North west sets forge alliance

Top Manchester set 9 St John Street is extending its reach to Liverpool, by forging an alliance with 42 Castle Street Chambers, in what is believed to be the first move of its kind.

Unlike many other sets in the North of England, they have rejected a full-blown merger because they believe it would damage the chambers' focus.

Head of chambers at 9 St John Street, John Hand QC, says: “We looked long and hard at mergers, but they are like a job lot in an auction – some [barristers] are good, some not so good.”

Head of chambers at 42 Castle Street, Charles Feeny, says that retaining individual autonomy relieves the pressure on the relationship.

The joint venture will give the chambers' clients access to specialists in different centres, as well as a wider choice of specialisms. The two say this is essential when major organisations cut down on their solicitors, such as was the case with Royal & SunAlliance. “The solicitors need firms that operate out of more than one centre. It is a national marketplace,” says Feeny.

Liverpool's 42 Castle Street is a breakaway set which was formed last year when the specialist personal injury and medical negligence unit left Nigel Gilmour's Peel House Chambers.

Manchester's 9 St John Street has around 40 tenants who are segregated into specialist units, including personal injury, commercial, employment and crime.

It now has six silks, having just acquired the services of Jeremy McMullen QC, who is also a tenant Old Square Chambers in London.

This is not the end of the expansion plans, says Hand, who is adds 9 St John Street is already “looking eastwards across the Pennines”.