Regional Bar: supersets and beyond
According to Bar Council statistics, just over half of the 750 or so chambers in England and Wales are located outside London, and just over one-third of all barristers in private practice work from within them. The main concentrations are in larger cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Leeds and Liverpool. Speak to any regional barrister and they will extol the virtues of a tight-knit professional community in which barristers know not only instructing solicitors, but also medical professionals, social workers and senior police officers. While it is true that London has a magnetic pull on high-value cases, you will find commercial work in larger cities, where some sets have worked hard to compete with their peers in the capital - not least in relation to pricing. All shades of legal practice can be found in the regions, although sets and individual barristers are less likely to specialise to quite the same degree as in the capital. You may earn less in the regions; however, factor in the cost of living and a regional pupillage could make financial sense. Pupillage awards range from £10,000 to £30,000.
The Birmingham Bar is home to the barrister superset. Here, two chambers in particular - No5 and St Philip's - have reshaped the market by drawing together barristers from many of the smaller sets. These barristers practise from state-of-the-art premises aided by teams of business managers and professional marketers. No5, with more than 260 members, also has 'annexes' in London and Bristol.
For a profile of a barrister who is part of a large set of chambers in Bristol, see Charlie Newington-Bridges of St John’s Chambers.