US firms woo dejected junior barristers

Disillusioned junior barristers are being tempted away from the Bar by US firms in London, according to legal recruitment specialists.

Seamus Hoare, of London recruitment consultants Quarry Dougall, which is advertising in Counsel magazine, said he has noticed US firms were increasingly attracting barristers.

Scott Collins, who joined Wilmer Cutler & Pickering last November, said he had spent a year-and-a-half squatting without funding at Brick Court Chambers, but had not been offered a permanent position.

The firm has lured other barristers in the past and currently has Michael Holter, a senior associate, who first left Cloisters chambers in 1993 to join Jaques & Lewis, before moving again to the US firm.

He said that the pressure to “requalify quickly as a solicitor does not exist at US firms”.

“As a non-solicitor at Jaques & Lewis the attitude was: 'He is not one of us.' With US firms, if you are good enough, they'll take you on,” he said.

The US approach of a unified profession paid dividends for the firm earlier this month when partner Arthur Marriott became one of the first two solicitors to be named QC.

Mayer Brown & Platt has taken on four barristers in the last year. Usmat Parveen joined in mid-February, having left Byrom Chambers.

She said the atmosphere at US firms was better suited to the “commercial realities of a global legal market” than the Bar, which, she said, is “steeped in tradition and moves at a slug's pace”.

“The remuneration is also excellent,” she added. “Many junior barristers have debts of between £10,000 and £15, 000, and are struggling in chambers where work is drying up.

“US firms offer £40-45,000 as starting salaries.”