The Admiralty Bar is the traditional way to describe those barristers in independent practice who appear frequently in the Admiralty Court. Many members of the Admiralty Bar have gone on to become distinguished judges.
In modern times, the judges drawn from the ranks of the Admiralty Bar include: Lord Brandon of Oakbrook, Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, The Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Gross, Sir Stephen Tomlinson, Sir Barry Sheen, Sir David Steel, The Hon. Mr Justice Charles Haddon-Cave and The Hon. Mr Justice Nigel Teare.
Other barristers who have completed pupillages in chambers with Admiralty practitioners have gone on to do Admiralty related work at Lloyd’s, for P&I clubs or shipowners or managers. Members of the Admiralty Bar traditionally also become Lloyd’s Salvage arbitrators.
The Leader of the Admiralty Bar
The Admiralty Bar has traditionally elected a Leader. The Leader of the Admiralty Bar used to be an automatic Lord Chancellor’s consultee for applications for silk and provided an informal link between the Bar and the Bench. In more recent times, the role has taken on a less formal dimension. The current leader of the Admiralty Bar is Michael Howard QC (1999 – ). Previous Leaders of the Admiralty Bar include John Naisby QC (to 1968), Barry Sheen QC (1968 – 1978), Gerald Darling QC (1978 – 1985) and John Willmer QC (1985 -1991), Geoffrey Brice QC (1991 – 1999).
The Admiralty Bar Dinner
Until the late 1960s there was an annual dinner hosted by the Admiralty Bar and Trinity House (in alternate years). The speech of Sir Gordon Willmer given at the dinner in 1969 gives a flavour of these events and a portrait of the Admiralty Bar before the Second War. The last such dinner was held in 2009. Michael Howard’s speech on that occasion can be found here.
Women at the Admiralty Bar
Although there has not yet been a full-time female Admiralty Judge, women play a leading role in the modern Admiralty Bar as both advocates and arbitrators. The first female member of the Admiralty Bar to take silk was Belinda Bucknall QC of Quadrant Chambers. In 1998 she became the first female Admiralty practitioner to be appointed a Deputy High Court
Judge until 2009 she acted as a Lloyd’s salvage arbitrator.
Other prominent female members of the Admiralty Bar include: Elizabeth Blackburn QC (joint head of London at St Philips-Stone Chambers, advocate and Lloyds salvage arbitrator), Vasanti Selvaratnam QC (Joint Head of London at St Philips-Stone Chambers, advocate and Lloyd’s salvage arbitrator), and Poonam Melwani QC (Quadrant Chambers, advocate).
Lloyd’s Salvage arbitrators
Details of the Lloyd’s salvage arbitration branch are here.
The present Lloyd’s salvage arbitrators are:
Jeremy Russell QC (appeals)
Elizabeth Blackburn QC
Simon Kverndal QC
Lionel Persey QC
Vasanti Selvaratnam QC