Martin Smith joined the clerking fraternity after his A-levels. He joined Blackstone in 1988 as second junior clerk, on the basis that the first junior was soon leaving. Within a year the then senior clerk suffered a vote of no confidence, and Smith pleaded with chambers to be given his chance – he was duly promoted and is now estimated to be earning in the region of £300,000 and managing a team of 11 clerks in a thriving set that won this year's Lawyer Award for Chambers of the Year. The set also employs practice manager Julia Hornor. It has developed rapidly during the past few years on the back of its public and international law practice, while continuing to push its commercial expertise.