4-5 Gray’s Inn Square has merged with Public law set Atlas Chambers in a bid to boost headcount following a swathe of barrister exits late last year.
The tie-up will see Atlas director John Lister and his team of eight barristers move in with 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, which was hit by the exit of 24 members including seven QCs, in November last year (See: 39 Essex Street takeover heralds new dawn) and a further four clerks earlier this year. Both groups joined 39 Essex Street.
4-5 Gray’s Inn Square will have five QCs, four clerks and two assistant clerks after the merger takes effect. Head of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, Timothy Straker QC told Legal Business: ‘We may not have merged had the exits not taken place. The exits were quite quick and it was desirable to seize the opportunity.’
When asked whether this was a rescue deal, Straker said the merger was simply a response to the mass exodus. ‘After getting over the initial surprise, we used the news to our advantage. I made some calls and arranged a meeting with Atlas, after which the deal was made. That’s all there was too it really,’ he said.
The merger is expected to initially drive costs down by 50% and reduce headcount by two thirds, meaning 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square barristers can offer more competitive prices to the market. Part of the move has also seen associate outfit Atlas Tax Chambers split into a separate entity, which will be headed by Keith Gordon and will share resources with 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square.
Straker said this combination was appealing as it meant the two chambers could share resources and allow solicitors multiple services under one roof. By the end of 2013, Straker aims to expand the set to include 25 barristers. Straker added Atlas was an obvious choice because both chambers have experience within public law, planning and commercial law, while the staffing arrangements were also a good cultural fit.
‘Atlas’ present senior clerk complements our acting senior clerk. Collectively it formed the team we were after. The barrister to staff ratio was also very appealing because it has a feasible economical structure,’ he said.
The merger between the two sets of chambers is unusual and is the third of its kind in two years. At the start of 2011, Manchester’s St Johns Buildings, Sheffield’s Paradise Chambers and India Buildings Chambers in Liverpool joined forces to create the largest merged chamber in the UK with 250 barristers, including 12 QCs and 70 support staff. In December 2011 York Chambers and Broad Chare Chambers also merged.