6 Pump Court closes its doors as fee cuts and Clementi bite

One of the bar’s leading clinical negligence sets, 6 Pump Court, will dissolve on 17 January 2005.

The set blames the dissolution partly on forthcoming cuts in fees for clinical negligence work and possible administrative cost burdens arising from the impact of the Clementi Review.

Six of its tenants this week joined Hailsham Chambers, while in November senior-juniors Andrew Kennedy and Christine Lambert joined Robert Seabrooke QC’s One Crown Office Row.

The two will be followed by Kieran Coonan QC, 6 Pump Court’s head and only silk, while a further 15 tenants are looking for new homes.
6 Pump Court’s members agreed unanimously to dissolve even though, according to Coonan, the set’s turnover has grown year-on-year since 1990. Also, in 2003-04, it had its highest income in its 39-year history, claimed Coonan.

However, Coonan argued that changes in the clinical negligence field will prevent future growth. In particular, he pointed to the Chief Medical Officer’s decision to grant compensation to families whose babies have birth injuries and who are without recourse to litigation.

Cuts in fees for clinical negligence cases, and equivalent cuts for criminal legal aid work – handled mainly by 6 Pump Court’s most junior members – have also been blamed for the collapse.

Several of 6 Pump Court’s rivals have reacted to these pressures by expanding, some quite significantly, in order to ensure economies of scale. However, Coonan cited the associated problems of growth. “This requires more accommodation, but getting more outside the Temple brings with it all sorts of issues. How do you finance it? You also need people prepared to take risks,” he said.

For the avoidance of doubt this story does not refer to the chambers of Stephen Hockman QC, also at 6 Pump Court, which continue to practice from the same premises.