John Malpas reports

TWO Chancery sets have agreed to merge in a move which both sides claim will lead to a stronger, more competitive chambers.

Ten Old Square and 8 Stone Buildings finalised their merger at the beginning of January, and the two sets aim to operate as a single unit from 1 February.

A notable absentee at the new set, however, will be charities expert Hubert Picarda QC, who left 10 Old Square over Christmas.

The new chambers will continue to be called 10 Old Square, with Leolin Price QC, the set's other silk, staying on as head.

Both chambers are well regarded and the merger has inevitably led to a greater concentration of experience under the same roof.

Among the 21 tenants thrown together by the link-up are Price, an expert in trust land and partnership matters, and two highly regarded trust

specialists from 8 Stone Buildings, Francis Barlow and Simon Taube.

Picarda, author of Picarda – Law and Practice Relating to Charities, left the set at the end of 1995 in search of a new chambers along with two other 10 Old Square tenants, Araba Taylor and Shan Warnock-Smith.

Taylor has joined John Champion's chambers at 11 Stone Buildings, while Warnock-Smith, a trust and estates specialist, has moved over to 5 Stone Buildings.

Warnock-Smith said her new set better suited her practice but stressed the merger would also be beneficial for her former colleagues. "There will be a larger number of practitioners which is a good thing as it will broaden everybody's horizons," she added.

Roy Beazley, senior clerk at Wilberforce Chambers, regarded by many as the leading Chancery set, said: "I would have thought it was a good move for the two sets, but I certainly do not see them as a threat."