I have always tried very hard to win “unwinnable” cases, by which I mean cases where the law needs to be developed in some way (if necessary by overruling a previous case), in order to achieve victory. See my many footpath and village green cases in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
I also try to be innovative – for example, in Greenwich Healthcare v London & Quadrant Housing Trust  1 WLR 1749, I persuaded the court to declare that if the defendant were in future to seek an injunction against the plaintiff, the court would refuse it, thus enabling, an important hospital development to proceed.
It follows that I will always give my support, provided I believe in their merits, to courageous clients who are willing to risk losing 3:2 in the Supreme Court (for a recent example, see DCC v TRF  UKSC 18).
I am regarded as a leading practitioner in the country on the law as it relates to town and village greens. Of the eight cases on the subject which have reached the House of Lords or Supreme Court since 2000 (I appeared in all of them), the Supreme Court heard four in 2014 alone: Paddico, Betterment, Barkas and Newhaven.
The Court clarified many obscure and/or unresolved points relating to the prescriptive acquisition of recreational rights over land and what to do when your land is wrongly registered as a green.
I have sometimes acted in these cases for the public, at other times for landowners or the local authority, to avoid being typecast as an advocate who appears only on one particular side. This is always important, but especially so when appearing in the higher-profile appellate courts.
Recent directory acknowledgements include:
“He’s immensely impressive, intellectually rounded and someone with a huge depth ofknowledge in village green matters and property law more generally.”
“He combines a great legal mind with great advocacy skills.”
Chambers UK Bar 2017 – Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
“Extremely personable with huge technical knowledge”
Legal 500 2016 – Administrative and Public Law
“He is an exceptional barrister and an exceptional person. He possesses both intellectual prowess and also extremely fine client-care skills”
Chambers UK Bar 2015 – Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
I have been specialising in property access issues during all my time as a Queen’s Counsel (and before that as a junior). These cases give rise to very acute conflicts of interest. Typically one party is claiming, or claiming to be entitled to do something on or over, another’s land very much against the latter’s will. Often the issue is whether an ancient track in the countryside is in law a public highway or, if it is, whether these who would like to use it with motorbikes for recreation have had their rights taken away by legislation. Amongst the approximately 50 cases in which I have been involved in the higher courts on such issues are Godmanchester (2008, HL), Dorset (2015, SC), Kidner (2010), Winchester (2009, CA), Powell (2014), and Fortune (2012, CA).
“He has a brilliant mind and he’s absolutely outstanding at finding new legal angles for his clients”
Chambers UK Bar 2014 Chancery Traditional (Leading Silk)
Town & Country
Major infrastructure projects in Parliament and planning.
I have appeared many times as a barrister in Parliament on private bills. These have involved projects as varied as the Channel Tunnel (acting for European Ferries), the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (acting for the Country Land Owners Association), Crossrail (acting for the Corporation of London and British Land), the Dartford Crossing Bridge (acting for Kent and Essex County Councils) and protecting public access to Lincoln’s Inn Fields (acting for the Soane Museum and Royal College of Surgeons).
Much of this work is related to town and country planning in which I have a considerable interest especially on the interface between planning and highway/access issues. See for example Hall v SoSE (1998) JPL 1055. Cases like these are often time-sensitive, technical and affect the quality of people’s lives. I am glad to be involved in them.
Further recent directory acknowledgements include:
“The doyen of rights of way law”
Legal 500 2016 – Property Litigation
“His knowledge is encyclopaedic, and his imaginative submissions contribute to the development of the law.”
Legal 500 2015 – Property Litigation
“His superlative property, planning and public law practice is highly rated by peers and clients alike”
Chambers UK Bar 2012 – Chancery Traditional
- BA Law (University of Cape Town)
- MA (Honour School of Jurisprudence, Oxford)
- Rhodes Scholarship, Harmsworth Scholarship Middle Temple
- A Bencher of the Middle Temple (1999)
- Former Deputy High Court Judge and Recorder
- A Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
- A fellow of the Institute of Public Rights of Way Officers
- Chancery Bar Association
- The Constitutional and Administrative Law Bar Association
- Planning and Environment at Bar Association
- Property Bar Association
- Parliamentary Bar Association
- Open Spaces Society
- Afrikaans (fluent)
What the directories say
“George Laurence is well known in the village green space and is very effective.”
“George Laurence KC knows about as much as there possibly is to know about public rights of way.”
Chambers UK Bar 2024 – Agriculture & Rural Affairs; Band 1
“He combines this phenomenal knowledge with a genuine passion for the subject and a very human understanding.”
“If there is an authority, he probably appeared in it.”
“If there is an angle, he will spot it.”
“George is extremely knowledgable and passionate, yet always very approachable.”
Chambers UK Bar 2024 – Chancery: Traditional; Band 2
“He is a standout and a great opponent.”
Chambers UK Bar 2024 – Local Government; Band 4
“His recall and attention to detail is excellent. His ability to look beyond the obvious and think outside of the box is exceptional.”
Legal 500 UK Bar 2024 – Agriculture; Tier 2
“Working with George is always an invaluable learning experience. His attention to detail is second-to-none and his knowledge is excellent.”
Legal 500 UK Bar 2024 – Property Litigation; Tier 2
“George Laurence KC knows about as much as there possibly is to know about public rights of way. If there is an angle, he will spot it. If there is an authority, he probably appeared in it. He combines this phenomenal knowledge with a genuine passion for the subject and a very human understanding.”
“George is extremely knowledgable and passionate, yet always very approachable.”
Chambers High Net Worth 2023 – Chancery: Traditional; Band 2
“George is an extremely knowledgeable barrister. He is a master in the field of rights of way. He has an incredible will to engage with the case and is committed to his cases and his clients.”
“He is a strategic thinker and has significant ingenuity in coming up with arguments.”
“George is excellent, very confident and an experienced advocate.”
Chambers UK Bar 2023 – Agriculture & Rural Affairs; Band 1
“The market leader in rights of way, village greens and commons work. It is always a delight to be in a case with, or indeed against, George. He has a masterful understanding of the law.”
Chambers UK Bar 2023 – Chancery: Traditional; Band 2
“He is very respected in local government issues.”
Chambers UK Bar 2023 – Local Government; Band 4
“George possesses unrivalled knowledge in his field. He is an exceptional advocate whose style is always structured and measured, clearly commanding the attention and respect of the court, whether in the Court of Appeal or in the Supreme Court.”
Legal 500 UK Bar 2023 – Agriculture; Tier 2
“A silk possessing unrivalled knowledge in this field, George has appeared in an astonishing number of leading cases in this area. He is capable of unpicking the various layers of an argument with outstanding clarity, with his ability to identify the winning arguments and present them with cogency making him an exquisite advocate.”
Legal 500 UK Bar 2023 – Property Litigation; Tier 2
“On rights of way and public access he is incredibly knowledgeable.”
Chambers UK Bar 2022 – Agriculture & Rural Affairs; Band 1
“He is an outstanding advocate.”
Chambers UK Bar 2022 – Chancery: Traditional; Band 2
“He is incredibly knowledgeable, pleasant to deal with and has a great manner with clients.”
Chambers UK Bar 2022 – Local Government; Band 4
“He has an ability to seek out lateral solutions others might not spot.”
Chambers UK Bar 2022 – Real Estate Litigation; Band 3
“Encyclopaedic knowledge and understanding of the relevant law (the interface between property law and public law in fields such as highways, village greens and open spaces). Warm and engaging personality. Humility. Gravitas. A reassuring demeanour and cool head.”
Legal 500 UK Bar 2022 – Agriculture; Tier 2
“Enormously hard-working, excellent insight into difficult legal problems, a rare ability to elucidate and articulate the key points in issue in a case, an encyclopaedic knowledge of this area, and extremely personable too.”
Legal 500 UK Bar 2022 – Property Litigation
“Leaves no stone unturned, is collaborative, and delights in a challenge.”
Legal 500 UK Bar 2020 – Chancery Traditional
“He is so charming and self-effacing in the way he deals with matters. He goes through authorities with great care.”
Chambers UK Bar 2017 – Chancery Traditional
“He is more than usually determined to win a case and more than usually prepared to put in the work and to use creativity to that end.”
Chambers UK Bar 2013 – Real Estate Litigation