Legal Business

Embattled barristers sets Arden Chambers and 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square to merge

Embattled barristers sets Arden Chambers and 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square to merge

After sharing a turbulent recent history of departures, barristers chambers 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square is merging with housing and local government specialist Arden Chambers.

Arden denied the merger following questions from Legal Business earlier today (21 September), before publishing a statement a few hours later confirming the merger from 1 October. The new set will initially be known as 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square incorporating Arden Chambers.

Existing senior practice manager at Arden, Emily Martin, will continue to manage Arden’s work at the merged set, which will be based at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square’s offices.

According to 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square’s website, the set has 54 tenants, while Arden Chambers has 33. Both sets specialise in local government work, while 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square boasts further capabilities in media, IP and sport, as well as arbitration and litigation.

The combination has been met with little surprise in Bar circles, with both sets suffering from notable departures in recent times. Last year, 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square lost public law barristers Richard Clayton QC and Lee Parkhill to Seven Bedford Row (7BR).

In June this year, Arden Chambers lost civil and public law barrister Clare Cullen to Field Court Chambers. Cullen, who focuses on housing, property and local government, has appeared in the Supreme Court, High Court and Court of Appeal. Fellow public law barrister Alexander Campbell also left Arden Chambers for Field Court Chambers this year, making the switch in April.

4-5 Gray’s Inn Square has form for mergers, with the set combining with fellow public law outfit Atlas Chambers in 2013. It was a similar story five years ago, with the merger following a swathe of barrister exits, notably a 24-strong team that left for 39 Essex Street.

Atlas director John Lister and a team of eight barristers made the switch to 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square in 2013.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

4-5 Gray’s Inn Square merges with public law specialists Atlas Chambers

4-5 Gray’s Inn Square merges with public law specialists Atlas Chambers

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.

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