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In law, a chambers is a room or office used by barristers or a judge. A barrister’s chambers or barristers’ chambers are the rooms used by a barrister or a group of barristers. A judge’s chambers, on the other hand, is the office of a judge, where the judge may hear certain types of cases, instead of in open court.
A judge’s chambers is the office of a judge, where certain types of matters can be heard “in chambers”, also known as in camera, rather than in open court. Generally, cases heard in chambers are cases, or parts of cases, in which the public and press are not allowed to observe the procedure. Judge’s chambers are often located on upper floors of the court house, away from the courtrooms, sometimes in groupings of judge’s chambers.
In some jurisdictions, a courtroom, rather than the judge’s actual chambers, are used to hear matters “in chambers”. Such courtrooms may also be called “chambers”.
In England and Wales, New Zealand, Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong, chambers may refer to the office premises used by a barrister or to a group of barristers, especially in the Inns of Court. To share costs and expenses, barristers typically operate fraternally with each other, as unincorporated associations known as “chambers”. The term “Chambers” is used to refer both to the physical premises where the Barrister’s Set conduct most of their work from, as well as the ‘set’ or unincorporated association itself. Chambers typically have office spaces for the barristers to work from, conference rooms with infrastructure to conduct video conferencing for a large audience, printing and photocopying sections, a substantially large and updated Library, as well as rooms for the Barristers’ and clients’ dining and entertainment. Most Chambers have a staff to look after administrative matters, including a full-fledged kitchen and dining hall to serve up meals and refreshments. The transactional side of chambers are administered by barristers’ clerks who receive cases from Solicitors and agree on matters such as fees on behalf of their employers; they then provide case details to the barristers and conduct office management for them. Some chambers specialise in particular areas of law. Members are known as tenants, and can only be dismissed for gross misconduct.
There are chambers all over England and Wales; however, the largest concentration of them is in London. A report by the General Council of the Bar in 2006, showed that of the 355 practising chambers in the United Kingdom, 210 were based in London.
In Hong Kong, the 133 chambers within the special administrative region are almost exclusively located in the City of Victoria. In Sri Lanka, Counsels would maintain their chambers at their residence, which serve as their office and contain their personal library.