8 New Square, the Chambers of Daniel Alexander QC, has been established for over a hundred years. As far as we can ascertain, the chambers were in existence before 1900 but began specialising in patent law just after the turn of the century. Kenneth Johnston QC, a previous Head of Chambers wrote the following note which is attached to the back of a photograph of Fig Tree Court which hangs in the waiting room.”The Chambers in 5 Fig Tree Court began to specialise in patents during the first decade of the 20th Century, although A.J. Walter had done patent cases before then, and by the 1920s had become pre-eminent in this kind of work. In 1934 Wilfred Greene, K.C. was brought in by British Celanese to lead their appeal to the House of Lords against Courtaulds. After the hearing it was thought by some-wrongly-that he had won and at about that time I was walking up Chancery Lane with James Whitehead, K.C., who had led for Courtaulds, and he said to me, “They have blown the trumpets round Fig Tree Court many times, but the walls have not yet fallen.” What Wilfred Greene failed to do metaphorically was achieved physically by the Luftwaffe and in 1941 chambers, then much reduced in numbers, withdrew to 1 Gray’s Inn Square.
After 12 years at 8 Kings Bench Walk, we moved in 1957 to Francis Taylor Building. The entrance to 5 Fig Tree Court was from a covered passage leading south into Fig Tree Court, then lying to the north of Crown Office Row. On the left as one entered there were two rooms, both overlooking Fig Tree Court. The second room, with three windows, was that of James Whitehead, who was there followed by Basil Drewe in 1935. Facing the entrance was the Senior Clerk’s room, by the side of which there was a stair to the basement with windows looking up to Fig Tree Court. Here was a large room (later divided into two) containing, until 1936 some tools, including a lathe on which A J Walter was said to have turned a well shaped leg for demonstration in the Fox’s puttee case. The first floor was reached by a stair leading up from the right just by the entrance. It had four rooms, two of them over the main rooms of the ground floor, the further and larger being that of W Trevor Watson, K.C. The postcard shows 5 Fig Tree Court from Fig Tree Court and it can be seen that it was a small house. Trevor Watson used to hold that it was occupied by William Cowper when he tried to commit suicide there, but I have not verified this. It has now gone, but may the walls of its successor, Francis Taylor Building, never fall in any sense.”Kenneth Johnston November 1975
Well, the walls of Francis Taylor Building never did fall, but, with the expansion of chambers and the reluctance of others in the building to make room for us, they began to bulge. In 1993 we moved to 8 New Square, our present home in Lincoln’s Inn.
Queen’s Counsel practising from Chambers since its formation
A.J.Walter QC, J.Hunter Gray QC, James Whitehead QC, W.Trevor Watson QC, Basil Drewe QC, Kenneth Johnston QC, T.A.Blanco White QC, Anthony Walton QC, Julian Jeffs QC, A.Kynric Lewis QC, Robin Jacob QC, Michael Fysh QC, Hugh Laddie QC, Peter Prescott QC, John Baldwin QC, David Kitchin QC, Mark Platts-Mills QC, Martin Howe QC, Mary Vitoria QC, Daniel Alexander QC, James Mellor QC, Richard Meade QC, Michael Tappin QC, Adrian Speck QC, Andrew Lykiardopoulos QC , Charlotte May QC, Tom Moody-Stuart QC , James Abrahams QC, Lindsay Lane QC, and Mark Chacksfield QC.
Recently Retired Members of Chambers
Mark Platts-Mills QC retired in March 2018. Mark joined chambers in 1974. He was appointed as Queens Counsel in 1995 and elected as Head of Chambers in 2003 when Michael Fysh was appointed as Judge to the Patents County Court. Mark led Chambers through a period of expansion and guided Chambers with his inimitable good humour and pragmatic approach. Mark appeared in many leading cases, notably the long-running dispute between Vestergaard and Bestnet, a case which ran for nearly 10 years from its start in 2006. Mark’s father was an influential silk practicing in the post-war years and the family tradition continues through his son who is also in practice at the Bar.
Peter Prescott QC is a distinguished previous member of 8 New Square chambers. He appeared in numerous ground breaking cases in the Patents Court, Court of Appeal and House of Lords. He is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and lateral thinking IP lawyers of his generation. Peter retired from active practice in 2011. Among the seminal cases in which Peter appeared were Norwich Pharmacal Co. v Customs and Excise Commissioners in the House of Lords a case, which allows a potential claimant to track down the author or wrongdoer.
Peter was also a co-author of the influential textbook, The Modern Law of Copyright and Designs with the late Sir Hugh Laddie and Mary Vitoria QC
Charles White, Fred Watts, Sidney Leigh, John Call.