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4-5 Gray’s Inn Square hits 800 per cent growth

The Lawyer 25th September 2015

Public and commercial set 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square has grown by 800 per cent in three years since a mass exodus by members to 39 Essex threatened to close its doors.

4-5 Gray’s Inn Square dropped down to just six barristers in March 2013 following the departure of 24 barristers including six silks and four clerks for 39 Essex.

However, in perhaps the biggest bounce-back at the bar, the set has since grown to 54 members  including six silks and 16 international door tenants.

The news follows an announcement by large commercial and chancery set 11 Stone Buildings that its 40 members have voted to dissolve. The set will cease to exist as of 30 October with a number of members heading to Radcliffe Chambers and Wilberforce Chambers.

Sources close to the bar have speculated the closure was a result of a lack of faith in chambers management following around six exits this year including Charles Samek QC, Jamie Riley, Ian Smith and Peter Head.

The exit of around 24 members, mostly in planning, from 4-5 to 39 Essex threatened to cause a similar collapse, but an early deal to incorporate Atlas Chambers brought it back from the brink.

The tie-up saw then Atlas director John Lister and a team of eight barristers boost the depleted ranks of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square

Following the merger, 4-5 head of chambers Timothy Straker QC set out plans to continue growing the revived set with the ambition for it to become two-thirds of its previous size but with a 50 per cent reduction in overheads.

Chambers director Lister said the number of current members is expected to increase by the end of the year as the set is currently in late stage discussions with a number of junior counsel.

“We haven’t reached our optimum number yet, especially as we still have capacity to house people in chambers,” he added.

The set is currently managed by nine staff including senior clerk Steve Broom.

Lister also attributed growth to a number of star members bringing in high-profile mandates such as Straker, known in part for his work advising the electoral commission on upcoming elections, fraud silk Philip Hackett  and Irish silk Martin Hayden, who advises Ryanair.

The set also recently hired BBC employment and media in-house lawyer Athelstane Aamodt, who also focuses on reputation management.

The set diversified its practice just prior to and following the exodus: “Before 2013 we were known for doing public law with an emphasis in planning, but we started to do more commercial work,” said Lister.

“The commercial side of things has taken off quite substantially, though we’re careful not to lose what has traditionally been our core business.”

The hire of former Jones Day partner Stephen Brown added to its “pure commercial” offering, said Lister. “Stephen has acted in any number of big commercial disputes as a solicitor advocate, and his position gives us the opportunity to get our more junior people into commercial work as well.”

It is also expanding its media, IP, tax and regulatory practices. Recent instructions include representing Ryanair in the Irish Supreme Court, advising on Crossrail and HS2, advising the electoral commission on the Scottish independence referendum and advising FIFA in relation to third party ownership of players’ financial rights.

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