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Barristers at 2 Mitre Court Buildings (2MCB) were told last week that they were free to look for new homes as part of the planning set’s long-term strategy.
The set has suffered the departures of several key tenants. In 2001, the set boasted eight silks and a total of 20 tenants; today it has just three full-time silks, one part-time silk and 15 tenants. Last week Richard Walton joined 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square and in December Neil King QC and rising star Rupert Warren joined rival Land-mark Chambers.
Since four of the set’s most eminent silks retired around two years ago, 2MCB has made just one significant lateral in Stephen Sauvain QC, although he is only a part-time tenant.
Guy Roots QC, 2MCB’s head, said: “We have numerous options. One is to stay as we are. We’re a strong set with low overheads. We could also recruit more tenants, or obviously people may want to go to other sets.”
He added: “The review is really a long-term strategy. People at the bottom want to see the direction of their career path. There are no suggestions that we have fallen out or got into any financial difficulties.”
Roots claimed that turnover had increased since the four silks retired around two years ago.
Comment: what next for 2MCB?
Rewind three years. 2 Mitre Court Buildings (2MCB) is a tight outfit. Small, but has strength at both a senior and junior level. Michael FitzGerald QC, then its head, is one of the bar’s finest planning barristers. Ambitious but nearing retirement, FitzGerald, possibly realising small is not altogether beautiful, opens merger talks with planning and local government specialists No 1 Sergeants Inn.Talks fail.
Not a huge problem. Move on. Then, in quick succession, several of its senior silks retire – FitzGerald himself, Lord Silsoe, Gerald Moriarty QC and Anthony Anderson QC. While larger sets like 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square can absorb the shock of such losses, it is much more difficult for smaller chambers.Unless, that is, a set does something drastic.
Take No 1 Sergeants Inn, which in the summer of 2001 moved to form Eldon Chambers, but then several months later lost five of its barristers to 39 Essex Street. The set took quick action and soon found a perfect bedfellow in 4 Breams Buildings, and together they formed Landmark Chambers.
Then, in December 2003, Landmark swooped on 2MCB for Neil King QC and Rupert Warren.
A merger now looks to be the best option for 2MCB. One hopes that it has not left it too late.