Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day – Lisa Linklater KC reflects on life at the Bar and how she has built a national practice

March 8, 2023

On 21 March 2022 Lisa Linklater KC from Exchange Chambers became the first female barrister from the North Eastern Circuit practising in the field of Commercial Chancery to take silk.

Lisa’s national practice focuses on high value, legally and factually complex shareholder and partnership disputes, corporate insolvency and commercial litigation in the Business and Property Courts of the High Courts of Justice, as well as appellate advocacy in those fields of practice.

She is recommended as a leading silk in chancery, commercial dispute resolution and insolvency and restructuring by Chambers UK Bar 2023 and in company/insolvency by Legal 500 2023, following consistent recommendations as a leading junior in these fields.

Lisa is noted not only for her technical excellence and expertise in written and oral advocacy, but also for her commercial, creative, collaborative, strategic and practical approach to advancing her clients’ objectives.

Lisa served as Junior Counsel to the Crown (Attorney General’s Regional Panel) for three consecutive terms (18 years) and was regularly instructed by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in high-profile, complex company director disqualification applications and public interest winding up petitions, as well as by HM Revenue and Customs in precedent-setting cases and multi-million-pound tax fraud cases.

Since taking silk, Lisa’s practice has flourished and she has been instructed by a wide variety of businesses, insolvency practitioners and individuals, as well as by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

This year alone, Lisa has been successful in three different unfair prejudice petitions under s994 Companies Act 2006 for minority shareholders, securing purchases of her clients’ shares in privately owned companies.  Each case has involved expert share valuation evidence and legal proceedings in the Business and Property Courts of the High Court of Justice in Manchester.  The companies in which Lisa’s clients held shares are in a variety of sectors: hospitality, manufacturing and property development.

In each case, Lisa was instructed for at least two years from pre-action through to settlement, drafting proceedings, giving strategic advice throughout and advocating both in court and at mediation.  Two of the petitions settled at mediation, shortly before trials listed in the Business and Property Courts of the High Court of Justice that were listed early in 2023.  One of the petitions settled through other alternative dispute resolution, following a key contested application in the High Court, heard by HHJ Pearce, Judge in charge of the Circuit Commercial Court in Manchester, sitting as a Judge of the High Court, in which Lisa was successful. Lisa has also secured favourable settlements for majority shareholders, responding to unfair prejudice petitions.

In another case success, Lisa has acted for the joint liquidators of a public limited company in a precedent setting case, Re Torotrak plc (in liquidation) [2023] EWHC 115 (Ch), before HHJ Hodge KC, sitting as a judge of the High Court in the Business and Property Courts in Manchester.

Torotrak plc (in liquidation) was an engineering company specialising in innovative products to meet the motor industry’s need for cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The company entered into administration on 8 December 2017, the joint liquidators (Mr Scott Christian Bevan and Mr Simon David Chandler) being appointed subsequently.  The liquidators had made distributions to creditors in full and were now faced with a limited surplus (£304,859.20 before deduction of costs and expenses) and over 8,500 members, many of whom were individuals, residing around the globe. This gave rise to issues of proportionality, fairness and the restrictive wording of s107 of the Insolvency Act 1986.

Pursuant to section 112 of the Insolvency Act 1986, Lisa successfully secured directions from the High Court in respect of the making of distributions to members in light of s107 of the Insolvency Act 1986, an increase in the remuneration cap of the liquidators and prospective relief from liability for the liquidators under s1157 Companies Act 2006.

Lisa suggested a range of legal solutions to the practical issues that arose from the facts and the restrictive wording of s107 of the Insolvency Act 1986, to reach a proportionate, practical and cost-effective outcome.  After considering Lisa’s submissions, HHJ Hodge KC ruled that the appropriate solution was to require the joint liquidators to write to the known shareholders at their last-known addresses, inviting claims to be made within an appropriate period of time, and making it clear that no such claims will be considered after that cut-off date.

As for tracing members, HHJ Hodge KC ruled that a single advertisement should be placed in the London Gazette, also containing a similar cut-off date for claims, and similar information. Finally, notice should be given on the portal maintained by the joint liquidators, in respect of Torotrak plc (in liquidation).

With women currently making up 39% of all barristers but just 18% of KCs, Lisa is well qualified to talk about the challenges female barristers may face and ways in which those challenges may be addressed.

“I think that the main challenge I have met has been not having many female role models or colleagues in my practice area, particularly when I became pregnant and returned to practice after my children were born,” said Lisa.

“I did receive some excellent advice and did have a lot of support from most of my colleagues, although there were challenges.  There are certainly now more visible female role models across the legal profession and the judiciary compared to when I started in practice and this creates a positive cycle.

“I am also really enjoying being part of the North Eastern Circuit Women’s Forum, which is very inclusive.  The events are very supportive and forward-thinking with the link between wellbeing and consistently excellent performance a central theme.  I think it is very important to ensure that women are not isolated at any stage of their career so that we can achieve our career potential and fulfil our ambitions, while balancing this with other responsibilities, demands and our health.  One way to achieve this is to have a variety of formal and informal support networks both within and across Chambers and firms and to be as inclusive and positive as possible in the workplace, supporting women and men in their careers.”

Although rewarding and exhilarating, the life and work of a silk is often demanding and pressurised.  Explaining how she achieves a work-life balance, Lisa added:

“I think the balance will always alter throughout any year.  For example, during and in the lead up to a trial, the balance will very much be in favour of work.  I try and have a range of activities I enjoy and that take up different amounts of time – some that I can enjoy at home such as cooking, listening to music and watching a film – and others such as swimming and more recently golf.  I am also enjoying catching up with friends more regularly again and spending time with my family.”

Lisa is also encouraged by the Bar becoming more diverse and representative of the society it serves.

“Things are moving in the right direction but there is still work to be done,” she added. “Recent data from the Bar Standards Board shows the continuation of several longer-term trends, including an increase in the proportion of practising barristers who are female; who are from a minority ethnic background; who have primary care of a child; who have a disability; and who are aged 55 or more.

“It was also interesting to note that the proportion of pupils who are female is now 59.9 per cent.  As we mark Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day this bodes well for the future although pro-action is still needed to support and retain women at the Bar and to help women fulfil their potential in their practices and careers.”

As for building a national practice, Lisa said “The businesses and solicitor firms that instruct me, many of which are based across the North of England, are conducting business nationally and internationally and this is reflected in my own practice.  The regional Bar is stronger than it has ever been and affords fantastic opportunities for career and practice development within legal and business communities that are going from strength to strength.”