If it is a dispute about something that floats or flies, there is a good chance someone at Quadrant Chambers is involved. The set has historically been strong in maritime and aviation law but has since broadened out to cover the entirety of commercial work.
Quadrant Chambers has its roots in 2 Essex Court. In the 1960s, the then head of chambers was Barry Sheen, a former Navy veteran who was intent on assembling a shipping law powerhouse. Barry turned this mixed set into one of London’s leading maritime “wet” sets.
In the 1970s and 1980s, after receiving instructions on high profile air disasters such as the Manchester Air Disaster, the chambers grew its aviation law capability. After specialist aviation set 5 Bell Yard collapsed, it picked up a further four barristers. Then in the 1990s, as the shipping industry became safer, the set turned its attention to “dry” disputes.
As the set expanded, it took over the adjacent premises of 4 Essex Court. However, this building remained outdated and too small, with Luke Parsons QC describing it as being in a state of “Dickensian squalor”. Subsequently, after 2004, the set moved to its new home on Fleet Street.
The set rebranded as Quadrant Chambers, a name that comes from the building it currently occupies. Having been extensively refurbished before Quadrant Chambers moved in, the facilities on offer apparently remain “amazing.” Unusually for the bar, the offices are accessible to disabled people, with two large lifts and accessible bathrooms on every floor. Tenants all have their own rooms, access to large modern conference spaces, and a small but attractive law library.
Today, shipping still accounts for almost half the work at the chambers, reflecting Quadrant’s strength in the industry. Notable silks include Simon Rainey, the author of ‘The Law of Tug and Tow and Offshore Contracts’, and Michael Howard QC, leader of the Admiralty Bar.
In aviation, former tenant Rob Lawson QC recently moved to become chair of Clyde & Co’s aviation global practice group. In another interesting case, emblematic of Quadrant’s work, junior Matthew Reeve is advising a pilot seeking to overturn EU regulations which prohibit commercial aircraft being piloted by people over the age of 64. Rookies can be found cutting their teeth on EU 261/2004 cases about flight delays and cancellations. On the more complex cases that are led by senior counsel, juniors conduct research or draft pleadings and advices.
Quadrant Chambers has 66 tenants in total, of whom 25 are silks. Support at the set is very good, and tenants are encouraged to keep their doors open for others to come and ask questions. Like most commercial sets, barristers can expect to be clocking in between 50 to 59 hours each week.
The set offers up to three pupillages each year. Those chosen will spend the first six months with two different supervisors and the second six months with a single supervisor. Rookies’ experiences can often be dictated by who their supervisor is, with some benefitting from lots of advocacy experience, and others less so.
Quadrant is keen to emphasise that it blinds out information such as university, race, name, age, gender and ethnicity from application forms when it initially reviews them.
The result is that Quadrant Chambers has fewer Oxbridge tenants then you might expect for a leading London commercial set. Out of the 18 pupils and juniors under 10 years of call, 10 did not attend either Oxford or Cambridge for undergraduate studies. As a QC on pupillage committee put it: “We don’t really care if you can speak 10 languages or have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. All we want is pupils who can produce work that doesn’t need significant revisions by senior counsel.”