Review of the year 2003: Herbert Smith takes on the bar

In September, Herbert Smith raised eyebrows across the City with the news that it was planning to open its own barristers’ chambers.

The Lawyer broke the story on 22 September, revealing that Herbert Smith had its eye on hiring a leading commercial silk and six junior barristers to reduce its reliance on the junior bar.

The chambers would be based at Herbert Smith’s existing conference facility in 5 Bell Yard.

The move was taken by many as an implied recognition of the failure of the firm’s solicitor-advocacy scheme.

But it seemed that Herbert Smith was not the only firm intent on bolstering its in-house advocacy capability.
Soon after Herbert Smith’s move, it emerged that Lovells was also on the hunt for a QC. Lovells head of litigation Patrick Sherrington told The Lawyer:
“It’s inevitable that there’ll be a shift away from the
junior bar in favour of firms using their own in-house advocates.”

Few in the City believe the move will pose any
short-term threat to the commercial bar, although it is fair to say that if any firm can make it work, it will be Herbert Smith.