Havers – Defining the Bar

When we first published Havers Companion to the Bar, 22 years ago, it created quite a stir. Up to then barristers’ directories were little more than name and address lists. We set out to tell much more about barristers, their practices, achievements, cases, languages spoken – and even fees! In an age when the Bar was constrained and shy about “touting” or self-promotion some saw this as a step too far and many were horrified at the prospect of disclosing the fees they charged.

But the new publication chimed with the changing times. The first edition Published in 1991 heralded a new approach to the dissemination of information about the Bar, to be followed in time by other new publications such as Chambers and The Legal 500, which sought to identify the highflyers in various sections of the Bar.

In the subsequent ever-changing scene, which included the impact of the internet and websites, as well as the relaxation of professional regulation on advertising, we have had to adapt continuously to a changing culture and to make use of new technologies to ensure that it provides useful and effective means for barristers to make themselves known and accessible.

The 2013 slimmed-down, printed edition of Havers is in keeping with this approach. Under its new title, Havers – Defining the Bar, greater emphasis is placed on ways to pinpoint the barrister with the right qualities and expertise for the case in hand.

History of the Havers Directory

I founded the Havers Directory to take advantage of the relaxation of the rules to allow barristers to be more open. I sent a questionnaire to every barrister – 5,000 at that time (now 12,500). Three-quarters of the Bar completed these forms, which resulted in the first addition of Havers, which in turn instantly sold some 6,000 copies.

In his forward to the first edition the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Havers of St Edmundsbury, said “The Independent practising Bar, in addition to providing a corps of skilled and experienced advocates, offers a quite remarkable pool of specialist legal advice and expertise on virtually any aspect of the law which is available to any firm of solicitors and many other professionals who now have approved direct access to the Bar. It is essential that anyone hoping to take full advantage of what the Bar has to offer should have as much information as possible about the available expertise so as to be able to make an informed choice of barrister. This timely and exceptionally well-researched and compiled book provides an invaluable source of information about the Bar and the services offered by individual barristers to an extent never before attempted or available. In short it is the indispensable reference work for all who use and wish to make the most of the expertise available at the Bar”.

A month or so after publication I received a phone call from the then Marketing Director of Sweet and Maxwell, asking for a meeting to discuss ways we could work together. A good relationship with them and the whole Thomson Group, including Westlaw and Lawtel, has continued to this day.

Types of legal directory

In the legal directory world there are two distinct types of useful sources of information about barristers in independent practice. Firstly, there is the Chambers and Legal 500 approach, which focuses on identifying the leading solicitors and barristers in various fields of practice. This can be very helpful and barristers who are fortunate enough to have been “discovered” cherish a good quote about themselves. Our approach is a little different. We offer every barrister the opportunity to set out their stall in a way that gives the professional and lay client the opportunity to identify and make an informed choice as to the person best suited for the case.

Groundbreaking technology allows easy linkage between the names of barristers who appear in cases, or have written publications, and their individual barrister or Chambers profiles and websites. Major online partners that use the Havers data in increasingly imaginative ways, include Lawtel, Westlaw, ICLR, Emplaw, JustCite and Justis.

The new look

This year we decided that our publications should be given a new look. The printed version now contains the relatively stable part of the information: key information about the barristers’ areas of practice, additional significant information about the strength of that area of practice amongst his or her colleagues in Chambers, and a section about the Chambers and the additional work that they do. Additional, extensive (and faster developing) information can then be obtained, if and as required, by accessing our new website havers-find-a-barrister.co.uk where up-to-the-minute information regarding the barrister who has been identified, and his or her practice, is displayed.

The site is free to use by solicitors, academics, students and the general public. This provides a very useful and easy to handle, tool for anyone seeking the services of a barrister of any seniority, in whatever location, with whatever particular language skills, able to advise or appear in any particular area of law, including a wealth of foreign laws.

Patti Havers started her working life at Time Life as Assistant Marketing Director. She worked subsequently in the fashion industry and then “retired” to devote her time to creating Havers.

The new 2013 Havers – Defining the Bar is on sale at all legal bookshops, price £35, or it can be ordered by emailing sales@havers.co.uk.