Duncan Matthews QC, co-head, and Jemma Tagg, chief executive, reflect on the evolution of Twenty Essex and wider sector changes across the Commercial Bar.
Twenty Essex enjoys a rich heritage as one of the longest-established sets of commercial and international law chambers. Twenty Essex barristers have always been at the forefront of ground-breaking legal precedent in reported cases before apex courts and tribunals.
Several renowned individuals have influenced and created the foundations of what the set represents today. During the 1950s, the set first became associated with public international law when Sir Arnold McNair and Sir Hersch Lauterpacht became door tenants and were later judges of the International Court of Justice. Twenty Essex also has a tradition of senior members becoming judges with a number currently serving up to the highest level.
In 2010, Twenty Essex was the first UK set to open an annex in Maxwell Chambers, Singapore, servicing clients throughout Asia-Pacific and beyond. Much of the work done by barristers at Twenty Essex is international in nature. The set continues to invest in building international relationships including through having members based overseas.
Today, the culture of Twenty Essex represents a blend of respecting traditions with a firm vision to commit to modern developments needed for the Bar of the future.
A set with a strong maritime and international trade heritage, in recent years Twenty Essex has successfully diversified including through lateral recruitment of barristers. It continues to be recognised as a leading set for international arbitration and public international law and the set is uniquely positioned in relation to investor-state disputes, leading the evolutionary development of a wider range of commercial work at the interface with public international law. Expansion into a broader spread of commercial litigation has also seen Twenty Essex involved in cutting-edge cases in private international law, civil fraud, fintech and energy.
This transition has been achieved in tandem with significant internal change. This included the introduction of a new leadership and management structure, together with the appointment of Jemma Tagg as chief executive in 2017, and a more business-like approach to internal governance. Recognising changes in the legal services sector and evolving demands of an increasingly global client base, investment was made into the practice management and professional support teams ensuring clients receive excellent service. This investment combined with a new approach to business planning for barristers, a considerable increase in marketing activities and a refresh of the visual identity has proven successful, resulting in a 30% increase in the number of enquiries over a three-year period.