Inside & Outside the Law - Service, Silks and Waiting at Table

Serving proceedings on another party can be tricky if you can’t track the person down. City law firm Stephenson Harwood has found a way round this. Why not use Facebook?

Acting for defendant TFS Derivatives in a claim from AKO Capital for alleged unpaid commissions, it secured permission from the High Court in London to serve notice on Fabio de Biase by Facebook message, to join Mr de Biase as a defendant in the proceedings.

Old Square, Lincoln's Inn

Communication of the age. Keeping tabs on someone’s residential address can be problematic. But your Facebook account remains you wherever you happen to be located.

What seemed to be material here was identifying the person in the Facebook photo and establishing that the account is active.

It looks a straightforward factual exercise. However, in a world where spoof accounts can be set up and where social media sites do not seek verification of identity of the account-holder, don’t underestimate the room for arguments in future cases.


This is the season of Silks, meaning the time of the year when a select number of barristers are elevated to become Q.Cs (Queens’ Counsel) – and that title will remain until we have a King as monarch.

The appointment allows the barrister to wear a silk gown, rather than a woollen gown, in court. But this cosmetic, or rather sartorial, accoutrement, is the least of the benefits of achieving the promotion. A QC gets access to the most prestigious cases, and with them the juiciest fees.

For 2012 88 Q.Cs were appointed out of 214 applicants. 44 women applied, and 23 were successful. 15 of the applicants were classified as non-white, and out of them 6 succeeded.

So how does the appointments system work? The suspicious would imagine a series of cosy chats in Pall Mall clubs, and might be surprised to hear that the process is conducted by an independent Selection Panel.

The process also has the aura of HR about it, with the foundation being a competency-based assessment framework. Aspiring silks are advised to start preparing four years in advance – success depends in part on the number of quality cases in which you have appeared. There are even specialist consultants on hand to coach applicants.

More port, m’learned friend?


Finally, pity the Top 10 firm whose access programme for children from Inner City state schools had an uncomfortable blip.

A student arriving at the firm for a week’s work experience placement got lost and was found wandering the corridors by a temporary catering manager. The catering manager thought that the young lady was in the building to do some waitressing, and packed her off to one of the meeting rooms to set up tea and biscuits.

The mortified firm apologised profusely for some “crossed wires that were very rapidly uncrossed”.

The author is a qualified City of London, City of Westminster and National Trust Guide, and a former law firm partner, who runs walking tours in the City and in Westminster. See tabs for details. On Thursday, 5th April he is running London Inside & Outside the Law, a tour of Legal London, starting at 3pm. To book and to find out starting point, contact Colin at