Silk road

One Essex Court and 39 Essex Street target Singapore

There was much scoffing at the bar when The Lawyer revealed that six silks from 4 Pump Court were to join a new venture in Hong Kong aimed at attracting arbitration instructions.

Yet just weeks later One Essex Court and 39 Essex Street have announced their own Singapore launches. The South East Asia markets are a lucrative outpost for London’s barristers, it seems.

One clerk claims there was a degree of panic when 4 Pump Court’s Christopher Moger QC announced his intention to join the new set-up in Hong Kong.

Traditionally, the bar has preferred to keep overheads down by maintaining just one London base. The news from 4 Pump Court was a timely reminder that sitting still in the current climate is just not viable.

Riverview Chambers, the fixed-fee set established as part of Riverview Law, started to talk up its plans for international expansion, adding the Far East to its list of target destinations. The set has already opened in New York (The Lawyer, 30 May).

And now One Essex Court and 39 Essex Street are taking a risk on Singapore, but will benefit from the experience of their London neighbours 20 Essex Street and Essex Court Chambers, which opened in the jurisdiction in 2010.

20 Essex Street senior clerk Brian Lee has been instrumental in opening relations between the Singapore attorney general’s office and London. It has been a campaign that has benefited his set and the bar in general.

39 Essex Street chief executive David Barnes summed up the general feeling when he said: “The globalisation of legal services has expanded the scope of work and many chambers are taking full advantage of this shift. The growth in international arbitration, combined with the liberalisation of certain overseas markets, means there are opportunities for the whole of the bar.”

Once upon a time 39 Essex Street harboured hopes of opening in Dubai, some suggest to satisfy the demand of one member. The Middle East market is no longer on trend, but Singapore is and it is only a matter of time before others embark on the long journey.