Keating is a heavyweight commercial set, and practice areas don’t come much more heavyweight than construction. This chambers has a impressive specialism in disputes over building projects, from skyscrapers to power plants, representing clients like BT, E.ON and Transport for London. The 60-barrister outfit also trumpets its knowledge of related areas such as engineering, energy/natural resources and IT/technology. One pupil contacted by Legal Cheek reports exposure to “very diverse work, from international arbitrations concerning large power plants across the globe to domestic house renovations to shipbuilding contracts”.
Around a fifth of the 27 QCs here are female, with two more recently departing for the High Court bench (Finola O’Farrell and Nerys Jefford). Keating suffered a less orthodox departure last year when former head of chambers Paul Darling moved to 39 Essex, but its stock of silks remains formidable: Adam Constable and head honcho Marcus Taverner are among the biggest names in their fields. They follow in the footsteps of Donald Keating, head of chambers from 1975 to 1992 and original author of Keating on Construction Contracts, a leading textbook; the set has adopted both Keating’s name and his book.
Like any specialist business area, there’s a lot of jargon to learn. One experienced tenant boasts “a working knowledge of all the major forms of construction/engineering contracts and partnering agreements including JCT, FIDIC, ICE, ACE, IMechE and RIBA”, which presumably means something to clients. Thankfully, pupillage hopefuls can take comfort in the fact that “no specialist or technical knowledge of construction or engineering is required” at the outset, but grads who struggle with contract and tort needn’t bother darkening the Keating door.
Chambers takes on three pupils a year and provides candidates with commendable detail about the assessment process. Barristerial hopefuls get four different supervisors, with one insider reporting that all four of his teachers “were genuinely focused on providing a proper training in the work chambers does and pushing me to keep improving”. The pupillage award is a tasty £70,000, of which £21,000 can be used to pay BPTC fees.
Once over the line, a newish junior says, workload involves a “balance between large international work as part of a team with a QC and smaller domestic unled cases”. About a third of the chambers’ cases come from overseas, and a fair few members are internationally qualified or even based abroad.
The physical chambers on Essex Street are more modern than most of the olde worlde buildings inside the Temple itself. Fittingly for a construction set, they’ve recently been refurbished. The social life is better than the average chambers — there are regular lunch dates — but then so are the working hours, wading through the reams of paperwork typically generated by construction disputes. For a well-earned break, try the softball team, which is bound to be on the hunt for new players: it lost the big derby game against construction law rivals Atkin Chambers last year.