There may be only four partners at Barlow Lyde + Gilbert, but they’re the hottest shop in London when lawyers find themselves sued for negligence.

Barlows has handled more reported negligence claims against law firms and solicitors in the past 12 months than any other firm. It acts for four London City firms and regularly receives instructions from three out of the five main legal insurers (The St Paul, Zurich and QBE), as well as the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) run-off panel.

Barlows is currently representing Hammonds, Mishcon de Reya and Pinsents in multimillion-pound negligence actions.

Barlows runs a core four-partner team known as the solicitors’ team (although it also routinely acts for barristers). All four members are acutely aware that quietness, discretion and virtual invisibility are the keys to the strength of their brand.

The firm is a fixture atop the directory rankings for professional negligence. Consequently it is regularly called on to tackle the highest-value and most complex claims.

Predictably, then, the four partners (Barlows senior partner Richard Dedman, solicitors’ group head Sarah Clover, Richard Harrison and Andrew Blair), do not want to be photographed. Initially, they did not even seem to want to be interviewed. Indeed, they start the hour-long interview slot doing their best impressions of blocks of ice. Blair, the biggest stoic, says little more than hello and goodbye.

Given that Dedman is the firm’s senior partner and cannot escape people knowing who he is, he proves the most comfortable and the first to thaw. But it is a tease – it is only to emphasise that his team likes to keep itself a secret.

“Law firms don’t want us to publicise our involvement,” he says. “It’s not good for their public relations.”

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