Midlands super-set appoints new head of chambers

Family silk takes over from former Bar Council chair at one of UK’s largest regional chambers

St Philips Chambers – one of the largest regional sets in the UK, with chambers in both Birmingham and Leeds – has appointed Sara Lewis KC as its new head of chambers. 

Lewis, who succeeds Richard Atkins KC, is a highly experienced and respected King’s Counsel specialising in family law; she was called to the Bar in 1996 and took Silk in 2021. 

Lewis said she is honoured to take on the role of head of chambers, and looks forward to leading both barristers and staff, the latter led by chambers director Joe Wilson.

She added: “I take over the stewardship of a thriving chambers and my thanks go to outgoing head, Richard Atkins KC, who expertly steered St Philips Chambers through the challenges of the Covid years.”

With 17 silks and 126 junior counsel, St Philips is one of the few full-service sets specialising in family, crime, civil and commercial law at a scale competitive to London rivals, serving Birmingham, England’s second city, and the heartland areas of the West Midlands and Oxford.

It has strong connections to that region’s professional services, manufacturing, industrial and engineering base, and counts former commercial litigation barrister, Sir Edward Pepperell, the presiding judge of the Midland Circuit, as an alumnus.

Lewis’s appointment as head follows the appointment last year of head of family law, Yolanda Pemberton, as chair of its management committee and board of directors. The appointments underline the set’s commitment to maximise the potential of its female members. It is a signatory to the Women in Law Pledge, and has been active with both #10000BlackInterns, Race Equality Week and other diversity initiatives. 

Atkins, a regulatory law and serious crime specialist, led the set from 2020 on his return from his term as chair of the Bar Council of England and Wales, having previously led the Midland Circuit. He will remain in full-time practice as an advocate while continuing to sit part-time as a recorder.

The set welcomed three highly respected barristers to its criminal group in July: Ben Douglas-Jones KC (a dual tenant with London chambers 5 Paper Building), Marcus Harry and William Douglas-Jones

Licensing specialist Duncan Craig also joined the set in July after 11 years at Citadel Chambers. Called to the Bar in 2011 following a 20-year career in the licensed trade, Craig was head of licensing with Citadel Chambers and enjoys a national practice in that specialism.

The set committed to its current strategy in 2018, when it closed its London annexe and dissolved a two-year relationship with Stone Chambers, choosing instead to service London work from the Midlands and Northern Circuits.

Stone Chambers later announced its own merger, with London’s 36 Group of barristers, one of the larger full-service sets in London. 36 Stone later expanded steadily under new management. Its current senior clerk, Reiss Nott, joined from Fountain Court Chambers in May 2022. 

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