13/08/2008 - 22:00

Wickham barristers set up shop in new chambers

13/08/2008 - 22:00

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Law chambers Wickham Chambers appears to have been disbanded, ending a 20-year history with its barristers splitting up to join several other law chambers in Perth.

Wickham barristers set up shop in new chambers

Law chambers Wickham Chambers appears to have been disbanded, ending a 20-year history with its barristers splitting up to join several other law chambers in Perth.

While the dissolution was not confirmed by any of its recent membership, calls to its office were automatically referred to bigger rival Francis Burt Chambers, and Wickham's former landlord, the BGC Centre, confirmed its leasehold had been terminated at short notice.

Former Wickham head of chambers Gillian Braddock SC is relocating to Stone Chambers based in West Perth. It's understood four barristers have gone to Francis Burt and several others may have joined John Toohey Chambers and Howard Chambers.

Sources in the legal profession suggested that increasing city rent costs combined with a declining membership may have made Wickham too small to enjoy the economies of scale offered by bigger operations.

At its peak in 2006, Wickham was the fourth biggest law chambers in Western Australia with 13 barristers, according to the WA Business News Book of Lists. The number of barristers had shrunk to eight by the end of last year.

Francis Burt has confirmed its status as the state's oldest and biggest chambers with 103 barristers according to updated data for the Book of Lists. It is followed by Sir Lawrence Jackson Chambers with 25, John Toohey with 24 and Albert Woolff Chambers at 9.

Wickham's four-year leasehold at the BGC Centre had diminished in recent years, dropping from a peak of around 450 square metres to about 250sqm before it was terminated earlier this month.

The space has been taken by Devereux Holdings, the parent company of Ric Stowe's Griffin coal and energy business.

CBD rents have skyrocketed in the past two years to at least $900/sqm for some A-grade quarters, and even niche buildings like the BGC Centre are achieving rates above $800/sqm.

While the economy is slowing, rents are expected to continue to climb as resources companies continue to grow ahead of available space in the relatively small amount of stock that is due to come on stream in the next year or so.

Named after a former justice of the Supreme Court and foundation chancellor of Murdoch University, John Wickham, the chambers were established in 1988 by a small group of three barristers who saw the need for an alternative set of barristers' chambers in Perth.

Among the more high-profile former members of the chamber is Len Roberts-Smith, currently commissioner of the WA Corruption and Crime Commission.

 

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