St John’s Chambers win ‘Chambers of the Year 2018’

We are delighted to announce that St John’s Chambers were voted ‘Chambers of the Year 2018-2019′ at the Bristol Law Society Annual Awards Dinner on 11th October 2018. The event was held at the Marriott Hotel, Bristol and raised funds for The Freewheelers blood bikes, a registered charity supporting the NHS in South West England by providing a free emergency motorcycle courier service. The award is given to a Chambers that is able to demonstrate excellence and innovation in the provision of legal services above and beyond their colleagues in the field including CSR activities.

This award coincides with Chambers celebrating 40 years in business, and we continue to strive to be a modern and progressive set with barristers, clerks and management being the driving force behind innovative projects.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our clients, old and new, who have supported us and made this achievement possible.

St John’s Chambers is consistently recognised by independent awards for its expertise in a broad range of specialist areas of law. Our barristers and chambers are regular winners and shortlisted both locally and nationally.

Susan Hunter, Head of Chambers said: “St John’s Chambers is proud to receive this recognition of all we have achieved both in and out of court this year.  We look forward to continuing to serve all who need us in Bristol and the West Country.”

Photographed above from left to right is: Rachel Segal, Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence Barrister; Anita Young, Events Manager & Marketing Coordinator; Sophie Smith-Holland, Family & Divorce Barrister; Susan Hunter, Head of Chambers; Robert Bocock, Commercial & Chancery Practice Manager; Harriet Dudbridge, Family & Divorce Barrister and Annie Sampson, Commercial & Chancery Barrister.

St John’s Chambers providing ‘London-quality advice locally’ with ‘a good breadth and depth of expertise’

We are delighted to announce that St John’s Chambers has been recommended as a Top Tier Set in the Western Circuit’s Leading Set by The Legal 500 United Kingdom 2017.

For one solicitor, St John’s Chambers is ‘one of the leading sets in the South West’, providing ‘London-quality advice locally’ with ‘a good breadth and depth of expertise’. We specialise in civil matters and have been noted for our strength in commercial, construction, family, personal injury, clinical negligence, regulatory and public law matters. Inquests and inquiries is another key area for our Chambers’.

Three of our QCs are listed in the Western Circuits “Leading silks” list, The Legal 500 United Kingdom 2017’s guide to outstanding silks nationwide.

Christopher Sharp QC, Family and children law & personal injury and clinical negligence, “He has a brilliant mind that understands the intricacies of any case.”

Leslie Blohm QC, Commercial, banking, insolvency, Chancery law and Property, “He is very grounded but has an air of absolute authority.”

Kathryn Skellorn QC, Family and children law, “Clients are in awe of her.”

In addition to the success of our QC’s, 38 of our barristers are listed in the “Leading juniors” list, The Legal 500 United Kingdom 2017’s guide to outstanding juniors nationwide.

To view further details on our Chambers’ listings please click here


by Rebecca Taylor and Andrew Kearney

Many of you will have attended our hugely successful Civil Mediation seminar “Mules, Muck Sweats and the Mediation Trough event in April of this year.

To recap – there was not even “standing room” as St John’s mediators Rebecca Taylor and Andrew Kearney, with guest speakers Alistair Pye and Gary Webber and chair Sean Campbell, presented and interacted with a crowded room on a range of mediation topics. 

The event was a lively 2 ½ hours, and was sold out with attendees from a wide range of practice areas, all being users or potential users of mediation – personal injury, contentious probate, property, CDR, construction and more.

A Rebalancing ?

One of the themes of our event in April was whether the Courts have gone too far towards de facto compulsion to mediate via threats of costs sanction, with at least one of our speakers expressing the view that the Court of Appeal would need to step in to restore a degree of balance in the light of some slightly surprising statements in decisions at first instance.

That may now have happened to some extent in Gore v Naheed & Anor [2017] EWCA Civ 369.

But possibly not in the most helpful way.

The case is available at  The bulk of the judgment of Patten LJ deals with alleged obstruction of a right of way, and those whose first interest lies elsewhere may be forgiven for skipping over the first 47 paragraphs of the decision and concentrating on paragraphs 48 to 50.  They are set out in full below.

The question which arose was whether the overall winner should be deprived of part of his costs for failing or refusing to respond to an invitation to mediate.  An unusual case perhaps, given that it is a brave litigant these days who fails to put a cost protective tick in that particular box (a view borne out by the discussions at our April event).

Having lost, the paying party Defendants unsurprisingly relied on the PGF II case.  Given some of the swingeing costs orders made in some of the reported decisions, they probably felt that they were on pretty strong ground…..

But both the Judge and the Court of Appeal disagreed.  The relevant paragraphs of the decision read as follows, with the key parts highlighted:

48. The judge made a separate order that the claimant should have his costs of the claim on the standard basis after considering written submissions. It is clear that Mr Gore was the overall winner so as to bring into operation the general rule that he should have his costs. But the defendants submitted and now submit on this appeal that the judge should have made some allowance in their favour for the fact that Mr Gore refused to or failed to engage with their proposal that the dispute should be referred to mediation.

49.Mr McNae referred us to the decision of this Court in PGF II SA v OMFS Company 1 Ltd in which Briggs LJ emphasised the need, as he saw it, for the courts to encourage parties to embark on ADR in appropriate cases and said that silence in the face of an invitation to participate in ADR should, as a general rule, be treated as unreasonable regardless of whether a refusal to mediate might in the circumstances have been justified.Speaking for myself, I have some difficulty in accepting that the desire of a party to have his rights determined by a court of law in preference to mediation can be said to be unreasonable conduct particularly when, as here, those rights are ultimately vindicated. But, as Briggs LJ makes clear in his judgment, a failure to engage, even if unreasonable, does not automatically result in a costs penalty. It is simply a factor to be taken into account by the judge when exercising his costs discretion.

50.I this case the judge did take it into account but concluded that it was not unreasonable for Mr Gore to have declined to mediate. His solicitor considered that mediation had no realistic prospect of succeeding and would only add to the costs. The judge said that he considered that the case raised quite complex questions of law which made it unsuitable for mediation. His refusal to make an allowance on these grounds cannot in my view be said to be wrong in principle.

This was a unanimous decision – the other two judges (Lewison LJ and Underhill LJ) simply agreed with Patten LJ.

This raises a number of interesting points (which may be discussed in Muck Sweats 2 later this year), but three of particular note:

  • First – it is welcome to see a failure to mediate being regarded as just one factor to be taken into account when exercising the discretion on whether to award costs and if so how much.  Although query whether this will actually have much effect in practice to prevent the ‘tick the box’ approach which has developed as a shield against possible costs sanction.
  • Second – a reminder that we should be careful what we wish for.  In rowing back against PGF II the Court of Appeal may have set an unhelpful hare running – is it really the case that whether a refusal to mediate was reasonable at the time depends on whether the refuser later wins and his “rights are ultimately vindicated”?
  • And an even more worrying third point – the Judge said that the case was unsuitable for mediation as it raised quite complex questions of law……  Surely, complex cases with uncertainty are precisely the cases which we should be mediating?

Muck Sweats 2 ?

We have been asked to consider repeating our April event, but more likely is that we will hold Muck Sweats 2 later in the year and concentrate on some of the topics on which time defeated us last time around, but of course with a look at any recent decisions such as this one.  Watch out for a flyer on that in the coming months.

In the meantime this latest Court of Appeal decision maybe corrects the balance a little on de facto compulsion, but introduces even more uncertainty through unhelpful reasoning.  As those who attended our April event will know, this is all fertile ground for enjoyable debate and we will certainly not shy away from it.

But on the front line of litigation does this actually help?

Probably not……………keep ticking those boxes!

And keep mediating….

To read this full article, please click:

Rebecca Taylor and Andrew Kearney are accredited mediators, available for appointment in any civil mediation in any subject area.

Contact details:

Rebecca Taylor:

Andrew Kearney:


Andrew Kearney appointed to mediation panel of Mediation for Construction (M4C)

Andrew Kearney

Andrew Kearney, experienced construction and engineering barrister at St John’s Chambers has been appointed to the national mediation panel of M4C.

Whilst Andrew mediates general commercial disputes (a recent example being a mediation between an NHS local health board and an agency placing medical staff from abroad) his core specialism has always been construction disputes.  According to Chambers UK Bar Guide he is “widely regarded as the Western Circuit’s leading barrister for construction and engineering disputes”.  Andrew also practises in London and internationally, and will for example be counsel in an ICC arbitration in Vienna this year concerning a USD60m dispute over a pipeline in Yemen.

m4c-logoAndrew trained as a mediator in 2007, and has now been appointed, along with only 5 others at present, to the national panel of M4C.  M4C appoints mediators nationally on a fixed fee basis for construction disputes of all sizes.  M4C also seeks to inform and advocate in respect of ADR, and mediation in particular.  M4C will be advising the All Party Parliamentary Group on ADR (in respect of construction in the public sector) at the end of January 2017.  M4C will also be holding a series of events in 2017, including CPD events for legal and construction professionals in the South West and Wales.

View profile: Andrew Kearney

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at St John’s Chambers


Over the festive period, Chambers will be closed from 4.00pm on Friday, 23rd December and will re-open from 10.00am until 4.00pm on Thursday 29th December through to Friday 30th December.

We will open again for normal business hours on Tuesday, 3th January 2017.

For any emergency enquiries, please see our out of hours numbers.

St John’s Chambers and Lucy Reed winners at Bristol Law Society Legal Awards

bls-annual-awards-email-stamps18We are delighted to announce that St John’s Chambers have been awarded ‘Chambers of the Year’ at the Bristol Law Society’s Annual Awards on Thursday, 13th October.  It was a very successful evening for St John’s with family barrister Lucy Reed also winning ‘Barrister of the Year’.

Attending from St John’s were Susan Hunter, Head of Chambers, Derek Jenkins, CEO, Elaine Jewell-Moore, Family Clerk, Paul Bennett, Commercial and Chancery Clerk , Alex Troup, Barrister, and their guests.

Having also won Chambers of the Year in 2015, these awards clearly identify Chambers continued commitment to the legal and wider community. Bristol Law Society’s annual awards recognise the important work in the Bristol legal community, celebrating their many successes and outstanding achievements.

Derek Jenkins, Chief Executive said: “Winning ‘Chambers of the Year’ award for two consecutive years demonstrates the excellent quality of legal services and range of expertise offered by St John’s Chambers. In the last 12 months Chambers has been involved in many landmark decisions, as well as leading initiatives designed to ensure that those who need justice are able to access it.” 

Lucy Reed said “I’m proud to be part of such a vibrant legal community here in Bristol, and I recognise that the support and contribution of colleagues both in and outside of chambers has been an important part of the background to my winning this award.”

Susan Hunter Head of Chambers said “We are very proud to have won this years Chambers of the Year Award and extremely pleased that Lucy’s outstanding contribution to her profession and the wider legal community has been recognised. Well done to everyone who was shortlisted, and the other winners – what a fabulous night!”

Bristol Law Society shortlist St John’s for ‘Chambers of the Year’ award

St John’s Chambers is delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted for ‘Chambers of the Year’ at the Bristol Law Society’s Annual Awards 2016, being one of three sets to be nominated. This clearly identifies Chambers continued commitment to the legal profession and wider community having won this award in 2015. For men

St John’s Chambers identified by Legal 500 as an innovative set with high-quality barristers who have a collegiate approach

“St John’s Chambers is an innovative set with high-quality barristers who have a collegiate approach. The group only takes on civil matters, and, in addition to being hailed as a ‘very strong commercial set’, handles family law, personal injury and clinical negligence.” Legal 500 (2016)

To view our rankings please click here.

Top_tier_firmsWe are thrilled to announce that we have been recommended as a top-tier set, and listed in the eight main areas of law in the 2016 edition of The Legal 500. Three of our QCs are listed in the “Leading silks” list – a guide to outstanding silks nationwide. 12 of our barristers are recommended in the editorial, and 35 of our barristers are listed in the “Leading juniors” list – a guide to outstanding juniors nationwide.

Leading Silks

  • Leslie Blohm QC“His calmness and gravitas puts clients at ease.” Commercial, banking, insolvency and chancery law
  • Christopher Sharp QC“An advocate of precision and strength, who gets to the heart of case.” Family and children law
  • Kathryn Skellorn QC“A master of her brief; her preparation is unmatched and she has an almost intimidating grasp of the law.” Family and children law
  • Christopher Sharp QC“An advocate of precision and strength, who gets to the heart of case.” Personal injury and clinical negligence
  • Leslie Blohm QC“His calmness and gravitas puts clients at ease.” Property

What does Legal 500 say about St John’s Chambers…

  • Commercial, banking, insolvency and chancery law
    An impressive range of barristers and is one of the leading sets in the region. The group is primarily known for Chancery and commercial matters, and a number of members are active in banking and insolvency cases. To view rankings click here.
  • Construction, planning and environment
    Chambers has a wide-ranging construction and planning practice, which also extends to related professional negligence matters. To view rankings click here.
  • Employment
    Chambers’ employment practice is recommended for all forms of discrimination claims, where members represent employers and employees. To view rankings click here.
  • Family and children law
    Chambers has a strong family law team with many able barristers in financial and children cases. The group is well versed in the full range of matters and deals with complex and sensitive care cases as well as high-value financial remedy matters. Members have significant experience in the Court of Appeal. To view rankings click here.
  • Personal injury and clinical negligence
    With very strong counsel across all levels, St John’s handles both personal injury and clinical negligence cases. The set has seen a particular increase in industrial disease work of late, on both the claimant and defendant side. To view rankings click here
  • Property
    One of the leading sets in the West for property and Chancery work. To view rankings click here.
  • Public law
    Chambers public and administrative group has dealt with significant judicial reviews recently. To view rankings click here.
  • Regulatory, health and safety, and licensing
    Chambers regulatory team is home to experts in health and safety and licensing disputes. To view rankings click here.

“The administrative arm is excellent, always accessible and accommodating, and led by chief executive Derek Jenkins. Robert Bocock, Annette Bushell and Luke Hodgson are the practice managers.” Legal 500 (2016)

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our clients for their continued support and feedback provided to Legal 500.

Why are we walking?

St John’s barristers and clerks will be walking in this year’s South West Legal Support Trust’s Bristol Legal Walk on Monday, 26th September.

The Bristol Legal Walk is a 10km sponsored walk around Bristol and the city sights to raise money for local advice services. The need for free legal advice centres has grown in the past few years. The recession has increased poverty and reduced support services. Meanwhile funding for the advice centres themselves has reduced. The South West Legal Support Trust supports organisations that prevent families being made homeless, prevent destitution, help older people gain the support to which they are entitled, and help women and children who have been trafficked for domestic servitude or prostitution.

BriLW Banner

Our barristers and clerks are walking to ensure that many of the people most in need get help who would otherwise have been denied due to the huge reduction in government and local authority funding over the past few years.

There are currently 15 teams taking part in the walk including; Avon & Bristol Law Centre, Bristol Citizens Advice, Burges Salmon LLP, Cooke Painter Ltd, Co-Operative Legal Services, DAC Beachcroft LLP, Deighton Pierce Glynn, North Bristol Advice Centre, Queen Square Chambers, Somerset Community Care Matters, St Pauls Advice Centre, Talking Money, The Personal Support Unit and TLT LLP.

To sponsor our walkers and support access to justice for vulnerable people please visit our sponsorship page by clicking here

St John’s Sponsor Bristol Junior Lawyers Division Ball

St John’s Chambers proudly sponsored this year’s Bristol Junior Lawyers Division Ball held at the Marriott City Centre on 13th May.

Bristol Junior Lawyers divison ball

Ben Handy (St John’s Chambers), Brittany Pearce (Guildhall Chambers) and Marcus Coates-Walker (St John’s Chambers)

The ball, which had a Great Gatsby theme, was extremely successful raising £3,000 for Julian’s Trust Night Shelter, a homeless shelter in Bristol. Julian’s Trust Night Shelter provides emergency accommodation, meals, and information about other homeless agencies in Bristol.  Additional services such as health tramadol online screening, flu vaccinations and chiropody are also provided at the shelter.

The event was attended by Members and Pupils of St John’s who have said the night was highly enjoyable and entertaining. This is the 4th year that St John’s have sponsored the BJLD Ball, Laura Cavill chair of the BJLD has said “Thank you again for your continued support which makes the evening possible, we really do appreciate it.”

For further information about Julian’s Trust Night Shelter click here.