Commercial and chancery set Serle Court attracts high quality work —“the reason why I do this job”, according to one former pupil. Recent highlights include securing a £346 million yacht in a bitter dispute between divorcing billionaire couple, Farkhad and Tatiana Akhmedova — he had been ordered to give her £453 million but had not complied. The sleek 115-metre yacht, Luna, which previously belonged to Roman Abramovic, was seized via a freezing order after it sailed into Dubai waters, and placed in dry dock.
A Serle Court silk also acted in a recent high-profile case against a North London coroner’s decision to introduce a cab-rank rule for burials, ending the system whereby priority would be given to Jewish and Muslim families in accordance with their religious needs to bury their loved ones as soon as possible. The legal challenge was successful and the cab-rank policy was held to be discriminatory.
Within the commercial and chancery umbrella, there is a wide spectrum of work. It is seen as a leading set in civil fraud work, and has built impressive practices in trusts and probate, company law, offshore (its members are regularly instructed in cases arising in a long list of glamorous locations) and partnership. Other main areas include insurance, intellectual property, sports, entertainment and media, banking, charities, property and insolvency. Chambers members include one of Europe’s leading experts in Chinese law, and a leading practitioner in public international law. It also offers expertise in art, Court of Protection, public law, public international law, shipping, tax and telecommunications—quite a diverse mix.
Chambers is based in the pleasant surrounds of London’s Lincoln’s Inn. It upholds the venerable bar tradition of afternoon tea in chambers, as well as Friday night drinks and other social events. It’s a bijou chambers, with just 39 juniors and 25 QCs, making for a friendly atmosphere. Judging by the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2018-19, its barristers have a work hard, play hard attitude — Serle Court scores As both for work and social life. The average hours are a respectable 40-49 per week, lower than average for chambers, and its facilities are described by a former pupil as “traditionally charming”.
It offers three pupillages per year, with a £65,000 award. Nearly all pupils are offered tenancy, and the very few who haven’t been in recent years have been helped to find tenancy at another chambers. Pupils sit with four different supervisors, each with a different area of practice, and will immerse themselves in business disputes during their 12 months. They shadow their supervisors rather than taking on their own caseload, so there are no opportunities to stand on your feet in court. What a Serle Court pupillage misses in terms of courtroom exposure, however, it makes up for by requiring pupils to take part in advocacy exercises in front of senior members of chambers, as well as other practical exercises. It advises all applicants to apply for a one-day mini-pupillage so they can see for themselves what chambers is like. Serle Court also smooths the journey into practice financially by guaranteeing income of £120,000 over the first two years and not charging chambers expenses until the rookie’s earnings exceed £50,000 per annum.