Smaller sets do big business

Good financial performances are not just the preserve of the top 10 sets, with a few smaller chambers showing signs of a lucrative year. Employment set 11 King’s Bench Walk (11 KBW) grew turnover by 21 per cent, from £11.2m to £13.6m, signaling the start of an expansion push and a search for new offices.

Barristers voted down a proposal to move to Staple Inn and instead adopted a scheme to lease 15 new rooms in neighbouring 9 and 10 King’s Bench Walk.
11 KBW barrister John Kavanagh QC said the move has divided opinion. “There were strong views on either side,” he said.

The set needs more space to house the 12 barristers currently stranded offsite in Temple Chambers and also to leave space to grow.

Kavanagh added: “We’re keen to bring the [offsite] people back in, as well as to expand and upgrade the office. We had to think what would be the best way of achieving that.”

Kavanagh said it would have been more expensive to move to Staple Inn, and the new rooms next door allow the offsite barristers to transfer immediately.

Similarly, IP set 8 New Square had a better year than expected after the loss of David Kitchin QC’s £2m caseload following his promotion to the bench.

The set dropped just £290,000 from its turnover this year, making £9.21m, down 3 per cent from the £9.5m posted while Kitchin was at his peak.

Senior clerk John Call said members of chambers had had to work harder to keep the business ticking after Kitchin’s departure.

“We needed to ensure there wasn’t too much downside and there was a general pulling together,” he said. “Of 24 members, 20 are nearly at full capacity, which is pretty good.”

Call said senior-junior James Mellor had been key to the recovery. The set has marketed Mellor as a silk, charging silk rates for his time as lead counsel on cases such as Sun Microsystems’ dispute with Amtec. And Call will not have to change much after Mellor at last won those two special letters when his name appeared in the latest round of silk appointments.