Scottish Stars at the Bar

Roddy Dunlop QC (Axiom Advocates)

The legal profession in Scotland is more or less unanimous in its view that Roddy Dunlop QC is to be placed at the very pinnacle of the commercial Bar. This “extremely impressive” and “just exceptional” advocate is considered “the obvious go-to for commercial work,” thanks in no small part to his outstanding courtroom performance. In the words of one interviewee: “I don’t think we have a better oral advocate in Scotland.” A “real fighter,” his style of presentation is reportedly “tenacious” if not “aggressive,” but always “strategically sound” and “massively prepared” – in short, he “has the ear of the court.” In addition, clients remark that Dunlop’s written work is imbued with “gravitas,” and that “he has the ability to find the argument that no one else has thought of.” He is also said to possess “a work ethic and attention to detail to rival most at the Scottish Bar,” and to be “willing to fight every point for his clients.” Legally difficult business disputes, especially those before the Inner House, are Dunlop’s bread and butter, whilst he has also consistently proven himself to be a real expert across a bewildering array of specialist areas. For example, he was recently sought out to defend a professional negligence action brought against Burness Paull LLP, thought to be the highest value claim ever pursued in the Court of Session. He can also be relied upon to provide superior counsel in cases relating to product liability, media law, public procurement, professional discipline and clinical negligence, for each of which he holds a Chambers Band One ranking. Of particular note is Dunlop’s entry into our public law table this year, which recognises his involvement in various high-profile judicial reviews including one in which he represented the Scottish Parole Board before the UK Supreme Court. In any case, prospective clients should be reassured by the sentiment shared by many of our sources, that “Roddy Dunlop QC can turn his hand to anything.” 

David Thomson QC (Axiom Advocates)

After taking silk in 2017, David Thomson QC has enjoyed a swift rise to the top of our silk bandings in two practice areas, namely real estate litigation and restructuring and insolvency, and retains coveted Chambers rankings in four other areas. He is described as “the silk of choice for insolvency matters” and “the top dog” for property law. Clients put his success at the Commercial Bar down to a number of factors – one states: “It’s because he’s got a presence about him and in the way he delivers arguments and approaches matters. Clients love him and he commands an audience.” Others point to Thomson’s deep knowledge of his fields of expertise – as one client puts it, “he knows insolvency, property and commercial law inside out.” He is, moreover, a “hugely hard worker who gets through a large amount of work and can be relied upon to deliver.” According to our sources, “you can have real confidence in the quality of his opinions.” As such, Thomson is a strong choice for the more technical aspects of property, insolvency and wider commercial disputes – a good example was his recent successful appearance before the Inner House in a tricky case concerning an option agreement over developed land. His comprehensive commercial practice also covers company, construction and professional negligence law, the last of which was complemented by his insolvency expertise when he acted in a claim brought against the 2012 administrators of Rangers FC.

Mark Lindsay QC (Axiom Advocates)

Mark Lindsay QC is an “absolutely excellent” public law silk, who possesses additional expertise in complex commercial disputes. He holds six top-tier rankings in our guide this year and continues to attract a wealth of praise for his “very analytical and methodical” approach to cases, as well as his exceptional advocacy. Solicitors are also impressed by the way in which Lindsay can “get himself fighting fit within hours” of receiving an instruction. He has been involved in an array of high-profile judicial reviews and has appeared before all levels of the court system, including the UK Supreme Court. His recent work ranges from immigration cases, through professional discipline matters, to public procurement disputes.

Andrew Young QC (Arnot Manderson)

A top choice for civil law instructions, Andrew Young QC is “just a class act,” according to our sources, who describe him as “a superb advocate who is completely unflappable, and who makes an impact in court because he is reasonable and usually right.” He sits atop the rankings in three of the practice areas we cover in Scotland. For personal injury Young is said to be “exceptional for the higher value claims,” and the source appreciates that he “understands the funding implications.” Also applauded is the fact that he “gives advice in plain English and is very easy to follow.” Meanwhile, in our professional negligence table he attracts praise as “a high-calibre individual who is more than capable of taking on other heavy hitters,” and he can also claim to be one of Scotland’s foremost tax experts, where he is a favourite of both high net worth individuals and the revenue. In addition, he is recommended by peers and clients for the representation of both pursuers and defenders in clinical negligence claims, and for a variety of commercial disputes. Interviewees are particularly impressed by his “tactical nous, which allows him to cut through the legal issues,” and which is complemented by the fact that he “just gets on with things with no fuss or flap.” A well-satisfied source remarks: “What I appreciate is that he’s prepared to roll up his sleeves and get stuck into the detail. Even when he has a junior he comes suitably prepared and focused on the issues.”

Ewen Campbell (Axiom Advocates)

Ewen Campbell is “proving himself to be an exceptional advocate and someone you definitely want on your team,” according to impressed interviewees, who describe him as “one the best and brightest at the Bar” and someone who is “always ready to fight tooth and nail for his clients.” He is highly recommended for his expertise in professional negligence, clinical negligence and media law, and was recently instructed to act for the pursuer in a high-profile defamation action brought by Julie McAnulty, an SNP councillor accused of racism. He is also recognised for the first time this year for his public procurement work, and is one of only two junior advocates ranked in this area across Scotland. Solicitors are quick to highlight Campbell as “standout junior counsel,” noting that “his potential is far greater than his years at the Bar.” Sources go on to add: “He’s a very able, thoughtful and highly considered junior, both in terms of academic ability and tactical sense, which is very rare.”

Kenneth McBrearty QC (Axiom Advocates)

Instructing solicitors “cannot speak highly enough” of Kenneth McBrearty QC. Sources describe him as a “team player who is not afraid to roll up his sleeves” and admire his “fantastic court and client manner.” McBrearty’s calm approach, which is “loved by clients” and instructing solicitors alike, and his ability to handle all manner of challenging commercial and public law cases, has earnt him a reputation as one of Scotland’s “top drawer silks” who operates “at the top of the Bar.” Indeed, he routinely receives instructions from a number of Scotland’s top solicitor firms. He regularly handles judicial reviews, as well as property litigation and professional negligence claims, and frequently takes on complex privacy cases.

Alasdair Burnet (Terra Firma Chambers)

Alasdair Burnet is known as “one of the finest junior counsel” at the Scottish Bar and comes “highly recommended” by instructing solicitors. Praised for his technical skills, advocacy style and “personable” approach, this former solicitor has established himself as “a go-to advocate” for a wide range of property and planning issues. His skills are put to good use in high-profile planning appeals, inquiries and judicial reviews. He is also well-versed in pure property litigation. Burnet is noted for his role in the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry for the City of Edinburgh Council, and has also appeared in several healthcare-related inquiries. He also holds a top-tier ranking for his product liability work and is known across the market for his roles in well-publicised pharmaceutical and medical device cases. One impressed solicitor notes: “He has the ability to work as a team player and to both make decisions and step back and offer an opinion. He’s available to go through points of detail and also issues of strategic importance. He’s happy to chew the fat and discuss things as cases unfold.”

Alastair Duncan QC (Axiom Advocates)

The “extremely good” Alastair Duncan QC is described as both “user-friendly and extremely detailed and thorough in his approach.” He is held in high esteem by instructing solicitors and fellow advocates for his professional negligence work, where he regularly represents lawyers and engineers, as well as medical professionals in clinical negligence cases. Duncan also remains a top choice for commercial disputes; with instructing solicitors lauding his “very commercial approach and willingness to fight the client’s corner,” it comes as no surprise that he has been elevated to the top band of this year’s commercial dispute resolution rankings. Though he is one of the top legal talents in Scotland, he remains “down to earth” and has the ability to “explain things at a level that clients understand.” Sources also appreciate that “the legal team is a cohesive unit under his direction.” As one instructing solicitor says: “He would be my first choice in almost any case.”