Situated in quiet, tree-lined Bedford Row, close to Gray’s Inn, 2 Bedford Row is one of the leading criminal sets in the country. Its 17 silks and 62 juniors prosecute and defend in the most high-profile, headline-hitting cases. William (Bill) Clegg QC — who once headed-up the set — has been in practice almost half a century and defended in more than 100 murders. His caseload has included: Colin Stagg, acquitted of murdering Wimbledon Common mum Rachel Nickell; Barry George, wrongly convicted for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando; defending Britain’s first Nazi war criminal and representing a man whose murder charge was based solely on an ear print. Other chambers’ heavyweights include joint heads of chambers Brian Altman QC and Jim Sturman QC, the former being lead counsel to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and the latter being a major go-to defence barrister.
Branching from crime, members also specialise in health and safety, fraud, regulatory and sports law, with the occasional judicial review. One member says juniors undertake a mix of work including “complex cases” which might range from “technical driving offences to robberies and frauds”. The variety of the work as an advocate “keeps it fresh and stimulating”. One baby junior says: “Since becoming a tenant, the work has been of great variety with the opportunity for new challenges”. Members receive instructions from abroad too and also contribute to the set’s blog with recent topics including fire safety, online racism in football and corporate criminal liability.
Recent case appearances include Sam Magee QC securing the acquittal of a Moroccan lorry driver charged with the importation of large commercial quantities of drugs through the port of Dover, Michael Levy and Vedrana Pehar representing defendants in the first case of hijacking of an international ship that had reached the criminal courts, and Christine Agnew QC and Christopher Saad prosecuting Terence Glover who pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility and ten counts of attempted murder arising out of a hit and run outside Debden Park High School Essex. Several members oversaw the Post-Office Horizon post-conviction disclosure review exercise, which included over 4 million documents subjected to review and substantially over 300,000 pages of material. Jim Sturman QC frequently appears on behalf of premier league footballers in disciplinary hearings with past clients including Dele Ali, Eric Dier and five Rangers FC players who pleaded guilty to being in breach of SFA Rules in relation to Covid-19.
Training is rated highly in the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2021-22. The set offers two pupillages a year, with pupils completing the traditional 12-month pupillage combining supervisor shadowing with practising in the magistrates, crown and youth courts. On top of the year-long training, some or all pupils perform a further six month period if they want to be considered for tenancy meaning that altogether, 2BR pupils have three pupil supervisors.
One member tells the 2021-22 Legal Cheek Junior Barristers Survey: “All the 2BR pupil supervisors are enthusiastic, generous with their time, and have amazing practices which often form the basis of their pupils’ aspirations for their own practices upon tenancy. There is also a dedicated advocacy committee (who hold sessions most weeks) to support pupils in moving from first to second six as smoothly as possible”. One former pupil says the advocacy sessions “from leading QCs and juniors alike have been invaluable in developing advocacy skills”.
As you would expect at such a pukka set, you are expected to graft and pupils put in an above-average 60-69 hours a week. While working on saturdays is common, most tenants “have active social lives”. Apparently you will usually be able to spot a group of 2BR tenants and pupils in the Old Nick on nearby Sandland Street. The ratio of women tenants with children is “also very encouraging”.
Praising the members, one pupil says: “I could ring anyone in chambers and ask for their advice on an issue that I am encountering”. Another says: “Chambers is full of approachable people who are willing to talk through thorny issues or just have a catch up down the pub”. When it comes to the premises itself, as one junior put it: “It’s not the Ritz, but we have all the facilities we need to carry out our everyday practice very comfortably”.
Pupillage applications are made through the Pupillage Gateway and the set looks to recruit those with a “commitment to criminal law”, “sound academic background”, “persuasiveness in both written and oral argument” and a “passion and flair for advocacy”. In a growing commitment to improve diversity and inclusion at the bar, 2 Bedford Row is a founding partner of Bridging the Bar, which provides those from non-traditional backgrounds mentoring and work experience.