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11 Stone Buildings is to fold

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Big-paying commercial and chancery set announces dissolution after four barristers depart

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A chambers which pays its pupils one of the highest awards at the bar is to be no more.

Commercial and chancery outfit 11 Stone Buildings, where new graduate recruits pocket a cool £65,000, will shut its doors for the final time on 30 October after its members voted to bid each other farewell.

The Lincoln’s Inn-based set — which is 40 years old and used to be known as 19 Old Buildings — has 40 barristers, including four QCs, plus two pupils. It is not known what will happen to those pupils, who are currently listed on 11SB’s website as Kevin Costello and John Jessup. The set has not yet responded to Legal Cheek‘s request for comment.

Unlike the flurry of recent mergers involving criminal law chambers — which are largely due to the legal aid cuts — 11SB was in rude financial health: hence that mega pupillage award, which is only beaten by bar top-payer 2 Temple Gardens. Instead, the demise is, according to bar scuttlebutt, linked to unhappiness generated by a host of recent departures. Four members — Charles Samek QC, Jamie Riley, Ian Smith and Peter Head — have left the chambers this year.

In an official statement provided to The Lawyer Magazine (registration required), head of chambers Lexa Hilliard QC said the closure was down to members’ “differing practice interests”, explaining:

After more than 40 successful years in operation since the chambers was established, the members of 11 Stone Buildings have decided that their differing practice interests will be better served in various chambers more suited to their specific individual circumstances and areas of expertise.

With admirable focus on specifics at a time of doubtless personal stress, Hilliard added that the set would “cease to operate as a set of chambers at 7pm on Friday 30 October 2015”, before confirming that it would apparently be business as usual until then.