In a league of their own

The managers of barristers’ chambers have been chopping and changing like the bosses in the Premier League of late. Martin Smith dramatically quit Blackstone Chambers last week after (probably) falling out with his bosses. The full story has yet to emerge, and both sides are keeping shtoom – kinda like José Mourinho and Chelski.



The managers of barristers’ chambers have been chopping and changing like the bosses in the Premier League of late. Martin Smith dramatically quit Blackstone Chambers last week after (probably) falling out with his bosses. The full story has yet to emerge, and both sides are keeping shtoom – kinda like José Mourinho and Chelski.

The parallels are too good be true. Blackstone under Smith has been transformed to really challenge (and often beat) the old elite. He’s now jobless (like José). But no sooner has he quit than another opportunity has opened at Fountain Court (Spurs).

Spurs’ former manager Martin Jol (Michael Couling) was a good boss of a famous name who just failed to get the club to challenge the established elite. Spurs was rumoured to be ready to offer José the earth and, likewise, Fountain Court should be straight on the blower to Smith – a proven winner, who could catapult them back to the top.

Couling’s departure for 11 Stone Buildings is the equivalent of Jol jumping ship for Nottingham Forest – a smaller club which has had its share of success, but which never quite managed to replace its legendary boss. But for Brian Clough, read Chris Berry. The man founded 11 Stone Buildings and was always presumed to be the best-paid clerk at the bar. Berry, like Clough, was the last of a dying breed.

Few can cross generations, but Paul Shrubsall at One Essex Court, like Sir Alex Ferguson, is in charge of a famous institution that continues to dominate.

While the bar has yet to look overseas for funding (wait for the Legal Services Act) or cunning foreign coaches, as in football it is replacing the old-school with a new breed of ambitious and imaginative chiefs.

Aston Villa are flying high in sixth place under the brilliant tutelage of Martin O’Neill, while sixth place in the bar top 30 is occupied by Wilberforce Chambers, a growing force that’s not scared to splash out on new recruits under the inspirational coaching of Declan Redmond. For resurgent Blackburn Rovers under Mark Hughes, see 3 Verulam Buildings and Nick Hill – a civilised, thoughtful coach with an aggressive streak.

For legal reasons we won’t be comparing anyone to ‘Appy ‘Arry Redknapp, which is a shame – there would be a string of candidates. Purely for their coaching credentials, you understand.