The biggest chambers in the UK, St Philip's Chambers in Birmingham, is continuing its rapid expansion by poaching five barristers from rival sets.
The influx is being led by commercial and family silk, Heather Swindells QC, who joins from leading London set 36 Bedford Row.
Swindells, a recorder, is founder and chairman of both the East Midlands Business and Property Bar Association and the East Midlands Family Law Bar Association, and a member of the Bar European Group.
“St Philip's has grasped the key to the future which is providing a large one-stop chambers,” she says.
Her move is a double blow for James Hunt QC's chambers, 36 Bedford Row – whose own plans to create the first 100-plus set by merging with Nottingham sets, King Charles House and St Mary's Chambers – broke down recently.
Chancery and commercial barrister Mohammed Zaman is joining St Philip's from St Mary's, one of the sets in-volved in the merger talks.
Three juniors are also joining. These are family practitioner Nergis-Anne Mathew from 2 Gray's Inn Square, personal injury and clinical negligence practitioner Dr Simon Fox from Exchange Chambers in Liverpool, and criminal practitioner John Rowbotham from Birmingham's Victoria Chambers.
Chief executive at St Philip's, Vincent Denham, believes the addition of such an accomplished silk and four respected juniors is a strong indication that the Birmingham bar can compete with London on quality and work.
“They have been attracted by the opportunity to join a corporate structure,” he says. However, he stresses: “It's not a numbers game. It's about strengthening practice groups, and being able to offer strength in depth.”
The set is currently in the process of changing its constitution to streamline the process by which new tenants are appointed.
Denham says any new policy will retain some level of democracy but will remove the need for tenancy applications to be approved by the whole of chambers.