Chambers have increasingly started to change their management structures to better align themselves with their clients’ way of doing business and more generally, to modernise a structure which, historically can be quite antiquated and doesn’t equate to a modern business. The Legal Services Act 2007 also acted as a catalyst, enabling firms to restructure as an alternative business structure, and have non-lawyers in management and other professional roles for the first time.

Technology means barristers can work more flexibly and equally, different skills are needed to ensure firms and chambers are properly harnessing the power of a digital presence and social media platforms to stay competitive and are keeping up with the latest developments.

Evolving roles

Barristers’ chambers are no longer simply a structured hierarchy with many sets benefiting from full teams of support staff and business development professionals. And for good reason – law is a much more competitive world than it was five, ten or twenty years ago and sets must do everything in their power to stay up to date and ahead of their competitors.

This is especially true as the lines between who can provide what service becomes more blurry – with the advent of ABSs, commercial businesses can now provide legal services and often at a more consumer-friendly price point.

To ensure Chambers are evolving to meet the needs of their clients, we have seen jobs adapt or new roles introduced. The emphasis on the new range of skills needed is being highlighted to law students too, with most schools underlining the importance of a solid legal education and an intricate understanding of case law and principles, alongside more commercial skills, with the view to developing these young lawyers into innovative business people.

The role of a marketer and business development professional has also evolved. For Chambers, marketing is still a relatively new concept, considering the total ban on advertising was only lifted in the mid-1980s and compared to other sectors, the growth and evolution of this area has been substantial. Even compared to other businesses in the professional services sector, Barristers Chambers are becoming more sophisticated, with more and more benefiting from good budgets, internal buy-in and experienced professionals pushing ambitious strategies.

Changing Chambers

Looking at barristers’ chambers and arguably, the change of structures and job roles in recent times has been even more revolutionary and transformative. It worth recognising just how familiar we have all become with chambers having a Chief Executive – at one time it would be unthinkable to have a non-lawyer take such a role. Indeed, the world of barristers and business was so separate at one time it would have been highly unusual to hear both words in the same sentence. How times have changed. Now we see Chambers Directors, Directors of Clerking, Directors of Client Care, not to mention business development, marketing and events professionals – all commonplace in chambers and all potentially overlapping with the very traditional role of clerk.

And the role of the Clerk?

So, naturally, the question as to how this clerk role fits in with the modern set is raised. We have seen a degree of experimentation in some chambers with Clerks paired with CEOs or Chambers Directors.

This move wasn’t always successful, as these new individuals weren’t always very integrated and also struggled to show the same sort of return on investment as a senior clerk. But lessons have been learned and what we see now is the most successful sets harnessing the powers of a CEO or Chambers Director with a strong business background and senior leadership experience alongside a clerk which isn’t only excellent at the traditional elements of this role, but can also offer something new.

We’re seeing more clerks develop their marketing and business development skills to offer something further to Chambers – some are even undertaking specific degrees or other professional qualifications to improve their skill set.

It’s clear Chambers are undergoing an ongoing revolution which is seeing some job roles and responsibilities change significantly. Chambers are operating more like businesses than ever before and that requires individuals to think more commercially and entrepreneurially – as well as showing a more diverse range of skills.

**The full text of this article appeared in the Global Legal Post in June 2017

For more information and for a confidential conversation on how we can support you and your Chambers please contact Nick Rees, Managing Director, GRL Legal