Big Money at Stake as Law Firms Battle for Top Talent; Competition for Big-Name Signings Is Hotting Up among Some of London's Leading Rival Legal Chambers, Transforming the Normally Sedate Inns of Court. Now a Leading Human Rights Lawyer Has Dramatically Rejected a Move to the Fashionable Matrix Chambers, Home to Cherie Booth. Courts Correspondent Paul Cheston Reports
Cheston, Paul, The Evening Standard (London, England)
Byline: PAUL CHESTON
MICHAEL BELOFF QC is a hugely respected human rights lawyer, but in a stunning coup amid the introspective world of law he has rejected a move to Matrix, the modish new firm which includes the Prime Minister's wife, Cherie Booth. Beloff has opted instead for a return to the chambers of Blackstone.
Beloff, who has been practising in Trinidad and the US and is not due back in London until 18 April, is considered a giant in his specialist fields. For many instructing solicitors his is the first name they would put forward when seeking a heavyweight in a court fight.
The battle over his services reflects their value to his new chambers, not just in the amount of important cases he would attract but also the amount of young talent who would want to follow him.
One solicitor with many years' experience of briefing counsel said: "There seem to be an awful lot of moves at the moment. Any chambers would love to have Beloff, this is a big blow to Matrix, in having Beloff they would have attracted the brightest talent."
The top QCs are capable of charging [pound]50,000 to take a case and then negotiate a daily fee which can be up to [pound]20,000. Some QCs charge up to [pound]1,000 an hour just for a consultation in chambers.
Matrix's chambers at Griffin Building, Gray's Inn, was set up to exploit the fallout from the incorporation of the convention on human rights into English law and was once described as "the silicon valley of human rights legislation".
In a statement explaining his decision, Beloff said: "After careful consideration of a range of offers I have decided to rejoin the outstanding set which gave me my first chance at the Bar, and where I can practise again in the company of colleagues and friends."
He had originally been at Blackstone in the Temple until 1985, four years after taking silk.
Matrix, which at its launch last year prided itself on having created "a new style of chambers", wistfully "wished him well at Blackstone".
The firm's statement admitted it had been "aware for some time that there was uncertainty about where Michael wished to continue his professional practice".
THE STARS AT BLACKSTONE:
David Pannick QC: Only 45 and tipped to be the youngest ever High Court judge and, eventually, a Law Lord. A popular member of the Bar, he has an Oxford first and fellowship of All Souls. He writes for The Times and magazines, has done television work and penned legal books. An expert on public law, his record includes The Satanic Verses, and the Lonrho-Al Fayed Harrods battle.
He is not frightened of unpopular causes, and led the appeal against the Home Secretary's ban on Sinn Fein spokesmen on television. He also represented the Red Hot Dutch satellite porn company.
He is seen as lacking pomposity, although he could not resist buying a courtroom sketch of himself by Priscilla Coleman, the ITN artist.
Presiley Baxendale QC: Aged 50 and a silk since 1992, she is best known for her unyielding pursuit of the truth and fearless cross examining of Government ministers during the Scott Inquiry into the Arms to Iraq scandal between 1992 and 1995. …