The Changing Face of The Bar
In what has become a rapidly changing and even more competitive time for the Bar, there have been some subtle but significant changes in the way that barristers’ chambers are prepared to adapt in the search for new streams of work and develop new business.
Many chambers have now realised that they need to understand both how their market is evolving and the needs of clients.
Venturing into the unknown.
Over the past 10 years or so, the Bar acknowledged the need to develop specialist practice areas and teams to cope with them. Some chambers merely strengthened existing recognised areas of expertise, for example, Tax, Shipping, Banking, and IP. Others developed and grew existing niche areas, while some ventured into the unknown by starting to practice in new areas of law, often with the aid of lateral hires. This has enabled them to source previously untapped work from existing relationships while developing new ones at the same time. From a barrister’s perspective, there is an obvious attraction in moving to a set where they can forge a relationship with clients from a parallel practice area.
Silos are breaking down
More recently, there are signs that information silos appear to be breaking down with sets prepared to change traditional structures and widen their offering to clients.
Recently GRL Legal worked with a leading Silk specialising in commercial crime; such is his standing, he could have organised a lateral move to another criminal regulatory set without any external assistance. However, he felt that by moving to a civil commercial/chancery set he could widen their client offering as well as his own practice.
The interest from civil sets, particularly those with international/offshore work, was overwhelming and he eventually moved to a chancery/commercial set. Such has been the success of this move the set are now looking to build a regulatory/crime team around him.
Last year, Fountain Court Chambers announced the formation of a commercial crime team and another magic circle set has a reciprocal arrangement with leading criminal chambers. Again, this is enabling them to attract valuable work from a parallel source. All this would have been unheard of a few years ago.
Relationships with solicitors
The way in which barristers are instructed is also changing. Solicitors and clients are now looking for their Counsel to be part of a team and have ongoing involvement in their cases rather than engaging them on an ad-hoc basis when needs must. This requires chambers to offer a more comprehensive service and be able to cope with crossover areas such as crime/commercial, employment/commercial and infrastructure/property.
Many sets of chambers do not realise that they have the potential to develop new streams of work through existing practice areas and their client base. Those responsible for the development of new business can look to extend their chambers’ offering in a particular area. For example, some sets with an employment practice have merged this within their commercial profile, thereby extending the service they are able to offer solicitors and their clients. In some chambers, their employment practice now exists purely within the set’s commercial team.
Has your set properly examined the potential of Direct Public Access? Irrespective of whether your set is specialist or multi-disciplined, there is huge potential in offering strategic help to targeted clients, possibly through local Chambers of Commerce or Trade Associations.
In order to do this, chambers should embrace this direct source of business and arrange their set’s infrastructure accordingly by ensuring that there is sufficient administration in place and by possibly employing paralegals or legal assistants to deal with the inevitable influx of documents. This will become economically viable if the paralegal is saving the barrister time which he or she may not be able to charge for.
If you are a Barrister looking to make a move, or a member of a set looking to recruit, please get in touch. We have our ear to the ground and are often one of the first to know about potential candidates or available positions.
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