As the Bar continues to position itself in the ever-increasing search for new business and work streams; so, the lateral movement of barristers between chambers has seen a marked increase.
Of course, moving from one set to another is not without its problems, not least the potential cost involved. One article recently suggested that it could cost the individual barrister as much as £50,000 to move sets, however I find that unlikely in most instances. Many chambers who are actively pursuing lateral recruitment provide assistance to the incoming barrister, usually by way of a rent-free window or reduced rent during the duration of the notice period. Commercially minded sets take a long-term view and attempt to ease the transition period in this way.
Sets are planning more strategically when considering lateral hires. For example, they may be looking to boost a practice area in chambers which has potential but is underdeveloped and needs new and more experienced members. Alternatively, they may be looking to develop teams to complement existing practice areas, or create a new team in order to service existing or new clients who have different requirements.
From the barrister’s perspective, the decision to move from one set to another can be the need to survive. For example, a once flourishing practice can start to struggle if your set decides that they no longer want to promote or develop your particular area of law. Equally, the need to move sets may not be the result of negative impact but the desire and ambition to build a more successful practice. Some members who have been able to develop a flourishing practice find that they “hit a ceiling” in their current set and the lack of opportunities will hinder further development – hence the desire to move to a set with an established reputation and the necessary marketing skills in this area.
In summary, the lateral movement of barristers between sets shows no sign of slowing down; indeed, the personal ambition and survival instincts of individuals and the need for chambers to maximise their potential and increase work flow means that the market is more fluid than it has ever been.