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18 December 2020

Trio of US law firms celebrate after annual award of UK Queen's Counsel

Lawyers from Skadden, Gibson Dunn and Quinn Emanuel join first-ever Big Four advocate on roster

By Ben Rigby

The High Court in London

The High Court Shutterstock

The annual unveiling of new Queen’s Counsel in the UK has seen advocates at four top law firms and a Big Four legal arm share the spoils with leading barristers – with three US firms fielding representatives on the 116-strong roster.

London-based Daniel Gal, of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, and Jeffrey Sullivan, of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, joined Duncan Watson, of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan's Hong Kong office, on the list of senior advocates.

“Taking silk is humbling and exciting for me personally, and a testament to the success of Quinn Emanuel’s international arbitration practice,” said Watson, who is 37.

From the UK Magic Circle, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Will Thomas continued that firm’s long investment in advocacy, while Amanda Brown, a partner at KPMG Law, is the first QC appointment to hail from a Big Four accountancy firm’s legal arm. 

The head of tax litigation at KPMG, she was the only specialist tax disputes lawyer to make silk. A sixth, unnamed solicitor was successful, but subsequently transferred to the Bar. Four solicitors and two employed barristers were successful last year, with Freshfields, Clyde & Co, Herbert Smith Freehills, White & Case and Clifford Chance the beneficiaries.

Arbitration lawyers predominated among this year’s solicitor appointments; Gal, who acts on complex commercial and investment treaty disputes, joins his Skadden colleagues, Karyl Nairn and David Kavanagh, as silks. Sullivan, who is dual-qualified in both England & Wales and the US, is known for his energy, construction and commercial arbitration practice and is one the few Americans ever to receive the award. 

Thomas, meanwhile, joins Nigel Blackaby, Ben Juratowitch, Nigel Rawding, Peter Turner and Noah Rubens in achieving the honour at Freshfields, which now has the highest concentration of silks across the UK Magic Circle.

Within the commercial sets of chambers, Essex Court Chambers scored the highest number of successful silks with five, 3 Verulam Buildings had three, while Brick Court and One Essex Court had two successful applicants each. One tenant at Fountain Court will be joining its ranks of QCs: Laura John.

The chair of the selection panel, Sir Alex Allan, said: “We were particularly pleased that for the first year ever, the number of women appointed - 40, which amounts to 34% of the total appointed, is almost equal to the proportion of women in the relevant segment of the profession."

He added: “The number of BAME applicants appointed, although lower than last year’s record total of 22, is also almost equal to the proportion of BAME advocates in the relevant segment of the profession.”

In October, a group of 17 Irish solicitors became the first members of the Law Society of Ireland to receive the award of Senior Counsel.

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