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HNW Guide 2023

Wilberforce has had another fantastic year in Chambers & Partners’ HNW Guide with 20 barrister rankings across three practice areas, as well as a tier one set ranking in Chancery: Traditional and a tier three in Tax: Private Client.

Full coverage in the 2023 guide can be found here.

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Art & Cultural Property

Gilead Cooper KC of Wilberforce Chambers is well known for handling major chancery cases and he is also a respected figure in the art law market.” Gilead is lovely, a very entertaining character. He is very experienced in this field and is intelligent and insightful,”. “He is something of a legend in the art market and he lived up to it as he is very experienced and authoritative. You can see a real commercial understanding of the market.”

Bobby Friedman of Wilberforce Chambers maintains a commercial practice of fraud, insolvency and shareholder disputes, and also advises on complex art matters. “Bobby is impressive. He’s got a lot of art experience and he is a good advocate,” according to an interviewee.

Chancery: Traditional

Wilberforce Chambers has an impressive group of barristers who handle complex disputes surrounding trusts and estates, often relying upon multi-jurisdictional knowledge of the law. “They are top of their game as one of the top sets,” comments a source, who continues: “They have a huge breadth of expertise and always seem like a lively bunch.”

“The responsiveness from both counsel and the clerks’ room is excellent. All barristers who I have instructed have been very user-friendly and accessible. Likewise, the service from the clerks’ room is the best I have experienced; they are always on hand to field enquiries and to assist wherever they can,” reports an interviewee. Nicholas Luckman is the practice director.

Brian Green KC  is a distinguished chancery expert who often oversees sizeable trust disputes and pensions cases. “He is absolutely outstanding,” remarks a commentator, adding: “His advice is strategic, clear, helpful and proactive, whilst remaining user-friendly.” A litigator believes that Green is “simply the best chancery advocate. He is brilliant with clients, brilliant with the court, incredibly hard-working and on top of everything. The best.

Robert Ham KC is an expert in contentious and non-contentious trusts and private client work. A solicitor notes that Ham is “the oracle when it comes to trusts restructuring,” adding that he has an “unbelievable amount of experience and knowledge in the area. When acting for a trustee, there is nobody better.” 

Gilead Cooper KC advises clients on complex onshore and offshore trusts disputes. “Gilead has a rapier-like intellect,” observes a litigator, who continues: “He stands back and looks at the issues from angles that others would not normally consider. He is one of the great lateral thinkers of the Chancery Bar.” 

Michael Furness KC is sought after for domestic and international trust litigation that often contains embedded tax issues. A source acknowledges that Furness “swiftly masters complex material,” adding: “He sees through to the core points that really matter, whilst at the same time not losing sight of important detail.” A similarly impressed interviewee remarks: “He is clever and can deal with complex cases; he is perfect if you want sensible high-level advice. He is right at the top of his game.” 

Clare Stanley KC is “a titan when it comes to complex litigation,” observes a commentator, owing to her “no-holds-barred type of approach” which “commands the respect of judges.” Stanley is an expert in handling high-value trust and probate matters. “Clare is a pleasure to deal with and is very popular with clients. She is brilliant on her feet and has a calm approach. She knows trusts law back to front but also has a very strong strategic vision,” acknowledges an interviewee.

Jonathan Hilliard KC is “a force of nature, so energetic and meticulous,” observes a commentator: “He completely prepares for everything and raises everyone else’s game.” Hilliard is well known for handling domestic and international trusts work, especially where significant structures are concerned. An interviewee describes him as “incredibly hard-working, with brilliant recall and attention to detail,” before concluding: “He is an asset to any client.” 

Andrew Child‘s caseload includes high-value trust and estate disputes that involve fraud elements and offshore litigation.

Fenner Moeran KC is “very bright, highly skilled and agile in his advocacy,” according to an interviewee, who continues: “He is able to get quickly to the nub and heart of complex issues, but without losing sight of the big picture. He is always a pleasure to deal with.” Moeran is highly regarded for his expertise in trusteeship matters and Inheritance Act claims. “He is wonderful with clients, he has a strong penetrating legal brain that analyses issues very well and is able to communicate very lucidly with clients. He is brilliant really,” concludes a commentator.

Tiffany Scott KC advises clients in contentious and non-contentious trusts and estates issues. Scott often handles cases that span multiple jurisdictions, in which conflict of laws is a factor. “Tiffany is a first-rate tactician who has a real knack for seeing ahead. She combines this with encyclopaedic technical knowledge. She is never flustered, always prepared, extremely responsive and has a way about her that puts the client at ease straight away,” a commentator enthuses.

Jonathan Davey KC  is a tax and pensions specialist who often represents clients in significant litigation. An interviewee remarks: “Jonathan is a very astute advocate and a strong favourite of HMRC. He is an absolute pleasure to work alongside and is always calm under pressure.” A litigator describes Davey as “impressively responsive, very approachable and user-friendly,” before concluding that he is “an invaluable addition to the team and well worth the investment for the client.”

Zoe Barton KC “brings pragmatism mixed with razor-sharp intellect to all complex trust matters,” reports an interviewee. She regularly handles offshore trust disputes and will validity challenges. Another source feels that Barton is “robust and practical” in her approach and concludes: “I feel confident taking my clients to her.” 

Andrew Mold KC has a broad chancery practice that includes handling breach of trust and fiduciary claims for various parties. A source describes him as “very methodical and thoughtful” in his approach and acknowledges that he is “certainly making a name for himself in this area.” An equally impressed interviewee adds: “He is a very capable and reassuring pair of hands and is totally trusted by our client.” 

Jennifer Seaman is a specialist in probate and estate disputes, as well as pensions and professional negligence litigation. A source notes that Seaman is “really superb technically with fantastic knowledge of the area, very user-friendly and adaptable,” before concluding that she “is always an asset on any matter.” A commentator appreciates her “calm, measured and precise” approach to cases, continuing: “She has a great manner with clients and inspires confidence.”

Michael Ashdown combines expertise in private client trusts law with extensive tax knowledge to handle disputes centred on wills, trusts and estates. He has forged a reputation as an “absolutely superb barrister,” says one interviewee, who continues: “He is my go-to for complex trust matters and never disappoints. He always appears to relish the challenge presented by complex or unique points of law. With regards to Michael, work is completed on time and is always presented in a professional and polished manner. Clients are left feeling they have received an exceptional service.” Ashdown’s approach is also commended by a commentator who says: “Michael is very impressive, very knowledgeable, gets to the heart of the point and sets it out extremely clearly.”

James Goodwin has built “a great reputation, he is everything you want in a capable junior,” remarks a litigator, who adds: “He rolls up his sleeves and gets stuck in, he is going places.” His chancery practice includes assisting in probate litigation and often multi-jurisdictional succession disputes. Commentators speak very highly of Goodwin. “He is a real star in the making,” says one source; “he is quite junior at the moment but has gained a lot of experience. His written work in particular is far and away above his years of call. He is exceptionally bright.” Another professional shares similar sentiments, concluding that Goodwin is “a brilliant addition to any team. He is smart, commercially switched on and very personable.”

Edward Sawyer acts in both contentious and non-contentious matters involving trusts, probate and succession, both domestic and offshore. “Edward is incredibly bright but also very user-friendly. I can’t recommend him highly enough. Absolutely grasped the client’s needs and expertly navigated his way through a maze of tricky legal points to identify a clear strategy for the clients. He not only understands the law but is able to then use that to come up with solutions. He is also an excellent advocate and tactician.”; “he is an outstanding lawyer, exceptionally clever, very polite and an excellent advocate.”; “absolutely brilliant. A pleasure to work with and always has the measure of everyone and everything.”

Tax: Private Client

Wilberforce is widely known as one of London’s top chancery sets, regularly involved in the largest litigation matters in the UK and offshore. It also has a high-end tax practice for private client matters. “I am fully confident in their breadth of expertise to handle expert and complex matters,” says a source; “they can advise on pretty much every aspect of offshore tax, which is extremely difficult to do,” says another.

“The staff and clerks I have dealt with have always been very efficient and pleasant to deal with,” says a source. Another reports that Wilberforce’s “clerks are some of the best in the business.” Nicholas Luckman is the set’s practice director.

Brian Green KC  is one of the most well known practitioners in this area,” says a source; “he’s got an extremely good reputation.” Green has a broad practice which includes advising on trusts tax matters. Another source describes him as “an extremely bright individual; he advises on our most complex and largest trusts. It’s always difficult for some who are so clever to get down to our level, but he is good with clients. He does have a really good client manner as well as being able to explain tricky and difficult things in lay terms.”

Jonathan Davey KC  is a tax and pensions specialist who often represents clients in significant litigation. An interviewee remarks: “Jonathan is a very astute advocate and a strong favourite of HMRC. He is an absolute pleasure to work alongside and is always calm under pressure.” A litigator describes Davey as “impressively responsive, very approachable and user-friendly,” before concluding that he is “an invaluable addition to the team and well worth the investment for the client.” 


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The history of Wilberforce Chambers

  1. 1928
  2. 1932
  3. 1943
  4. 1948
  5. 1954
  6. 1961
  7. 1976
  1. The set now known as Wilberforce Chambers was founded by Andrew Clark in 1928, not long after he was called to the Bar. He served in the First World War and won an MC, but delayed his call to the Bar until 1928. His chambers were in 11 New Court, an attractive red brick Victorian building that used to stand on the corner of Carey Street and Serle Street.

  2. There he was joined, among others, by Richard Wilberforce in 1932 and Irvine Goulding in 1936.

  3. Chambers closed down during the Second World War, thereafter re-opening in rooms on the first and upper floors of 3 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn. Andrew Clark took silk in 1943.

  4. He inherited his baronetcy on the death of his father in 1948. Between 1952 and 1960, when no new Chancery judges were appointed, he and Charles Russell QC were widely regarded as the leading advocates of the Chancery Bar.

  5. Richard Wilberforce took silk in 1954. His most famous case was the Spanish Champagne case, in which he established for the first time that a passing off action could be maintained by a class of champagne producers to protect the name champagne, and that it was not limited to the protection of the goodwill of one individual producer as had previously been considered the case.

  6. In 1961 he was appointed a Judge of the High Court. Within three years he was appointed a judicial member of the House of Lords, where he earned a high reputation for the quality of his judgments. Irvine Goulding took silk in 1961, and was appointed a High Court Judge in 1971. He was succeeded as head of chambers by Victor Hallett.

  7. The modern incarnation of chambers began in earnest in 1976 when Edward Nugee became the new head, taking silk the following year. From 10 juniors when he became head until he retired as head 30 years later, chambers expanded enormously. Many outstanding pupils became tenants, and experienced counsel from other sets also joined. The premises in 3 New Square were enlarged, but by 1993 proved too small; and the chambers moved, with half of its members occupying the Northern half of 8 New Square and further rooms in 7 and 9, and the other half occupying the new building, now 16 New Square, as remains the case today.