“Beautiful, seventeenth century” King’s Bench Walk is lined with barristers’ chambers, each with its own specialism from crime to family law. Commercial clients are likely to turn into number 7, once the chambers of Lord Halsbury and now home to 60 crack commercial lawyers. The set at 7 King’s Bench Walk houses 23 QCs, including star advocate Jonathan Gaisman, “brain on legs” Clive Freedman and new part-time High Court judge Julia Dias. The top name over the door is Gavin Kealey QC, perhaps best known for his arbitration and insurance expertise. Much the same goes for this chambers as a whole, alongside its hefty and longstanding shipping rep.
Aside from those core strengths, 7KBW tackles cases in the likes of banking, finance, civil fraud, commodities and professional negligence. As befits London’s status as a global hub for the settling of big-money disputes, a lot of this work is fundamentally international.
New pupils say they “get a varied diet. It can be the red meat of heavy arbitration one day and the rarefied manna of an appeal to the Supreme Court the next”. Recent appearances at the country’s highest court include the Ocean Victory shipping dispute and the OW Bunker test case (both big in shipping). The training gets an A: one tenant says that it’s “unbelievably tough, but by the end you’ll be able to conquer any commercial problem”.
7KBW stresses that “the vast majority of our work is in the commercial courts and in commercial arbitrations in London” (Lord Mance, fresh from the Supreme Court, is an arbitrator here). In the past few months, Commercial Court cases have included arguing Greek shipping law on behalf of HSBC and litigation over “luxury superyacht” Palladium — note, again, the strong nautical tang. Back on dry land, 7KBW boasts of its successful defence of Abdourahman Boreh against fraud charges brought by the government of his native Djibouti, as well as involvement in the long-running RBS rights issue litigation.
A maximum of four pupillages a year are up for grab. Barristers-in-training can expect several different pupil supervisors over the course of the year, with chambers reckoning that it’s “important that you work for as many members of Chambers as possible during your pupillage”. The historic digs are “more charming than swish” and there’s no organised fun outside of work, although there are “plenty of events and I have made some of my closest friends in Chambers”, one insider says. Note the top-of-the-range BPTC drawdown: £25,000 of the already impressive £65,000 a year pupillage award is available in advance to cover bar training.