THE PREMIER commercial set Fountain Court has departed from its policy of nurturing its own talent to hire five tenants from three rival sets including leading aviation silk Michael Crane of 5 Bell Yard.
Crane's decision to move to Fountain Court to bolster its aviation practice along with junior Akhil Shah stunned his old chambers, acknowledged to have the best aviation practice in the country.
The other new recruits are the banking specialist David Waksman, who has defected from 3 Verulam Buildings, Anthony Martino, an intellectual property and entertainment specialist from 5 New Square and Michael Green, an insolvency specialist from the Chancery set 7 Stone Buildings, headed by Charles Aldous QC.
The five were among 55 barristers who responded to an advertisement in which the chambers invited applications from "established silks and juniors" to bolster its core commercial work and complementary specialist areas.
This is the first time the chambers has embarked on a concerted recruitment drive to hire established practitioners and is the most dramatic example yet of an emerging trend.
Fountain Court itself claims it has never lost a tenant to another chambers, and Kevin Moore, the senior clerk at 5 Bell Yard, said this was the first time its aviation group had lost tenants.
He said the set was particularly surprised at Crane's decision to move: "He has been here for 20 years and to lose someone like him is a big shock."
He added that the chambers would now have to consider whether it too should embark on a bid to hire laterally.
Fountain Court's practice manager Ric Martin, who was hired by the chambers last year to mastermind its strategy, said the hiring exercise was prompted by the need for the chambers to give its clients a full commercial service.
He conceded, however, that it had been unable to attract any suitable EU law specialists one of the practice areas the chambers wants to bolster.