Some years ago, I met a QC who had spent many months agonising about whether to move across the courtyard.

To the objective outsider, the decision was obvious.

The new chambers ranked higher than his present set; there, instructions were piling high in his practice area and the members were keen for him to join.

Eventually, after many hours of discussion about the pros and cons, we got to the heart of it.

‘I’m going to miss my mates,’ he said, mournfully.

What do you need from your new chambers?

If you’re thinking about moving, this is the time to ask what you need and want from your new chambers. You are in the driving seat.

It may be that you no longer need a physical building but enjoy the company and camaraderie of being with other barristers. So, look for places with a good remote working policy.

The culture in your Chambers may not fit your values any more. What sort of culture would help you thrive? Friendly? Rottweiler? You can choose.

Modern chambers are using technology to gather data insights to help drive your practice growth. Chambers with these types of business technologies may be a high priority for you now.

There’s also the chambers obligations to consider. How much time, if any, are you willing to give up fee-earning time to participate on committees, oversee the D&I policy or deliver the CSR strategy?

The decision to move chambers is to throw in your lot with a new group of people, whom you don’t yet know, on whose collective success you are all more or less dependent.

Don’t start your move-making decision with ‘I could go there.’ Decide what you want and look around for the organisations that can help you achieve it.

Common reasons barristers start looking around

The decision to leave chambers has many influencing factors, including a complicated set of emotional ones. Here are three common scenarios:

When there’s a mismatch of practice areas

If your legal specialism is outside Chambers, it may be that you’re paying for marketing services you don’t need. By moving you could improve your levels of support.

But if you’re happy where you are, consider renegotiating your chambers fees and sourcing your own marketing support externally.

When there’s a relationship breakdown

Sometimes a barrister calls to tell me about everything that’s wrong with their chambers.

When I ask why they haven’t left such an awful place, they reply that leaving is out of the question.

If you won’t move, you need to find a solution. Focus on which parts are working and then work on repairing the rest.

When you might be acting in haste

I once worked with a silk who had left her Magic Circle Chambers in something of a tantrum, over something trivial.

She was snapped up by a not-quite-so magical set and within weeks was living with her regret.

Execute the decision to move at a time when you have a cool head and warm heart.

How to move chambers

Create a project

Approaching the task as a project will prevent the process from dragging on and also provide the momentum to keep going.

Create your shortlist and give yourself a deadline for the time by when you’ll be in your new chambers. Six months is about right. Then follow the steps below to get things rolling.

Start talking

An important part of the process is the informal conversations with insiders who can tell you the reality. Chambers are usually open to have confidential conversations with barristers who can bring a new set of clients, though don’t expect an open door for a flailing practice.

These informal conversations are not interviews, although your fit and suitability is being observed.


Most chambers will ask you for a CV, a business plan, your recent financial history (3-5 years) and a cover letter explaining why you want to move.

Preparing these documents carefully will help you focus on your reasons for moving, the value you bring, and give you a set of articulate responses for the interview.

Raise awareness

The hiring committee will research you online, so it’s important to make sure that your online profile is up to date and is relevant to your application.

Make sure all digital profiles (Chambers website, LinkedIn) are up to date and connect with barristers and chambers staff on your shortlist.

Delivering an online marketing campaign is an easy way to showcase your skills. Pick one marketing theme for the next three months, make a list of topics and publish at least one a week on social media. Write a couple of cracking featured articles for your LinkedIn profile and share them with your network.

This is the way to create a favourable first impression, in advance of the first impression at interview.

Preparing for interviews

The interviews are not supposed to be a cross-examination, but inevitably, it will feel like that, especially if the panel is comprised of people who view interviewing as a blood sport.

Ask other barristers about their lateral hire questions and think about the questions you would ask a prospective applicant, if you were on the panel yourself.

Preparing well for the interviews, and having solid responses prepared for the standard questions which are usually asked, will give you confidence and help you put your best foot forward.

Taking care of business

Once you’ve accepted an offer, there will be contractual obligations to discharge with your present Chambers. For any loose ends, make sure you have a written agreement in place.

One thing I’ve noticed is that people often forget to turn on their auto-responder in their redundant email account to let people know their new location and contact details.

Left undone, it will be for your Chambers to decide how to represent your leaving, which may not be desirable.

Leaving on good terms

Once you’ve set your leaving date, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll leave.

The final event in a process or series is generally the one which cements our memory of the event.

Had a great holiday but a terrible journey home? Your memory of the holiday is likely to be cemented by that journey. (It’s called the Peak End Effect in Behavioural Science.)

So, while it may be immensely satisfying to tell your room-mate, clerk and the bloke in IT exactly what you think of them before you flounce out the door, keep in mind that this will be your legacy and ask yourself whether it’s really worth it.

Whether you decide to stay or leave, make the decision, make it happen and don’t look back. 

Heidi’s Moving Chambers service contains a business plan template, a social media marketing template, a list of commonly asked interview questions, a review of your first draft of your documents and the offer to talk through your approach.