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4-5 Gray's Inn Square has broken off merger talks with Monckton Chambers.
4-5 Gray's Inn confirms the negotiation breakdown. But when first contacted, Monckton's chambers director Alexandrino le Clezio, who was due to become the chief executive of the merged chambers, said that talks were ongoing and that both sets were still "actively looking for new premises."
The acrimonious split happened after 4-5 Gray's Inn sources blamed a "cultural misfit" but le Clezio accused certain parties of scuppering the deal.
She says a group within the set "had consistently been sceptical about the merger… [and were] the same people responsible for seven people moving to Matrix."
But Timothy Straker QC of 4-5 Gray's Inn denied this. He says: "There were practical difficulties in terms of premises. It was decided that no further time should be spent trying to overcome those problems."
It appears that le Clezio was one of the last people to know. Straker adds: "We were trying to ensure that a good service could be maintained. The aim of the merger was to provide a more superior service, but we became concerned about the problems of a split side."
Later le Clezio said: "There are no immediate prospects of merger talks restarting."
4-5 Gray's Inn wants to remain independent for the foreseeable future but Monckton will continue its search for a partner.
A source close to 4-5 Gray's Inn says: "A process like this is like getting divorced… Time will be needed to gather thoughts before embarking upon a new relationship but development could come from recruitment. The junior and middle end is likely to be strengthened, the European practice will need strengthening. Monckton is clearly looking to merge."
It looks likely that certain groups from 4-5 Gray's Inn will now look to move on.
Le Clezio says they are ready to get straight back in the saddle. "We already have options that we are considering at the moment."