Charles Phipps has a particular interest in disputes relating to obligations of confidentiality (including legal professional privilege) and is the co-author, with William Harman and Simon Teasdale, of Toulson & Phipps on Confidentiality (4th edition, Sweet & Maxwell, 2020).
He specialises in professional liability claims involving lawyers, accountants and auditors, financial services professionals, insolvency practitioners, surveyors and valuers, construction professionals and insurance brokers, and is also instructed in more general chancery and commercial litigation.
He has been rated for many years by both Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500 in the Professional Negligence section. The Directories have described him in the following terms: “…attracts particular praise for his knowledge of financial disputes”; “Very good at the detail, and embraces the larger, more complex problems”; “Charles Phipps … is regarded by many as something of an unsung hero of the Professional Negligence Bar. Clients say he is ‘unbelievably clever and hard-working…’. He has had great success in high-value claims relating to a number of professions.” “Renowned for his incredible intellect, Charles Phipps has a ‘wonderfully analytical brain’ that lends itself to handling complex cases”. He “has ‘an amazing ability to grasp a large volume of detail, quick turnaround on papers and a sensible approach to difficult legal issues’…
“He combines formidable learning and technical expertise with an acute sense of how judges are likely to respond in practice.” – Legal 500 2020
“His strategic advice was excellent; he’s very quick at turning around very detailed notes of advice.” “He provides clear, pragmatic and sensible advice on a range of financial services and professional negligence claims.” – Chambers & Partners, 2020
“Very measured, with a huge wealth of knowledge and case law at his fingertips.” “He is one of the most user-friendly barristers I have dealt with, and would be at the top of my list for a measured, strategic opinion on a technical professional negligence case” – Chambers & Partners, 2019
“He has a brilliant legal mind and looks at cases upside-down and back-to-front to absolutely get to grips with the issues.”– Legal 500 2019
The successful conduct or defence of professional liability litigation requires clear analysis of underlying legal issues and a firm grasp of forensic practicalities. In his advice Charles aims always to cover both aspects thoroughly. He seeks also to ensure that his clients’ cases are presented in a manner that is both articulate and forceful.
Charles has specialised in professional liability cases since he first began to practise at the Bar in 1993 and has seen more than one full revolution of the business cycle (with all its attendant economic side-effects). A large part of his practice is devoted in particular to claims of all kinds against lawyers, auditing and tax-related claims against accountants, negligent investment and mis-selling claims against financial services professionals and over-valuation claims against surveyors.
Charles (led by Patrick Lawrence QC) was instructed on behalf of the respondents to the appeal to the Supreme Court in Jones v Kaney (relating to the immunity of expert witnesses).
Charles also has recent experience, in particular, of claims relating to the tax treatment of a number of film finance schemes (eg Imagine, Charity Shell, Eclipse, and Scion), and has been instructed to represent both tax advisors and accountants defending such claims.
Charles is regularly instructed to act for both claimants and defendants in accountant’s negligence cases concerning liability for, among other things, audit services and tax advice. He was editor of the chapter on accountants in Jackson & Powell’s Professional Liability Precedents (Sweet & Maxwell, loose-leaf).
He was instructed on behalf of the liquidators of BCCI in the audit litigation against Price Waterhouse and Ernst & Whinney (as they then were), at that time the largest accountant’s negligence claim ever to have been brought. The litigation eventually settled, following a successful appeal against an order striking out large parts of the claim: BCCI (Overseas) Ltd (in liquidation) v Price Waterhouse  Lloyd’s Law Rep (Banking) 85.
Other more recent cases
Claims against construction professionals require (more than most) a willingness to grapple with factual detail in a legal context. Charles’s belief is that a clear focus on the crucial issues can reliably emerge only from a proper mastery of the facts.
Claims against financial services professionals require not only a firm grasp of common law principles, but also close attention to the regulatory context (which may itself require a quasi-archaeological exploration of the relevant legislative history). Charles is numerate and seeks always to turn his familiarity with technical detail to his clients’ advantage.
Claims against insurance intermediaries require not only an understanding of the role of insurance professionals, but also familiarity with the large underlying body of discrete case-law relating to insurance contracts. Charles enjoys applying principles of insurance law in the professional negligence context and has acted both for and against insurance brokers and agents.
Charles has very extensive experience of all kinds of claims against lawyers (both solicitors and barristers), in cases involving a wide range of legal activities. As the co-author, with William Harman and Simon Teasdale, of Toulson & Phipps on Confidentiality (Sweet & Maxwell, 4th edition, 2020), he has a particular interest in the issues of privilege and confidentiality which frequently crop up in the course of a lawyer’s practice. Apart from claims arising in the commercial sphere, he also relishes lost litigation claims and is familiar with the technicalities of land law and beneficial ownership which underlie many conveyancing negligence claims. He is regularly instructed by major insurers of solicitors and the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund.
Charles acquired a close familiarity with claims against surveyors in the last round of lenders’ litigation at the turn of the century. He has been struck by the faithfulness with which history has repeated itself, but is also interested in the various ways in which the claims which are presently being made (and the accompanying allegations of contributory negligence against lenders) differ from those which were advanced in the past. He has acted both for and against surveyors and valuers in both commercial and domestic contexts, including:
Charles is regularly retained in disputes of a general contractual nature, leading to mediation, arbitration or litigation. He is familiar with freezing injunctions and other forms of urgent interim relief. He is the co-author, with Sir Roger Toulson, of Confidentiality (Sweet & Maxwell, 3rd edition, 2012) and takes a particular interest in claims for breach of confidence. Claims in which he has been instructed include:
Charles is regularly instructed to appear in the Chancery Division, in cases which may or may not involve allegations of professional fault. As the co-author, with William Harman and Simon Teasdale, of Toulson & Phipps on Confidentiality (Sweet & Maxwell, 4th edition, 2020), he takes a particular interest in the equitable principle of confidentiality.
Charles regularly advises lawyers and other professional advisers about their professional regulatory obligations and has a particular interest in lawyers’ fiduciary duties, conflicts of interest (whether own interest conflicts or client conflicts), duties of confidence, and/or the law of privilege. He has been retained by leading commercial firms of solicitors in relation to SRA investigations.
Charles has also been instructed in cases before the Disciplinary Tribunal of the ICAEW (both on behalf of respondent accountants and by the Institute itself).
The issues that Charles is instructed to address include such matters as:
Charles is the co-author with William Harman and Simon Teasdale of Toulson & Phipps on Confidentiality (Sweet & Maxwell, 4th edition, 2020).”
63 members of 4 New Square Chambers have been ranked in the…
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