One of Birmingham's oldest barristers' chambers is to dis-solve at the end of this month after almost 100 years.
It is understood that Three Fountain Court is due to cease operations, a move which would leave nearly 50 barristers, mostly doing crime and family work, effectively looking for a new home.
Birmingham legal sources reckon most will probably find one - rival St Philips is expected to gain most - but support staff, trainee barristers and future trainees earmarked for a job are likely to be most vulnerable.
Stephen Linehan, head of chambers at TFC, confirmed that it had been agreed to dissolve "28 days from last Friday".
A statement issued on his behalf read: "A significant number of Three Fountain Court will be joining St Philips."
It is believed that the crisis has come in large part because of the mainly publicly funded Legal Aid type work carried out. It is suggested that TFC was being squeezed at both ends.
Barristers' fees have barely moved in ten years and, it is said, the chambers was facing a substantial rent rise at its city centre premises.
The collapse has come despite it receiving at least one takeover approach.
The much bigger St Philips, which has 150 barristers, offered to do a deal in February, but was knocked back.
St Philips chief executive Jonathan Fox said: "It is a great shame that a set of chambers that has been in existence such a long time and with a fantastic reputation should be dissolving.
"We made an approach and it was turned down. It was not what they wanted to do and I understand that. Loss of identity is a very difficult thing to adjust to.
"But we remain very interested in attracting as many of their barristers as possible. I would say to them - if you come here you will make more money."
Mr Fox said there was a concept that St Philips was expensive, but barristers - all self-employed - were charged just 13 per cent of their fees to be part of the operation.
"There is a perception in the market place that we are an expensive place to be - that is absolutely not the case."
Barristers at St Philips earn an average £150,000 a year which this year is likely to rise to £170,000.
According to the legal marketplace some TFC barristers will move to St Philips, some will go to No.5 Fountain Court, others will be picked up by St Ives and yet others by Citadel.
"They will split in three to four directions - it will be personal decisions," predicted an insider.
Mr Fox believes more of the ten or so chambers in Birmingham could go in the future.
"There will probably be just two to three sets of chambers - maybe four - in Birmingham in five years time."
He cites rapid changes in the market place, with the imminent Carter Review into Legal Aid, the Clementi Review which is set to allow multi-disciplinary practices between the likes of accountants and lawyers, and the cost of IT.
Mr Fox said: "The middle sized firm is not going to be able to compete.
"Firms will either have to be niche, small and highly specialised, or big and multi-disciplinary."
It is thought the last big shake-up in the Birmingham barrister world was when St Philips took over One Fountain Court and its 30 barristers two years ago.
TFC can trace its origins to before the First World War.
The chambers, in Steel-house Lane, were originally known at Temple Chambers when it was founded in 1913.
With 49 members including five Queen's Counsel, past members have included two Lord Justices of Appeal, seven High Court Judges, a Chancellor of the Exchequer and many Circuit Judges.
Current alumni include criminal law specialists Francis Laird, David Mason and Timothy Raggatt QC.