One rankings in more practice areas than any other set north of the border. An ever-increasing band of loyal solicitors and others flock to the stable thanks to its well-earned reputation as a “go-to” at the crossover of public and commercial law. Since taking its current form in 2007, Axiom has reportedly “cornered the market by attracting some of the top people at the Scottish Bar,” a fact which is “reflected in the quality of the work.” The theme is taken up by many of our interviewees, one of whom states: “They really are the best if you need any kind of commercial advocate – the fact that 90% of the advocates we instruct come from Axiom is a reflection of how strong a selection they have.” The stable continues to be commended for the real expertise it can provide in numerous specialist areas within its core commercial offering, including professional negligence, IP, product liability and tax. Indeed, several of the high-flying silks on offer, such as Mark Lindsay QC and star individual Roddy Dunlop QC, are remarkable for the enormous breadth of legal experience evident in their own practices. Axiom’s eleven Chambers-ranked construction experts have taken on disputes arising from projects as key to the Scottish economy as the Edinburgh Trams, Queensferry Crossing and the Glendoe Hydro Scheme, whilst members have also handled key insolvency-related mandates such as the litigation surrounding Rangers FC’s 2012 administration. The advocates have continued to lead the field in judicial review and other public law matters as well, having supplied representation to an impressive selection of government bodies in important cases such as the Article 50 revocation and EU Continuity Bill references. One solicitor describes Axiom as “quite simply the pre-eminent stable at the Scottish Bar,” adding that “Lesley Flynn’s clerking service is second to none and leads the pack in Scotland.”
Ranked in 8 practice areas
Well established as a key civil stable, Ampersand Advocates possesses perhaps the leading set of clinical negligence experts at the Scottish Bar, alongside a highly respectable offering across a host of other disciplines. Star individuals Maria Maguire QC and David Stephenson QC head up an unbeatable team of dedicated advocates who are always on hand to tackle the most sensitive medical cases for both hospitals and pursuers. As one solicitor declares: “The set really does have the depth in this area and can field genuinely specialised practitioners.” And in the words of another discerning client: “It’s the first stable I would go to, and I am pretty fussy. It’s nothing personal – just that they’re damned good at their job.” No less impressive is Ampersand’s growing footprint in public law, as encapsulated by Aidan O’Neill QC’s appearance in practically every recent constitutional case with any Scottish aspect, and highlighted by his role in the UK government’s defeat in ‘Miller No. 2’. The set also receives a Chambers ranking to recognise its strong capability in commercial dispute resolution, and its work in insolvency and product liability cases gains particular attention. Client service at Ampersand is not found wanting either: “The clerks are the best I deal with in Scotland,” says one client, while another points out that “the overall impression is of efficiency and commitment to seeing the process through to its conclusion.”
Ranked in 4 practice areas
With four top-tier rankings in our guide, Compass Chambers continues to be recognised as a standout Scottish stable. The set fields numerous advocates who are well-versed in complex personal injury claims, and interviewees report being “consistently impressed” with the quality of the representation provided by Compass Chambers in this area. The “incredibly good” Robert Milligan QC retains his star rating and attracts considerable acclaim from the market: one instructing solicitor told us that “no silk knows more about fatal claims in Scotland.” The stable also holds on to its crown as the only group ranked in our health and safety section for the Scottish Bar, being home to a number of experts handling HSE prosecutions and a wide range of investigations. Peter Gray QC is one of Compass Chambers’ “committed” regulatory crime gurus. Clinical negligence work is also a mainstay of the stable’s caseload, with luminaries such as the “brilliant” Marion Caldwell QC operating at the top of the market. Product liability cases are also frequently handled by the stable’s advocates, several of whom acted in the high-profile pelvic mesh case. Gavin Herd attracts a wealth of praise as a practice manager who has "stamped his personality on the chambers,” and he, along with the deputy clerks Lesley Hogg and Erica Marmo, form a “clerking team that is a credit to the stable.
Arnot Manderson draws acclaim as an “excellent set” with a broad range of experienced advocates offering expertise in everything from tax law to personal injury cases. “Fantastic advocate” Andrew Young QC is among the stable’s standout silks and he regularly represents clients in challenging personal injury and professional negligence actions. Another of Arnot Manderson’s top advocates is esteemed public law silk Jonathan Mitchell QC, who is applauded for the fact that he “has the ear of the court.” Members frequently act in high profile clinical negligence actions on behalf of both pursuers and defenders. Advocates at the stable are also well versed in high value matrimonial finance disputes, as well as children law, and members appear before courts at all levels of the justice system. In addition, the stable has a “brilliant” clerking team led by Andrew Sutherland and Elizabeth Manderson.
Ranked in 3 practice areas
Terra Firma Chambers
Terra Firma Chambers is described by instructing solicitors as “a modern, forward-looking stable,” and remains a go-to in Scotland for complex agricultural cases, planning and environment disputes, and tax matters. The stable’s enviable bench of advocates practising in these areas includes Robert Sutherland, who has “an outstanding level of knowledge and experience in agricultural and crofting matters,” the “incredibly talented” Philip Simpson QC, an established leader of the Scottish Tax Bar, and the “thoroughly diligent” Alasdair Burnet, who is described by his instructing solicitors as “one of the top planning juniors in Scotland.” The stable’s deep bench of accomplished advocates also includes the “brilliant” Julius Komorowski and “tactically excellent” Stephen Winter, both highly regarded for their expertise in complex immigration disputes, and preeminent silk Michael Howlin QC, who is described by impressed interviews as the “counsel of choice for complicated insolvency matters.” Howlin recently appeared in the UK Supreme Court in Dooneen v David Mond, a complex dispute between a trustee and a debtor concerning the ownership of compensation monies. In the eyes of instructing solicitors, perhaps the largest draw of Terra Firma Chambers is the “exceptionally supportive” clerking team. Led by practice manager Emma Potter, the team is lauded for its provision of “a highly professional and excellent” service, leading one satisfied solicitor to report: “The way they ensure appointments are met and everyone is perfectly catered for is first class, and I would have no hesitation in recommending this stable.”
Westwater Advocates has retained its reputation as the go-to stable for family and matrimonial disputes, drawing praise from interviewees who note that “the stable has really cornered the family market in Scotland.” Instructing solicitors are quick to highlight the “deep bench of quality counsel” housed within the stable, including the “supremely knowledgeable” Janys Scott QC, who has once again achieved a coveted star ranking in this year’s guide. The stable is also home to several other standout counsel, including “exceptional advocate” Lynda Brabender QC, the “well-organised and tenacious” Robert Hayhow, and Ruth Innes QC, who is described by one instructing solicitor as “a highly knowledgeable and practical advocate.” The stable also tops the rankings in our agriculture and rural affairs and employment tables, and is regularly instructed by both pursuers and defenders in complex and high value unfair dismissal, discrimination and environmental regulation cases. Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt QC is another of the stable’s advocates who is ranked as a star silk in this year’s guide, and he is lauded by interviewees who praise his “depth of knowledge” and crown him “the go-to advocate for crofting and agricultural advice.” The stable’s enviable roster of employment specialists includes the “helpful and collaborative” Alice Stobart, the “impressive and persuasive” Calum MacNeill QC, and top ranked junior David Hay, who is consistently highlighted by interviewees for his “first-class legal knowledge” and ability to provide “excellent and very clear advice.”