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Magic circle set One Essex Court has suffered another major blow with the loss of leading tax silk Graham Aaronson QC and VAT expert Michael Conlon.
Just one week after a clerking reshuffle intended to bring senior clerks Robert Ralphs and Paul Shrubsall closer to the silks, one of its most senior and respected QCs is jumping ship.
The loss of Aaronson and Conlon to niche set Pump Court Tax Chambers decimates One Essex Court's capability, previously rated as the third player in the field behind the two specialist sets Pump Court and Gray's Inn Tax Chambers. It now has only one recognised tax expert in Malcolm Gammie.
Gammie says: "We will continue to work as a commercial set with a tax presence. Tax involves other areas of practice, and one rarely has a problem without bringing in corporate and commercial areas."
For Pump Court, however, the new recruits are a massive boost, and in terms of numbers, it places them ahead of close rival Gray's Inn.
Pump Court senior tenant David Milne QC says: "We've tried to retain depth with younger people. This has paid dividends, and we hope it will continue to do so."
Aside from being one of the top commercial tax barristers, noted in particular for his expertise in M&A and structured finance, Aaronson is also among the bar's biggest earners, with an income estimated in the region of £1.5m (gross receipts).
Aaronson insists that his decision to move is unrelated to the other recent departures from the set, which include Jeffrey Gruder QC to Essex Court, Terence Mowschenson QC and Michael Bloch QC to Wilberforce Chambers and Michael Rollason to Brick Court.
Aaronson says: "We [One Essex Court] had been through some rough times, so I had thought of waiting for a decent interval. I decided to make the change now rather than put it off because of the growing complexity of tax law. It's the difference between having seven or eight experts rather than one or two."