Outer Temple Chambers is one of the chambers leading the way in innovation at the Bar. What was the thinking behind the change in your management structure last year?
The traditional structure is pretty old fashioned and the head of chambers’ role focuses primarily on responsibilities under the Code of Conduct. Deregulation will bring about a revolution in the way that legal services are accessed and delivered and we felt that we needed a structure which would help prepare us for that. The triumvirate includes the traditional role with head, Philip Mott QC, but also provides for a head of strategic development (Richard Lissack QC) and a head of service delivery (Michael Bowes QC). Th is was a dramatic shift but it refl ects the concern that we had about being ready for the changes to come.
You joined as Commercial Director a couple of years ago. Were you the final piece of the puzzle in chambers’ long-term plans?
I was the final piece in terms of pulling together a team to move us forward. Outer Temple had gone through major structural and organisational change and knew where it wanted to go. To a large extent my role has been about giving us some focus at a strategic level and working through business models and new initiatives to see whether they’re feasible. I’m lucky to be in a position where I’ve got time to look at long-term strategy and I’m surrounded by people who are bouncing ideas around as part of the normal working day. From a business development point of view this is a very exciting time to be in the profession.
How ready are your chambers in respect of the legal service reforms?
I feel we’re ahead of the game. We’ve spent a lot of time researching, discussing and debating what we might do and then trying to work how to do it within the current rules (we need to change the rules!). We’ve got a good specialist staff team in place, we’ve brought on board some experts from other professions to work as “critical friends” in helping us work out our ideas, we’re looking at where people will get their legal information from, how they’ll access legal services in the future and what solicitors will want from us and we’re building a business model that kind of links it all together.
The challenge has been stepping outside of the culture and traditions of chambers and the Bar and seeing the new market from the perspective of potential investors. We’ve been running weekly strategy sessions since April and some of them have been an attempt to make us think outside of the chambers’ context and approach the issues more like entrepreneurs. It’s fascinating.
What are some of the key things you are working on at the moment?
Future funding of chambers, an international project, business modelling, a branding review, new areas of work, two chamberswide strategy sessions coming up in October…
You opened an office in the Middle East a while ago, how is that going?
At one point we had nine barristers out in the Middle East as well as work in chambers. We’ve just had judgment in a construction case where we successfully represented the client who was awarded £11.5m. We’ve been the first to recruit a Saudi lawyer to practise as a barrister both in London and Saudi Arabia. He represents clients on arbitration, construction, oil, gas and shipping as well as general corporate advice. We’ve got a specialist in Islamic and Middle East law who’s working in Iraq on a project advising the government on judicial independence, judicial structure, court procedure, election law and such like. Work continues to come in at a steady pace and we’ve got invitations to expand into other Middle East centres of commerce.
Legal 500 2009 has just come out …you must be pleased?
Very pleased. I think we’re listed as a leading set in nine areas of work and we have more barristers listed than ever. It keeps going up year on year. We’re noted for having very strong juniors across all areas and it confi rms our reputation as a high quality multi-disciplinary set.
Your chambers is described as marshalling common law strengths. With areas of family and crime feeling the pinch how has your chambers fared especially since you’ve been so innovative in moving chambers forward?
We’ve tried to reposition ourselves in the market. Our criminal practitioners have moved into areas like health & safety, regulatory work, serious fraud, VAT ... while in child and family law, we’re working largely at the highend of publicly funded work or occasionally in CFAs where there’s a cross-over with clinical negligence.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4 in July was a unique idea…
It was a calculated decision to say yes to radio and no to TV. The Bar isn’t accessible to most people and TV puts it out to everyone. Radio 4 listeners are a good audience for us…we probably sounded quite normal to most of them! “The Chambers” was “Radio Choice” in the Independent and also reviewed in the Guardian…we had some very positive feedback.
Christine Kings was interviewed by Guy Hewetson and Anil Shah, LPA Legal