“Beautiful, seventeenth century” King’s Bench Walk is lined with barristers’ chambers, each with its own specialism. Commercial clients are likely to turn into number seven, once the chambers of Lord Halsbury, and now home to over 60 crack commercial lawyers. The set at 7 King’s Bench Walk houses 41 juniors and 24 QCs, including star advocate Jonathan Gaisman and deputy High Court judge Julia Dias. The top name over the door as head of chambers, Gavin Kealey QC, is a deputy High Court Judge in the Commercial Court. The set was formed through the merger of 3 Pump Court and 7 King’s Bench Walk in 1967 (Lord Denning having been a member of 3 Pump).
Core strengths of the set include insurance, arbitration and a hefty, and longstanding, shipping reputation. Aside from those core strengths, 7KBW tackles cases in the likes of banking, civil fraud, commodities and energy. Members here have conducted work in destinations including Hong Kong, Singapore, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and Switzerland.
7KBW stresses “the vast majority of our work is in the commercial courts and in commercial arbitrations in London” (Lord Mance, a former Supreme Court justice, is an arbitrator here). Eye-catching 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.
More recent cases include Stephen Hofmeyr QC defeating the Republic of South Africa’s sovereign immunity claim against the salvors of 2,364 bars of sunken WWII silver recovered from a wreckage; three members successfully representing footballer Mamadou Sakho in securing an apology and compensation from the World Anti-Doping Agency who defamed him; and acting on both sides of pre-action matters concerning the infamous failure of Carillion whom KMPG were the auditors for. Members here also sit on panels, including James Drake QC sitting on the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) panel and Siobán Healy QC on the Premier League’s Judicial Panel. It’s a “varied diet” of work, according to one pupil. “It can be the red meat of heavy arbitration one day and the rarefied manna of an appeal to the Supreme Court the next.”
7KBW offers up to a generous four pupillages, each with an award of £70,000. Pupils here receive a diverse diet of work including helping their four supervisors prepare for trials and applications, attend court, conferences and arbitrations, draft statements of case and conduct legal research, and receive feedback along the way. Pupils also do work for other members of chambers. The training is highly rated: one tenant says it is “unbelievably tough, but by the end you’ll be able to conquer any commercial problem”.
The set says it does not expect applicants to have any knowledge of commercial law when applying but should, however, have the “strong analytical and intellectual abilities necessary for commercial practice”. If tenancy is offered, the set says juniors divide their time between advising and representing clients in small cases as well as being led by silks in more complex matters.
7KBW appears a warm set, with an open door policy, pastoral support as well as a mentoring scheme that provides support to new tenants and those returning from parental leave. Members also provide mentoring to students from non-traditional backgrounds through schemes operated by IntoUniversity, the Bar Council, City University, and the Inns of Court. It also participates in Inner Temple’s PASS scheme and the Bar Placement programme, which work to provide opportunities for those from underrepresented groups.
The historic digs are “more charming than swish” with “plenty of events” including friday night drinks and daily chambers tea. One member says: “I have made some of my closest friends in chambers”.
For those seeking pupillage here, be ready to demonstrate intellectual and analytical ability, oral and communications skills, temperament, interpersonal skills and commitment to both the commercial bar and tenancy at 7KBW. The set says candidates should be talented, ambitious, have determination and resilience and have clear potential as advocates. Mini-pupillages are not compulsory for an application, but are obviously encouraged. The set does not usually interview candidates who do not have a first or a ‘good’ upper second class degree. Four out of the last five tenants attended Oxbridge. The set particularly welcome applications from those under-represented at the commercial bar and 7 King’s Bench Walk itself.