Long established as a big cheese on the Midland Circuit, No5 Chambers now houses more barristers than any other set in the whole country. Its spiritual home is still Birmingham, but branches in Bristol, Leicester and of course London contribute to a comprehensive range of legal knowledge, covering everything from credit hire to chancery. The chambers offers direct access in no fewer than 13 “core practice areas”, as well as in a couple of dozen more exotic areas of law (nobody ever said “I’m an industrial disease lawyer” on a first date).
Head of chambers is “legal street fighter” Mark Anderson, a commercial dispute resolution and professional liability specialist. Other brand-name silks include human rights powerhouse Manjit Gill and veteran criminal advocate Rex Tedd, but the set has a lower ratio of QCs to juniors than some of the crack commercial sets. 32 Queen’s Counsel – not counting Jeremy Wright – is nothing to be sneezed at even if only two of them are women, but the juniors number well over 200. Their ranks include nationality law guru Alison Harvey and inspiring former child refugee Hashi Mohamed. One third are female – respectable, at least by the standards of the bar.
Grads weighing up a No5 pupillage application needn’t be too confused by its full service nature: the four entry-level barrister positions on offer are now streamed into four different practice areas. The choices last year were commercial & chancery, crime, family and joint personal injury & clinical negligence. Pupils are based in either Birmingham or London and there are, in theory, opportunities to dip a toe in the water of a different practice area during the year.
No5’s scores in the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2018-19 are solid rather than brilliant. Training-wise, one insider reports that “the basics are all there, but after pupillage it is quite difficult to get training on new areas of law” and it’s not encouraging to learn that “if you get a bad or uninterested supervisor, it is hard to progress”. Traditionally, most new juniors were encouraged to dabble in personal injury for at least the first year, although this may change now that pupillages are specialised instead of general.
The set’s sheer size means there are good support facilities, including a “team of librarians”. And the money is decent: with No5 Chambers boosting rookie barrister pay by 25% last year, it now stands at a solid £50,000. Half is a direct payment made in the first six months, the other half guaranteed billings in the second six.