Bar profile: 4 Stone Buildings

4 Stone Buildings is an increasingly unusual animal in a consolidating barristers market. It has remained small and prides itself on providing very high quality work in a number of niche areas.

Head of chambers:

George Bompas QC
Senior clerk:David Goddard
Total tenants (silks): 25 (5)
Total staff: Six clerks, three part-time administration staff
Key clients: CMS Cameron McKenna, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith, Lovells, Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, SJ Berwin
Recent cases: Equitable Life v Ernst & Young; Kuwait Airways Corporation v Iraqi Airways Company; Mahme Trust v Lloyds TSB

4 Stone Buildings is an increasingly unusual animal in a consolidating barristers market. It has remained small and prides itself on providing very high quality work in a number of niche areas.

Senior clerk David Goddard joined 4 Stone Buildings 22 years ago when it was a traditional chancery set, much like many others close by. Since then the chambers has watched its competitors, such as Maitland Chambers, expand and merge and has responded by expanding its practice areas while keeping size down.

Goddard says that during his tenure at the set it has become much more focused on company and commercial work than pure chancery law. Company law accounts for the bulk of members’ practices, but general commercial litigation and insurance schemes are also common.

Head of chambers George Bompas QC has been in his post for three years, following the sudden death of Philip Heslop QC, and he juggles a busy company and financial practice with running the set. In Goddard he has an able lieutenant who has seen many of the current tenants develop from being pupils at the set.

Goddard still has a role on 4 Stone Buildings’ pupillage committee and says the position is one that he finds fulfilling. “Seeing a pupil grow into their practice is quite satisfying for me,” he says.
4 Stone Buildings’ expansion during recent years has focused on giving pupils tenancies rather than lateral hires. New tenants at the chambers join an impressive roster of members. As well as Bompas, the set boasts another four silks and 20 junior tenants, including first junior treasury counsel, or ‘Treasury Devil’, Jonathan Crow.

In past months members have appeared on some of the High Court’s biggest cases. Robert Miles QC and John Brisby QC acted for the Bank of America as it settled litigation with the liquidators of BCCI in January 2005, instructed by Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw. Miles followed that up with a role on the Equitable Life litigation, supporting 20 Essex Street’s Iain Milligan QC for the claimants.

Cases also come from overseas, with Robert Hildyard QC in particular often appearing in offshore jurisdictions.

But despite the big cases, Goddard believes the set manages to retain a relaxed atmosphere. “I like to think my lot are worldly, user-friendly and business-like,” he says of his tenants.

Outwardly, 4 Stone Buildings retains a traditional atmosphere, with clients ushered into a reception area that is more like a drawing room than a corporate office. But Goddard sees the way it operates as the key to its success.

“I think it’s a traditional set with modern thinking,” he sums up.