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Regional Bar: supersets and beyond

updated on 03 December 2021

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Although a relatively high proportion of the barristers’ profession is based in London, there are many chambers operating outside the capital, too. In the barristers’ profession, England and Wales is divided into six ‘circuits’ (Midland, North Eastern, Northern, South Eastern, Wales and Chester, and Western), with most chambers based in 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. The minimum pupillage award outside London in 2021 is £16,601, but some chambers will pay much more.

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 250 members, also has 'annexes' in London and Bristol.

To find out more about life as a barrister at a regional set, see this profile of Paul Kerfoot of Trinity Chambers.