5 Fountain Court inaugurates national network of barristers

Anthony Barker QC's 104-strong Birmingham set 5 Fountain Court has introduced the practice of hiring barristers from London and other regions who will not be forced to move when they start at the set.`Crime specialist Ian Bridge from Mitre Court Chambers, which dissolved this week, and two personal injury (PI) barristers will move to 5 Fountain Court over the next few weeks. Bridge will continue to be based in London when he joins the Birmingham set.`All three will continue to act in their local courts and will communicate with 5 Fountain Court through virtual diaries, fee-entry systems, email and telephone. 5 Fountain Court will send them work which they hope will broaden their existing practices.`5 Fountain Court reports that it is generally making greater use of barristers outside Birmingham to cover cases taking place in courts close to them. Recently, for example, the set gave a Bournemouth barrister a case that it had been instructed on by a Leeds firm. 5 Fountain Court also gives work to Ian Alexander QC, head of Clarendon Chambers in London.`5 Fountain Court's practice manager Tony McDaid said he frequently hands work that originates from Leeds law firms over to barristers in Oxford, London, Luton, Watford and other areas.`He said: “We've got virtual annexes in that we intend building up a body of barristers in these areas. This may result in us opening an office in London, although my opinion is that this would be pointless as London is the most competitive part of the country. We'll also be looking at [annexes in] the North and in the East Midlands.”`Barristers appear to be attracted to a set like 5 Fountain Court because insurance companies and unions are increasingly choosing which chambers they want to use rather than leaving the decision to law firms.`”Axa and other insurance companies, and the TGWU [Transport and General Workers Union] and other trade unions, have all given out their [chambers panel] lists without publicising the fact. Barristers recognise that if their chambers is not on the list, then they'll have to apply for this work,” said McDaid.`Other advantages of 5 Fountain Court for London barristers are that rents are much lower (15 per cent against up to 25 per cent in the capital), its broad range of work and its respected clerking team.