Selling off the Inns of Court

“I was reading an article recently about barristers’ dinners and it got me thinking once again about who really owns the Inns of Court,” said TheBusker today.

“Each Inn owns itself,” said HeadofChambers, “and is run by the Benchers. Particularly well, too, even if I do say so myself.”

“I do understand,” said TheBusker. “But what if a member of the Inn made a proposal to sell off all the assets to some big property firm and then distribute the proceeds between the members.”

“What? How? What?” stuttered HeadofChambers. “It wouldn’t be possible…”

“Who knows,” said TheBusker. “But it’d certainly mean a big windfall for current members if it did have legs.”

“Sounds like when the members of the RAC club sold off their assets,” said TheCreep. “They all did very nicely indeed.”

“Or the carpet baggers who joined building societies in the hope that they’d go public,” said TheVamp.

“Or the one-off sale of a partnership such as Goldman Sachs,” said BusyBody.
“Do you think it’s just a straightforward club. You know, an unincorporated association that can just be wound up in that way?” asked TheVamp.

“No. Certainly not,” said HeadofChambers. “The Inns are all about education. They’re charitable. It wouldn’t be allowed. Er…” He hesitated and shifted a little uneasily before saying, “I think it’s a case called, er, Smith v Kerr if you’re wondering.”

“Sounds to me like you may already have considered this point,” said BusyBody.

“They definitely do a lot of excellent training,” said TheBusker, “as well as doling out a whole bunch of great scholarships too. But just imagine if those very worthwhile functions were not in fact held to be the primary purpose of the Inns. I mean, think of all that expensive real estate right bang in the heart of the City of London. I mean, they could keep the training and the scholarships and just sell of the buildings.”

“Funnily enough,” said Teflon. “I was reading on Wikipedia only the other day that Serjeants Inn was sold by the Serjeants-at-Law in the 1800s and iy said that they distributed the assets amongst the surviving members.”
“So how much are we all going to get,” said one of the pupils, a little breathlessly, as if he was already counting the money and seeing an end to the huge mountain of debt he had already piled up.

“Absolutely nothing,” said HeadofChambers. “Just think of all the barristers’ chambers you’re talking about. I hardly think they’re going to shoot themselves in the feet by selling off their very own family silver.”

“Oh, I think that could be dealt with through a standard sale and lease-back arrangement,” said UpTights whose interest was also starting to be piqued. “It’s not as if we get particularly cheap rent off the Inns any more anyway.”

“There’s probably also be a lot of retired members whose pensions are under-performing and who certainly wouldn’t say no to being offered a windfall in return for ticking yes on a silly little vote for sale,” said TheVamp with a mischievous smile.

At which point HeadofChambers made a sharp exit claiming that he had an “urgent meeting” he needed to attend.

BabyBarista is a fictional account of a junior barrister practising at the English Bar, written by barrister and writer Tim Kevan. For more information and to read posts from the last few years visit Cartoons by Alex Williams, author of 101 Ways to Leave the Law.

November 12, 2013 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
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