Barristers practice

IT and practice management for chambers

There are not as many IT and practice management services for barristers as for solicitors but there are some very strong players available.

Here are the key players in this market (based on my web page, followed by two short articles from key providers of services to chambers, Martin Poulter and Helen Ford, providing a view of the past, the present and the future.

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Direct access – how is it going?

Archway to Elm Court by Ruth Hartnup

Under the Bar Council scheme launched in 2004, members of the public and businesses may now instruct barristers directly and without the intervention of a solicitor. There has been a lot of talk and discussion on this new “freedom” since then, along the lines of the following questions:

  • Will it benefit members of the public?
  • How easy is it to find, assess and then engage a direct access barrister?
  • Will it be better for barristers willing to work directly with their clients? Will it be more profitable?
  • What effect will it have on solicitors? Will this reduce their market share?
  • What new methods are emerging for managing Direct access work?

This article is an attempt to find answers to these questions and generally to ask, “How is it going?”

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Completing legal directory submissions for the Bar

Signpost in blue sky with fluffy white clouds

The legal directory industry shows no sign of decline. With the advent of the internet it would have been reasonable to expect the directories business to fade away as more people took to search engines to find their preferred counsel. However, the directories have embraced the internet by providing online versions with relevant information and as a result they are doing better than ever.

As you might imagine there are a number of directories to choose from. However, it’s worth noting that they are run in very different ways. For example, both Chambers and Partners and Legal 500 spend a great deal of time and resources researching the legal market, both in the UK and overseas. Their results are both unbiased and unambiguous, ranking the top-rated counsel (as found by their research) in each practice area in each jurisdiction. Martindale-Hubbell and Who’s Who Legal appear to be more listings services rather than publications that have been methodically researched and ranked (I’ve received emails from Who’s Who inviting me to buy a profile in their directory and suggested that I would fit into the litigation category …. Scary thought for a marketing agency!). Practical Law Company’s directory ceased to be operational in 2013. It is worth mentioning that all of the directories have a cost associated with them. However, both Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners will still include the firm/chambers and lawyers in the directory rankings even if they choose not to purchase a profile. It’s not clear from the Who’s Who website how they deal with this.

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Clerksroom Direct: public access in motion

Clerksroom Chambers was created 15 years ago out of a passionate belief that it was time for change at the Bar. It took years for the model to be accepted by both the Bar and the legal industry (particularly the Bar) as we are a limited company led by a Managing Director owner and one other stakeholder and operate nationally as a virtual chambers supported by a full clerking team in Taunton.

We have devised new ways in which a chambers can use the internet and digital technology for marketing, attracting new talent and educating the sector and have now grown to support 80+ barristers, have significant contractual arrangements with the leading legal brands across the UK and are seen as a valuable and professional alternative to the traditional chambers structure. It hasn’t always been easy but our clients and the wider market now fully understand that we have modelled our advocacy business to suit their financial, legal and growth needs.

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Taking Direct Access barristers online

DAPEarlier this year, the Bar Council gave its backing to a new website which had been set up by two barristers with the very simple aim of providing an online directory of Direct Access barristers to the public – the Direct Access Portal (DAP).

We joined forces with barristers Pru Beever and Mike Whyatt of the Northern Circuit to make this the “go-to” website for individuals and businesses looking for a barrister. Historically, members of the public and businesses have had to go through a solicitor in order to use the services of a barrister. However, since major changes to the rules in 2010 clients can now go directly to a barrister.

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Direct Access barristers – getting clients online

Direct access is currently having a powerful impact for Chambers and their Direct Access barristers and teams; it is creating opportunities for chambers to forge new initiatives and collaborate with other professional groups, businesses and individuals at a time of rapid change in the legal services environment. Indeed, for many chambers it is the largest […]

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Putting your message in their pocket: the future of web marketing

Catherine Bailey represents Bar Marketing

Marketing is becoming ever more vital in the race to win new clients and retain existing ones. Whether you are a law firm or chambers you are seeing your marketplace evolve at an unprecedented rate. New entrants are streaming in and new ways of working are becoming standard practice. You need to be more responsive in your marketing or you will be left behind and your practice may wither. Sounds dramatic, but it’s actually reality.

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Barristers Public Access: How successful has it been so far?

Many chambers and individual barristers are represented on my web page . I contacted them recently to ask if they would give me their views on how successful the Public Access scheme has been so far and how they see it developing in the future. Here are their responses.

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Virtual chambers – the model for the future?

In the traditional model of a chambers, individual barristers cluster together to share premises, staff and administrative services. With the maturity of the internet, however, and particularly with the advent of cheap and easy broadband, barristers do not have to be physically close to each other in order to share staff and admin. In many cases, they would in any case prefer to work at home, or whilst in court or travelling, or even on holiday. The need for a special room filled with hard copy resources and littered with case notes of present and past cases is, in many cases, no longer such an attraction.

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A virtual chambers – BarristerWeb

BarristerWeb was the first virtual chambers, having started around 7 years ago. They describe themselves as a “traditional chambers at internet speed”; they do just about everything which a traditional chambers does, but without a large physical presence.

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A virtual chambers – Clerksroom

This article describes the way that Clerksroom operates. I will be writing a second article for the next issue covering BarristerWeb and, in a third article, I will be looking at other chambers who are incorporating some “virtual chambers” ideas into their more conventional operation – a sort of virtual chambers by stealth.

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How to get the best out of a barristers’ clerk

Barristers’ clerks have been looking after the professional and personal lives of barristers for hundreds of years. However, these days, barristers’ clerks are the professional “minder” or “manager” of not just one barrister, but several barristers that make up a chambers. They are the “door keepers” who make sure that the barristers are kept employed and the “fixers” who fix the fees and arrange their appointments and dates for court work.

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