James Hunt seeks bigger share of Leicester work

Chris Fogarty reports

The Chambers of James Hunt QC has opened an annexe in central Leicester in a bid to break into the traditionally tight-knit legal community there.

The move has brought a cool reaction from within Leicester chambers, with one clerk saying he could not see why the London set had bothered to open up in the city.

But the set's practice manager Peter Bennett said the opening of the annexe was prompted by a growing workload in the area for the set, spurred on by Leicester barrister Geoffrey Solomons' move to the chambers from 2 New Street chambers 15 months ago.

Bennett said Leicester law firms were used to having a local Bar so they had a tendency to instruct locally.

He admitted that while his chambers needed a presence in the city to capitalise on loyalty to the local Bar, a major aim was to capture the remaining briefs that were heading out of Leicester and on to chambers elsewhere. "I think it's more likely we will be taking work from London, Northampton and Birmingham," he said, adding that the chambers had plans to open more annexes on the Midlands and Oxford circuit.

Based in a 19th-century building, the annexe will be home to a core of 10 barristers, many of whom have been using the set's overcrowded North-ampton annexe. While the office will have two members of staff, most of the clerking will be done outside Leicester.

The annexe will be competing locally with four Leicester-based chambers.

The senior clerk at New Walk Chambers, Michael Ryan, said the 19-tenant set was not worried by the arrival of a London rival. "I don't know why they're setting up here, it doesn't really interest us to be honest."

Local solicitors were more enthusiastic. Harvey Ingram Owston partner John Simon believes the fact that the new chambers would offer video-conferencing was a distinct advantage. "It provides local access to to specialist," he said.