Barristers cut costs in merger

Paul Watson QC head of St Johns Buildings chambers in Sheffield
Paul Watson QC head of St Johns Buildings chambers in Sheffield
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HARD-UP barristers in Sheffield have merged with rivals in Manchester to save money, as the recession bites the upper reaches of the legal profession.

Paradise Chambers has merged with St John’s Buildings Chambers as the Ministry of Justice threatens to slash legal aid, and hard bargaining by clients over fees.

Barristers charge between £250 and £800 an hour – or more.

The move creates the largest chambers in England and Wales – boasting 250 barristers and 70 support staff – and will cut costs through economies of scale and shared resources.

The Paradise name has been ditched after 24 years and the 39 self-employed barristers and 11 staff based in the Georgian splendour of Paradise Square now work under a new name, St Johns Buildings Sheffield.

Paul Watson QC, head of Paradise Chambers, said: “With increased pressure on fees and service standards we recognised that it was essential that we join a chambers that enhanced our overall quality of service and delivery and that ranked in the top category of the major legal directories.

“St John’s Buildings Sheffield will deliver all of the same skilled advocates that our clients are familiar with and trust, but the support and back-up coverage that they can draw upon will be dramatically increased. This will be a major benefit to all of our clients.”

As well as Manchester, St John’s Buildings has chambers in Preston, Chester and Liverpool. It is headed by Michael Redfern QC, who chaired the Alder Hey and Redfern inquiries.

The Ministry of Justice had announced plans to slice £350m from the £2bn annual legal aid budget, claiming it was one of the most expensive in the world.

But the move has been postponed for six months until April.