One Essex Court and 2 Paper Buildings merge

The troubled chambers of Sir Ivan Lawrence QC at One Essex Court and Desmond De Silva’s 2 Paper Buildings have merged to become a 52-tenant set.

Lawrence moved to 2 Paper Buildings along with six other practitioners in February. Both sets then entered into formal discussions about a full-blown merger. Lawrence chose to remain head of One Essex Court as he retained a lease on the old building throughout the negotiations. It was agreed that De Silva would head the new chambers.

News that the merged set intends to operate on a mixed civil, commercial and criminal basis will surprise many within the market, given the current pressures on the criminal bar and the low value of the civil market. These changes have led to well-publicised structural changes at a variety of sets, such as the Cloisters demerger (The Lawyer, 26 June) and the splitting of civil and criminal finances at St John’s Chambers (The Lawyer, 20 November).

The set has appointed Simon Bray as chambers manager from Nottingham law firm Nelsons, where he was operations director. He will be responsible for the management and the marketing of the merged set, whereas senior clerk Robin Driscoll and civil clerk Chris Doe will have purely clerking functions.

The new chambers boasts clients ranging from national governments to blue chip companies, as well as national and international banks, including HSBC and Lehman Brothers. Bray says: “The merger will allow our clients to cross-refer, and we see the fusion of the civil, commercial and criminal practices as the future of the bar in London and abroad.”

The future of One Essex Court has been in doubt since it lost 11 civil practitioners to the chambers of Richard King at 5 Paper Buildings (The Lawyer, 31 July). Earlier in the year, a former clerk failed in his bid to bring an industrial tribunal claim against 2 Paper Buildings. Six people have left this year: four joined Furnival Chambers, including silk Michael Massih QC (The Lawyer, 25 September); David Brock joined 1 Hare Court and Peter Corrigan left for criminal set 2-4 Tudor Street.

The split of work at the newly merged set is a third for civil work and two thirds for criminal work, and the set is expected to post an annual turnover of £4.5m.