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UK Bar: Construction 2017

Construction is a large, competitive and well-defined practice at the commercial Bar with a commensurately high number of individuals recognised as leading names. Indeed it is the second largest chapter in this edition. All barristers featured have a proven track record in domestic cases heard before the High Court and Court of Appeal, or in institutional and ad hoc international arbitrations as either counsel or as arbitrator, including those who now only act as arbitrator. A total of 83 individuals are recognised.

Most Highly Regarded
Sean Brannigan QC 4 Pump Court
Stuart Catchpole QC 39 Essex Chambers
David Streatfeild-James QC Atkin Chambers
Adam Constable QC Keating Chambers
Marcus Taverner QC Keating Chambers
James Bowling 4 Pump Court
Lucy Garrett Keating Chambers
Calum Lamont Keating Chambers
Jonathan Selby Keating Chambers
John Tackaberry QC 39 Essex Chambers
John Blackburn QC Atkin Chambers
Douglas Jones AO Atkin Chambers
Humphrey Lloyd QC Atkin Chambers
Roger ter Haar QC Crown Office Chambers
Andrew Bartlett QC Crown Office Chambers
John Marrin QC Keating Chambers


KEATING CHAMBERS is the number-one set in construction law, according to our research. Of its 57 members, 32 are recognised in this chapter – including 22 out of 27 Queen’s Counsel. As a longstanding specialist in this area of practice, Keating’s deep bench of experienced first-rate silks are often the first port of call for high-value construction litigation and arbitration. Below we select some of the standout silks.
Marcus Taverner QC is described effusively as “by far and away the best construction lawyer in the country”, and is very much in demand for the most high-profile domestic and international cases. One source also notes, “Marcus prepares very thoroughly and is better than anyone in his anticipation of how a case will develop.”
Adam Constable QC stands out as “a star of the construction Bar”. He is “at the top of his game” and is widely endorsed as both an advocate and arbitrator by peers and clients internationally. A respondent adds, “He is an extremely good operator: smart, sophisticated and commercially minded.”
Simon Hargreaves QC is a popular advocate with a growing practice sitting as arbitrator in high-profile disputes. He is “a machine for winning cases”, claims one peer effusively, while another adds that he is “the hardest-working barrister I’ve ever worked with, and a brilliant cross-examiner who exhausts every angle in a case”.
Alexander Nissen QC has a particularly strong domestic practice, focusing on high-value construction, engineering and energy-related disputes in the TCC and Court of Appeal. A client remarks, “Alexander provides the first-class advice and support you would expect from a leading counsel. He is adept at understanding the key issues quickly and providing succinct, timely advice. He also works well as part of a wider team and instils great confidence.”
Simon Hughes QC is very popular among clients for his user-friendly approach. He is also referred to as “a technically brilliant advocate who can process and recall huge amounts of information.”
Piers Stansfield QC has earnt increased recognition in this year’s research. One client states: “Piers is my go-to barrister. He is very willing to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in. He has a strong eye for detail and is formidably tenacious.”
David Thomas QC is a senior silk with a strong reputation handling high-profile domestic and international cases as an advocate, adjudicator and arbitrator. One peer summarises, “He is a high-status silk with serious gravitas.”
Philip Boulding QC is very active in international construction arbitrations, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region under HKIC, SIAC and UNICTRAL rules. Clients are effusive: “He is always there when you need him, quick to respond, very thorough and a brilliant team member. He is a real pleasure to work with.”
John Marrin QC is much in demand as an arbitrator in construction disputes. Respondents are effusive, saying that he “knows an incredible amount about construction law” and is “extremely sharp”.

ATKIN CHAMBERS also has a longstanding specialisation in construction law and the set suitably excels in this area, illustrated by the fact that 14 out of 19 Queen’s Counsel members are recognised in this chapter.
The set’s star silk is David Streatfeild-James QC, “an extremely tough opponent who leaves no stone unturned”. He is often seen acting as lead counsel in high-profile domestic and international disputes, including a multimillion-pound PFI dispute before the TCC and an ICC arbitration regarding a major Middle Eastern infrastructure project.
Head of chambers Andrew White QC is active as counsel and arbitrator in international and domestic construction disputes. He is widely known and respected, earning praise for being “a very classy operator”, who is also “extremely thorough” and “assiduous”.
Nicholas Dennys QC has a strong international practice as counsel and is also much in demand as an arbitrator. Sources remark that he is “clearly on top of all the issues” and “often my first port of call as an arbitrator”.
Steven Walker QC is a highly regarded advocate on the domestic and international scene. One peer notes, “He is thorough, gets on top of the detail and leaves no stone unturned – you have to be on your game against him.”
Christopher Lewis QC, who made silk this year, was highlighted in our research as “one of the outstanding senior juniors”, in high demand for his services in significant domestic and international disputes.
The set also has three senior door tenants who practice solely as arbitrators.
Humphrey Lloyd QC is universally known and acclaimed in the international construction legal market, and remains a prominent arbitrator in both international and domestic matters.
Douglas Jones AO also earns widespread praise. As one client puts it, he is “a first-class arbitrator and my first choice for anything complex – no-nonsense and gets things done.”
John Blackburn QC is “a terrific arbitrator” who is “very rapid and has total grasp of the issues”, say respondents.

39 ESSEX CHAMBERS is a large commercial set with a strong focus on construction disputes and a number of outstanding names among its members.
Foremost in this area is Stuart Catchpole QC, who regularly acts as lead counsel in large international arbitrations and is a popular appointment as an arbitrator. One peer effuses, “He is a genius and commands total respect as an opponent.”
Richard Wilmot-Smith QC is “a heavyweight silk”. A number of respondents recommend him as a “first-class” arbitrator in construction disputes along with his reputable advocacy practice. A client also regards him as “very thorough, robust and easy to work with”.
Sean Wilken QC and Adrian Hughes QC are also recognised among the set’s top construction silks, both with particularly strong international practices in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Newly appointed silk Karim Ghaly QC was previously ranked as the top junior at the set, receiving strong endorsements for domestic and international construction and engineering disputes, as well as negligence claims. A respondent notes, “He is an excellent lawyer: calm and professional.”
Meanwhile, John Tackaberry QC is famed as an experienced construction arbitrator.

At 4 PUMP COURT, construction is a key area of expertise. The set covers the full remit of construction and engineering disputes, and its silks are active in some of the highest-profile cases in the Technology and Construction Court, as well as international arbitrations. 
Sean Brannigan QC ranks as the star of the set and is one of the most popular construction silks at the Bar. Commenting on his “stellar reputation”, a peer highlights that “his advocacy is an art form”.
Alexander Hickey QC is described as an “excellent construction silk” and “a tough and tenacious opponent”. He covers the full remit of construction issues and is active before the High Court, Court of Appeal and in international arbitrations.
Rachel Ansell QC earns praise for being “an incredibly focused, hard-working and ferocious advocate”. She is highlighted for her experience of ICC arbitrations in relation to major infrastructure projects in the Middle East.

CROWN OFFICE CHAMBERS has a number of high-profile senior construction silks among its members.
Andrew Rigney QC is regularly involved in high-value claims both domestically and internationally. He recently led for the claimants in a dispute over works at a luxury hotel in The Shard. Clients attest to his excellence: "Andrew has all of the attributes to mark him out as one of the top QC's in this field – he is intellectually sharp, a real team player, great on his feet, an incisive cross-examiner and fantastic with clients."
Andrew Bartlett QC is widely praised as “first-rate” and peers often remark on his intelligence and his thorough and diligent preparation, adding that “nothing gets past him”. He is increasingly active as an arbitrator.
Roger ter Haar QC is described as “a stalwart of the construction Bar”, who is “universally well liked and admired”. In particular, respondents highlight his “impressive oral advocacy”. He is especially active in Middle East-related international arbitrations as both counsel and arbitrator.

4 NEW SQUARE concludes our list of leading construction sets, excelling in construction negligence claims in particular. Its well-regarded silks are regularly instructed by developers, contractors and insurers in high-profile domestic and international disputes.
Roger Stewart QC has a fantastic reputation, especially in court, as a confident, bright, tough and decisive opponent. One client also claims he is “one of the best construction negligence silks, if not the best, in the country”.
Fiona Sinclair QC is well thought-of and active in headline cases. Peers highlight her “excellent judgement” and “strong advocacy”.

At FOUNTAIN COURT CHAMBERS, Anneliese Day QC is noted for acting in high-value PFI disputes and multiparty adjudications, as well as international arbitrations focused on the Middle East and the Caribbean. She is regarded as “a fantastic young silk” with “an outstanding client manner”.


KEATING CHAMBERS’ bench of junior barristers is outstanding with 10 out of 29 members receiving recognition in this chapter.
Calum Lamont stands out as the best in set. He is hugely popular with both peers and clients; one of the latter states: “Calum has an extraordinary brain and gets to grips with the issues and the detail very quickly. He is attentive, doesn't over-promise, meets deadlines and is very user-friendly.”
Lucy Garrett has a strong domestic litigation and international arbitration practice. Many respondents are effusive, including one client who remarks: “Lucy ticks all the boxes for a senior junior: she is intellectually very sharp, with a logic-driven approach to the law; her written work is very clear; she has an excellent manner face-to-face; and she is highly motivated and hardworking.”
Jonathan Selby stands out for his domestic construction and professional negligence practice, acting as sole and junior counsel in high-profile TCC and High Court proceedings. Respondents agree that he is “one of the very best construction senior juniors at the Bar”.
Former chemical engineer Paul Buckingham earns widespread praise for his technical excellence, with respondents noting that he is “extremely good on quantum” and “very detailed-orientated”.
On the more junior end, our research highlights Tom Owen, who is frequently instructed on construction and professional negligence claims before the TCC and Court of Appeal. One solicitor responds, “Tom is mature beyond his years; he’s incredibly thorough in his preparation and sees points in a claim that others might overlook”. In another respondent’s view, “He is a Stuart Catchpole or a Sean Brannigan in the making.”

ATKIN CHAMBERS can also boast of a number of clear stars of the future. We list five construction juniors, including two established players of over 10 years’ call.
Camille Slow is a popular choice and receives a number of high-profile unled instructions in construction and related professional negligence claims in the domestic courts. A client notes, “Camille is very happy to get her hands stuck in and she is good at handling the parties involved… as well as being accessible and commercially minded, her written advice and oral advice has been excellent.”
David Johnson is one of the standout construction juniors at the set under 10 years of call. Peers describe him as “an excellent junior, tenacious, charming and thoughtful with strong advocacy skills for his young call.”

39 ESSEX CHAMBERS cements its position as the third most prominent set in our construction research with three standout junior members.
Former litigation and arbitration partner at a city firm David Brynmor Thomas is recommended for construction-based arbitration as both counsel and arbitrator. “He is user-friendly and able to engage both parties in a neutral way."
Rachael O'Hagan is highly regarded among her peers. One notes: “She has a charming personality and appeals well to clients and tribunals.”
Jess Connors is also strongly endorsed.

4 PUMP COURT sees four of its junior members listed, including one of the very top names in our research.
“Star junior” James Bowling is very active in litigation, arbitration and adjudication based construction disputes. An instructing solicitor notes, “He is intelligent, switched-on and detailed; his submissions are excellent.”
James Leabeater comes highly recommended for acting in TCC disputes and international arbitrations, including under DIAC and ICC rules. One peer notes, “He is very clever and a strong advocate; you certainly have to be on your game against him.”


We also recognise two star silks in Scotland.

At AXIOM ADVOCATES, Garry Borland QC covers the full range of construction and engineering disputes, typically being involved in large and complex claims. Sources report, “He is extremely clever and very much the star silk.”

At AMPERSAND STABLE, Robert Howie QC is a prominent senior silk with “knowledge and experience of construction law to outrank his peers”.

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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