Which London sets reign on fees?

London’s top chambers reveal a stellar year so far with reports of increases in barrister revenues

The 2013/14 reporting season is in full swing and early indicators are that many firms are back in growth mode. Can the same be said for London’s leading sets? 

Like many of their solicitor counterparts, barristers are under pressure when it comes to fees. The implications of the Jackson reforms along with employment law changes are affecting the middle tier bar. While further up the hierarchy, there may be more claims being threatened but fewer cases appear to be getting to court. 

That has not hindered growth, however. Landmark Chambers, Hardwicke and No5 Chambers are the early stars of the 2014 Bar Top 30. All have pushed up combined billings by more than 15 per cent in the last financial year.

Landmark, which ranked 19 last year, grew revenue by over 20 per cent, from £26.3m in 2012/13 to £32.5m in 2013/14. A combination of new laterals and weighty
judicial review cases meant the set saw the biggest increase so far in revenue per barrister (RPB) for its 80 tenants, 29 of which are silks.

On average its barristers ended the financial year on an RPB of £406,000, up 20.5 per cent from £337,000 the previous year.

No5 Chambers also increased combined billings to £48.6m, up from £42.2m the year before, a 15.2 per cent increase. The set is home to 240 tenants and 26 silks compared to 244 tenants and 25 silks in 2012/13.

Hardwicke boosted its billings by 17.5 per cent on 2012/13 from £17.1m to £20.1m. It is pulling ahead of its nearest rival XXIV Old Buildings, but is still far from its aim of breaking into the top 20 this year.

Hardwicke stands behind Matrix and Outer Temple in combined revenue terms, with similar tenancy figures. Matrix has 77 tenants and 28 silks. However, the set has not previously distinguished between its full members, associate and academic members. Without those, the number of full tenants would be 62, giving the set an RPB of £411,290, almost double Hardwicke’s £216,000.

However, that £216,000 is split between seven silks and 64 juniors at Hardwicke compared to 28 silks out of 75 barristers at Matrix. 

A new entry is St Philips Chambers, which comes in ahead of Kings Chambers with combined billings of £27.8m. The set is home to 177 barristers,
18 of which are silks. That gives it one of the lowest revenue per barristers at £157,000.

11KBW and XXIV Old Buildings have the highest RPB of those who have disclosed their revenue. Of course, that’s part of the story. For more on the future of the bar, read The Lawyer next week. 

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