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Traditional work in chancery is gradually dying out. Private client work has been on the decline for some time and the traditions of Lincoln's Inn have been overtaken by commercial practice. The change is reflected both in the more modern approach adopted by sets within the Inn and in practitioners moving from the Inn to chambers.
But if this is the case, why is the Chancery Division at least as busy now as it was 50 years ago? The answer is two-fold. Chancery work has always centred on money movement and the work requires both an understanding of the commercial issues involved and the legal skills to practice in those areas. While London remains one of the world's leading financial markets, and the Companies Court is harboured around the Chancery Division, the division remains the natural forum for litigation in this area.
It was a welcome but not entirely surprising decision to shelve the project which sought to abolish or amalgamate the Chancery Division.
As many commercial/ chancery practitioners are aware, while the extent of the overlap between chancery and commercial work has increased, the need for a Chancery Division remains the same. The Chancery Division machinery, developed over the centuries, remains effective in tackling the more complex issues efficiently and at the highest level of academic excellence.
It is the practitioner who rarely treks into the division who depicts Chancery in 1996 as a Jarndyce v Jarndyce caricature. The reality is that many 'commercial' sets of barristers spend a significant proportion of their time litigating in the Chancery Division and recruiting tenants from Lincoln's Inn.
Chancery remains a 'specialist' division but, in the modern world, it is one particularly well geared for commercial litigation over its 'traditional' subjects: money movement and securities.