Family set blames legal aid cuts for closure
Barristers at a leading family law set with 28 members have voted to dissolve the chambers, blaming the impact of legal aid cuts.
Members at Renaissance Chambers in London’s Gray’s Inn voted in January to dissolve the set. The formal date of dissolution will be the end of its financial year on 31 March, the Gazette can reveal.
Renaissance is the second high-profile set to dissolve citing the impact of the cuts, following the demise of Michael Mansfield’s Tooks Chambers last September.
Practice manager Elaine Cheeseman told the Gazette today that the vote was precipitated by the departure last year of 25 members, including the entire immigration team, which decamped to Mansfield Chambers – the set formed following the dissolution of Tooks.
Cheeseman said: ‘The initial exodus was due to uncertainty about what’s happening at the family bar due to the legal aid cuts, which have already had an impact and are likely to continue to do so.’
‘The trickle became a bit of a flood,’ she said. ‘There’s no doubt that the impact of the legal aid changes has taken its toll. It’s extremely unfortunate.’
Cheeseman was hopeful about the possibility of a re-styled ‘phoenix’ chambers - a ‘Renaissance Two’ - rising from the ashes, as happened with Mansfield Chambers.
Renaissance Chambers as it currently is, she said, has elected to dissolve, but concerted efforts are being made to re-style it.
‘My hope is that we will be able to move forward and keep a number of members,’ she said.
Cheeseman indicated it is ‘not impossible’ that the decision to dissolve the set could be rescinded, but she suggested it is more likely that a ‘Renaissance Two’ set will be formed, practising from a different and smaller location after the current lease ends at the end of March.
The set began life as Gray’s Inn Chambers in 1989, headed by Sir Charles Fletcher-Cooke QC. In 2001 it merged with 1 Gray’s Inn Square, then the chambers of Brian Jubb, and Renaissance Chambers was born.
The set specialises in family, immigration and general human rights law, with a particular emphasis on the law relating to children. It currently has 28 members, including one silk, five clerks and a practice manager.