Friday, 8 November 2013

Maurice MacSweeney




The dilemma facing 2 Hare Court's Maurice MacSweeney is what you call a nice problem to have. With not just one, not two, but three QCs on the phone hacking trial at the moment, I was keen to know what this means for Chambers, both good and bad. 

"Clearly the profile is great for showcasing the set's expertise, but having 3 out of 16 QCs taken out of action for a whole six months, including our head of chambers [Jonathan Laidlaw QC], brings its own challenges for the business," he tells me. Jonathan Laidlaw QC is defending former CEO of News International Rebekah Brooks; Andrew Edis QC is prosecuting; and Sallie Bennett-Jenkins QC is defending Ian Edmondson, former news editor of the News of the World. "And Jonny will hardly be pausing for breath after finishing the phone hacking trial next Easter, before starting immediately on another corporate manslaughter trial, and then acting for the FA in the Hillsborough Inquiry

"To have three of our QCs on such an important and high profile criminal case is a great testament to the esteem in which our silks are now held. Andrew Edis was named Silk of the Year at the recent Chambers Bar Awards and we were shortlisted as Criminal Set of the Year as well. But we had others nominated for work on non-crime areas also, in particular health & safety and professional discipline, reflecting the breadth of expertise at 2 Hare Court today. 

"What we are finding as we grow as a set is the importance of this strength in depth and our interdependence as a team." Barristers talking about "interdependence"?? This got my attention! I wanted to know more...

"To be fair, all the top sets will say the same: the more a chambers develops a reputation as a collective," [for which, guys, you can read "brand" by the way...] "the more each member will benefit individually at the end of the day. A solicitor client may come to us asking for one of our high-profile silks. This is of course where these headline-grabbing cases help to attract the best work. Ultimately clients want the best person for the job, but this is a matter of perception. On closer analysis of a client's need, we may actually advise them that another individual at the set is more suitable, has more directly relevant expertise, etc. Where our brand is strong, clients are happy to take this small step of faith and trust us to go with another barrister." Well, any barristers still in doubt as to the value of the collective's brand, here's your answer.  

Trust of course plays a huge part. Maurice tells me in certain instances he will recommend silks in other sets if he truly believes they are more suitable for a particular mandate. "Building trust and long term relationships is key. We are not about quick wins, but building long-lasting relationships. We may be in the headlines today but at 2 Hare Court we play a very long game."

A man after my own heart.
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Is the long-awaited litigation tsunami finally hitting our shores? Katy Dowell thinks it might be. Chatting to her on the phone just before she published her Lawyer Litigation Weekly, she told me "it's just gone bonkers". Finally so many cases that have been talked about pretty much ever since the credit crunch hit, have made their way to the courtroom

Maurice concurs. His office is next to the clerks room at 2 Hare Court, where he hears the level of enquiries rising audibly. "I think what we're experiencing is a good number of investigations that have been bubbling beneath the surface for a long time, slowed in the past because budget cuts have meant they are under-resourced, finally seeing the light of day as they turn into prosecutions." Good news for the legal community.

To read Katy's litigation update, click here. If you don't subscribe already to the weekly emails, I'd highly recommend you do.
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Seeing Lloyd Cole at the Komedia in Bath this Monday brought back very fond memories of my college youth. Remember Perfect Skin? Rattlesnakes? Some artists you see this long after their heyday disappoint. But Lloyd was class. If you are a fan, do make the effort to see him on this tour, and check out his new album, if you haven't already. He's as fresh as ever.

The demographic of his fanbase is clearly very narrow, as he was 'big' on the circuit for about... gosh! ...must be all of two years. Loved his dry comment to Monday night's audience that a few years ago he would quip about fans' needing his gigs to end in time for them to relieve the babysitter, whereas now the chances are their eldest child is probably old enough to look after the siblings... if they haven't left home for university already. That's so us!!

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