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UK BAR: Scottish Stable Overviews

Discover which Scottish Stables are ranked in multiple practice areas in the Chambers UK Bar.

Published on 6 July 2021

The Scottish Stables ranked in 12 practice areas

Axiom Advocates

Boasting an impressive 12 top-tier rankings in this year’s guide, there is no doubt that Axiom Advocates has cemented its position as one of leading stables in Scotland. A top choice for both complex commercial disputes and high-profile public law work, Axiom earns praise for its “very strong presence in the public sector,” and is described by interviewees as “the primary chambers in Scotland providing representation in disputes involving commercial law, construction law and public procurement law, among other areas.” Instructing solicitors are spoiled for choice when looking for an advocate to instruct, with one interviewee noting that the stable houses “a number of the most experienced and well-respected counsel in Scotland.” Its strong bench of senior advocates includes the “absolutely phenomenal” Roddy Dunlop QC, the “practical and approachable” Mark Lindsay QC and the “extremely well-respected and knowledgeable” Kenneth McBrearty QC, who have all achieved tier one rankings this year across several different practice areas. The stable is also home to a number of experienced junior counsel, such as the “experienced and effective” Susan Ower and the “thorough and meticulous” Alasdair McKenzie. “Rising star” Ewen Campbell is another of the stable’s junior advocates who is more than worthy of mention – his broad practice has earned him several rankings in this year’s guide, including tier one rankings in our public procurement and media law tables, and he is consistently praised as “an excellent junior” who is “great for complex cases.” Instructing solicitors note: “There is no other stable in Scotland that comes close to matching the quality of its people – Axiom is the first and only call for certain cases.”

Ranked in 7 practice areas

Ampersand Advocates

Instructing solicitors praise Ampersand Advocates as “a well-organised stable with a good range of excellent advocates.” It is lauded by impressed interviewees as “a go-to stable for personal injury and medical negligence matters” which offers “real strength and depth in terms of counsel.” The stable’s enviable bench of senior advocates undertaking work in these areas includes such luminaries as Maria Maguire QC, David Stephenson QC and Graham Primrose QC, who have all achieved the coveted star individual status in this year’s guide. Maguire is regularly called upon to handle cases involving injuries of the utmost severity and is praised as “one of the leading personal injury counsel at the Bar,” while Stephenson and Primrose win plaudits for their “breadth of experience” and “balanced and measured approach.” The “very friendly and responsive” Simon Bowie QC is another of the set’s top clinical negligence advocates. He recently took a lead role in the Scottish Mesh Litigation, a class action involving 500 claims brought against the NHS in Scotland, and wins praise for his “keen eye for detail and tactical nous.” Ampersand also houses a number of advocates with expertise in restructuring and insolvency law and commercial disputes, including Craig Sandison QC, who is described by interviewees as “a real master of the law” who “comes up with beautiful legal arguments,” and the “exceptionally bright” Robert Howie QC. The stable also offers significant strength in human rights and public law matters, and star silk Aidan O’Neill QC recently appeared before the UK Supreme Court in a challenge to the prorogation of parliament. While instructing solicitors are quick to praise the “high calibre of advocates” available at the stable, the “highly efficient” clerking team, led by head clerk Alan Moffatt, is also routinely held out for praise. “The clerks are all very responsive and very approachable,” attests one interviewee, while another notes: “All enquiries are dealt with promptly and courteously, and nothing is too much trouble for the clerks who will make every effort to accommodate almost impossible demands.”

Ranked in 4 practice areas

Compass Chambers

Compass Chambers continues to impress instructing solicitors with the quality of its representation in complex clinical negligence, personal injury and health and safety cases. The set holds band one rankings in all three areas, as well as a top tier listing in our product liability section. Advocates at Compass are well versed in cases concerning challenging and sensitive medical records and guiding clients through tough times. Interviewees report that the stable has “star players of all levels of experience,” and instructing solicitors have their pick of top-quality advocates for all manner of trials. Dubbed “the leading set for health and safety crime in Scotland” by one top solicitor, Compass Chambers is home to several highly regarded advocates who act in the full sweep of regulatory prosecutions. Another source stresses that “the set has the best selection of senior and junior counsel at the Scottish Bar for health and safety work.” Peter Gray QC, “the top regulatory defence counsel in Scotland,” retains his star rating for health and safety work, and several other members of the stable continue to draw instructions in the most complex regulatory matters, including the “extremely knowledgeable” Susan Duff. The stable’s clinical negligence group includes high fliers such as Marion Caldwell QC and Andrew Smith QC. Compass also fields a number of top personal injury specialists such as Angela Grahame QC, who has “an extremely good grasp of complex details of this area of law,” and star-rated Robert Milligan QC. An “exceptional” clerking team completes the stable and cements its position as a go-to for all manner of regulatory criminal and injury cases.

Arnot Manderson

This quality stable is described by our sources as a “well organised outfit, which has a wide range of advocates.” The set possesses Chambers rankings in four specialist practice areas, where it has gained particular recognition among clients and peers. Arnot Manderson is well represented in our clinical negligence table and in personal injury, where the “brilliant” Andrew Young QC and Arabella Tait are band one individuals. Young is also a notable member of Scotland’s select group of taxation specialists, along with David Small. Meanwhile, the stable’s family law offering is described as “very, very capable,” and can boast a strong complement of juniors including Marie Clark and “respected litigator” Nicola Gilchrist. Sources state that the stable offers “a full range of services for all aspects of family law.” Jonathan Mitchell QC is in demand on both sides of the border for public and human rights work, while sources regard Iain Mitchell QC as something of a guru for all things IT. Arnot Manderson’s clerking team receives a particularly high volume of positive feedback from our interviewees. “The clerking is on par with the best available,” say instructing solicitors, who add: “The clerks’ knowledge of substantive and procedural legal matters is significantly better than at other stables.” Advocates’ clerk Elizabeth Manderson is said to go “above and beyond to facilitate communication between counsel and client, and to identify an advocate to assist at short notice.”

Ranked in 3 practice areas

Terra Firma Chambers

One impressed client identifies Terra Firma as “always my first port of call when I need to instruct an advocate,” since “the advocates and the stable’s clerks are first class.” The stable has successfully positioned itself as the market leader for planning law, and is also highly regarded for agricultural property work, having earned band one rankings in both corresponding Chambers practice areas. It is said to have “a real specialism in planning work, and an abundance of advocates who are experts.” Key names include the “superb” Douglas Armstrong QC and James Findlay QC, a man who “marries experience, intelligence, judgement and a strong work ethic with great effect.” Robert Sutherland is described as “the pre-eminent practitioner at the Scottish Bar in relation to agricultural tenancy work.” Terra Firma attracts additional plaudits for its tax expertise: Philip Simpson QC’s practice is well established and Gordon Watt enters the rankings anew this year. The stable also offers counsel with experience in various other areas including public and licensing law. Practice manager Emma Caskie-Potter “does an excellent job of managing the team,” according to solicitors, and “runs a very slick operation.” Her deputy Andrew Veitch is “very friendly, extremely organised” and “always has his finger on the pulse.” They are both further described as “efficient, personable and knowledgeable clerks,” who offer a “very responsive service with a quick turnaround.”

Westwater Advocates

Westwater Advocates enjoys a strong reputation for the sheer breadth of the cases undertaken by its advocates, a reputation which is borne out by the stable’s rankings in our agriculture and rural affairs, employment and family and matrimonial law sections. The stable is held in particularly high esteem for its family law expertise. “Westwater has the strongest roster of advocates in the field of financial issues arising from the breakdown of relationships,” says one interviewee, who adds: “In cases concerning children, I would say that they are one of the strongest too.” Another source says: “Westwater is very much the go-to stable in the Scottish family market.” The stable’s superstars include “leader in her field” Janys Scott QC, the “phenomenal” Lynda Brabender QC and the “excellent” Ruth Innes QC. Westwater Advocates holds an enviable position as the only stable to be ranked in our Scottish employment law section. Calum MacNeill QC, an “assured and down-to-earth” advocate, is one of Westwater’s experts in this area. MacNeill and juniors David Hay and Alice Stobart all hold band one rankings for employment law. Last but not least, “absolutely on the ball and absolutely top-notch” principal clerk Sheila Westwater and her team continue to offer expert guidance and support to both instructing solicitors and advocates.

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