Despite having just 36 tenants, 5 Stone Buildings has quietly amassed one of the stronger capabilities at the chancery bar. The set is regularly instructed on a variety of interesting matters and offers a mix of high-profile and complex work.
Trusts, wills & probate and Court of Protection work are cornerstone practices. Members at the set were involved in litigation surrounding the estate of Lucian Freud. In another case, Ilott v Mitson, Penelope Reed QC and Hugh Cumber were the first to go to the Supreme Court with a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975.
Another 5 Stone strength is in art & cultural property. The set has been involved in the ongoing dispute over the Elgin Marbles and acted for the auction house Sotheby’s in relation to a suspected Caravaggio copy. Most recently, Henry Legge QC and Luke Harris helped establish outright ownership of a valuable medieval Islam rock crystal jar.
Barristers at the set have also worked on high profile tax avoidance cases. Sam Chandler worked as junior counsel on two matters for HMRC. In one case, the Ingenious Scheme, investors used tax breaks designed to help stimulate the UK film industry to avoid tax. This litigation attracted sizeable media attention, not just for the £800 million tax bill at stake, but because investors in the scheme included public figures such as Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Jeremy Paxman, David Gower and Gary Lineker.
Turning to pupillages at set. 5 Stone Buildings offers just a single pupillage each year. The chosen one benefits from a “diverse” range of briefs, with a “nice mix of advisory and contentious” work. The work is “complex and high-value” enough to provide “excitement,” but not so technically intricate to be beyond rookies.
Pupils recruited by the set often have substantial high-level legal experience prior to joining. Simon Douglas worked as an associate professor of law at Oxford University, for example.
The set’s small size helps facilitate 5 Stone’s collegiate social atmosphere. Tenants have “tea daily” and “lunch monthly” with many more “informal and formal gatherings”. Outside the 50-59 hours that 5 Stone’s barristers work a week, the social life “never stops”. Indeed, as one respondent to the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey put it: “The corridors are full of people laughing and the local pubs are sustained after 6pm.”
The set has attempted to expand more recently, but this has led to growing pains. The office is now described as being “a bit short of space,” with one silk even “squatting in a conference room” until the set expanded into a new annexe over the summer. The new space has been well received. “All members who want one now have a room to theirselves,” one 5 Stone member tells us. “The conference facilities are modern and the common parts of chambers have recently been refurbished. The new annex was decorated to a very high standard prior to it being occupied.”