Law ; Society Is Founded on Law and Britain's Legal Processes Have Given a Framework to the world.Whether It Be in Common Law or the Highly Regulated World of Contracts and Finance, London's Practitioners Give the Lead to the Nation and by Implication to the Rest of the World in Every Fieldbarristers . Solicitors . Law Lords . Activists . Media & Celebrity Specialists . Public servantsThe One Thousand

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THE TOP FIVE

Sir Igor Judge, 67 LORD CHIEF JUSTICE Committed to the defence of judicial independence, Sir Igor Judge was appointed this year as Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. He remains head of Criminal Justice, a role in which he has demonstrated a degree of humanity that set him apart from such notorious predecessors as Lord Goddard. And yet nobody has been tougher in throwing out unmeritorious criminal appeals. England's most senior judge favours discussion about the cost of custody so that the public can decide whether to build prisons or hospitals. The apt surname comes from Malta while his unusual first name reflects his parents' admiration for Stravinsky.

Jack Straw, 62 LORD CHANCELLOR As the first Lord Chancellor not to have renounced all further hope of political advancement on appointment, Jack Straw faced a daunting task in winning the trust of top judges with whom he must work. But Straw had practised briefly at the Bar before entering politics, giving him an empathy with the judiciary. If anything, the first keeper of the Great Seal to sit in the Commons has handled the job more successfully than his predecessor, Lord Falconer. As Secretary of State for Justice, Straw is also responsible for prisons and reforming the constitution.

See also Politics

Sir David Eady, 65 HIGH COURT JUDGE After defending newspapers against defamation claims during his time at the Bar, Mr Justice Eady was the obvious choice for appointment as judge in charge of the libel list after he joined the High Court in 1997.

Now that privacy has become "the new libel", he finds himself developing an area of law that was slow to take off when the Human Rights Act came into force eight years ago. Recently ordered the News of the World to pay Max Mosley [pounds]60,000 damages plus costs. Although Eady believes he is rectifying a deficiency in the law, he is not acting single-handedly. His decisions would not survive without the support of senior judges.

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Shami Chakrabarti, 39 LIBERTY, DIRECTOR Shrewd political operator respected at the highest level by both government and opposition, Chakrabarti fought hard to stop Gordon Brown introducing 42 days' pre-charge detention in terrorist cases. After moving from an in- house lawyer's job at the Home Office, she has become the most influential director that the human rights organisation has had for years deeply committed to civil liberties without being a knee- jerk Leftie..

With great personal charm and a natural fluency in putting across her ideas, Chakrabarti is tipped for a major public service role when the right challenge comes along.

See also Politics, Society

Fiona Shackleton, 52 FAMILY LAWYER Best known for her courtroom drenching at the hands of Heather Mills, who poured a glass of water over her head in court after the judge had ordered a divorce settlement that favoured Shackleton's client Sir Paul McCartney. The matrimonial lawyer, who is married with two children, first came to public notice when Prince Charles instructed her to handle his divorce from Diana, Princess of Wales. At that time, Shackleton worked for Farrer & Co, the Queen's solicitors. Now with Payne Hicks Beach, a traditionally low-profile firm that is slowly coming to terms with the need for public relations, she remains solicitor to Princes William and Harry..

Nigel Boardman, 57 CORPORATE LAWYER, SLAUGHTER & MAY Probably the best-known solicitor in the City, Boardman has earned his reputation as a takeover tactician. A "lifer" at Slaughter and May they prefer them that way he represented Reuters last year in its [pounds]8bn merger with Thomson. More recently, Boardman has been advising the mining group BHP Billiton on a [pounds]70bn hostile bid for its rival Rio Tinto. If this succeeds, BHP Billiton says it would become the world's premier diversified resources company. …