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London chambers One Essex Court and 39 Essex Street have become the latest sets to break with tradition by opening international bases, with both sets on the verge of launching Singapore offices.
It comes just weeks after six silks from 4 Pump Court announced their intention to launch a new venture in Hong Kong aimed at attracting arbitration instructions (22 May 2012).
It is understood that both One Essex Court and 39 Essex Street have sent delegations to Singapore in recent months to assess whether there is enough demand to justify an office opening. Traditionally chambers have preferred to keep overheads low by keeping a centralised clerking function and staying away from new office bases.
Essex Court Chambers and 20 Essex Street broke with tradition in June 2009 by becoming the first sets to open in Singapore (22 June 2009). Both sets have offices in
Maxwell Chambers, the Singaporean funded court facilities that opened in January 2010, with the former sending barristers out on a rota basis while the latter has a member based in the jurisdiction.
One Essex Court senior clerk Darren Burrows said demand for advocacy services had increased significantly. He commented: “We already have strong client relationships with firms in Singapore, but the increasing opportunities for members of One Essex Court has made this a natural move.”
Chambers is currently holding discussions about how the set-up would operate and is expecting to relocate members on a rolling basis.
Like 39 Essex Street, chambers is planning to appoint a permanent staff member in the region to deal with enquiries in real time.
39 Essex Street chief executive David Barnes said instructions of an international nature had long been the preserve of the top commercial sets but new opportunities were beginning to become available.
He commented: “The bar has always had the opportunity to ply its trade internationally. However, the globalisation of legal services has expanded the scope of work available and many chambers are now taking full advantage of this shift.
“The growth in international arbitration combined with the liberalisation of certain overseas markets means that there are opportunities for the whole of the bar.
“The challenge for the modern chambers is having sufficient depth to ensure that its domestic clients continue to receive the high level of service that it has come to expect.”