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October 24, 2012

Spear’s Wealth Management Awards: When Barristers Become Judges

By Spear's

Shaving these shortlists down from five or six top-tier firms, all with outstanding track records and involvement in big, high profile cases, to one winner was going to be a challenge – and this is where the barristers came in

Barristers are formidably hard to get hold of, we are told. This is supposedly especially true of media barristers, due to the last-minute nature of a lot of their work. So when I began work on the legal categories of the upcoming Spear’s Wealth Management awards a couple of months ago – a task which required me to recruit several of London’s top barristers as  external judges – I did not hold out much hope of instant success.

This feeling of having a long road ahead of me – a road littered with unanswered emails and voice messages or, at most, ‘out of offices’ – was reinforced when I mentioned to a professional acquaintance whom I was hoping to pull in to judge one of the categories. ‘That would be great if you could,’ she said, ‘but he is impossible to get hold of.’  

The shortlists for the three legal categories of tax and trust, family, and defamation and reputation represent most of the very best law firms in London. They were put together upon the basis of nominations from industry insiders, who ranked a longer list of firms upon the basis of their work over the past year. This was a time consuming but fairly straightforward task and, as the same firms were ranked first or near first again and again, a shortlist for each category soon emerged.

Shaving these shortlists down from five or six top-tier firms, all with outstanding track records and involvement in big, high profile cases, to one winner was going to be a challenge – and this is where the barristers came in.

The only problem was that I needed to get some of the busiest men and women in London to read the shortlisted firms’ submissions, then attend a judging meeting with Spear’s to decide the winner of each category – and all at relatively short notice.

Or in fact perhaps too far in advance, as media barristers find it hard to say where they’re going to be and what they’re going to be doing from one day to the next. Waiting for the lift with a QC at one chambers, I inquired if he was busy. He sighed and said ‘The next 48 hours are very busy. After that – ask me again.’

As it turned out, however, I needn’t have worried. The English legal system is often and justifiably praised, but perhaps less well publicised is the professionalism and dedication to high standards of the men and women who practice at the Bar in every aspect of their professional obligations, even with award ceremonies.

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All of the barristers with whom Spear’s worked on the legal categories were responsive, thoughtful in their assessments of firms’ performances, and demonstrated the meticulous attention to detail that is essential to their work. They collaborated carefully to ensure the correct result in each category, and maintained a level of charm and availability throughout the process that made it pleasurable and smooth-running.

And they work in what are surely the most beautiful offices in London. In a city increasingly obsessed with modernization, it is delightful to step off the main drag into Middle Temple or Gray’s Inn, and be surrounded by buildings steeped in history, in a world where centuries-old traditions are still adhered to. But the sleepy atmosphere is deceptive: London’s chambers house some of the world’s most cutting-edge and dedicated barristers – a fact we should be proud of. 
See the nominees for the Spear’s Wealth Management Awards

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