Now you have qualified and developed your expertise and experience, you can relax – right? No – to be a successful barrister takes more than just staying ahead of the technical curve for your speciality. You have to develop and grow your client base to be able to deliver your service and become prosperous in your chosen field. This is why I wrote Business Skills? Don’t be daft I am a Lawyer! because it is easy for lawyers to overlook this important side to being successful.

Here are five key business skills that are crucial to expanding your solicitor client base and therefore thriving as a barrister:

1. Communication

While I am sure that you have mastered advocacy skills for court, a different style of communication is required to connect and be persuasive with solicitors.

In a successful business relationship, active listening is to build rapport rather than for scoring points. Also, giving your full and undivided attention to the solicitor and their clients means not formulating your response as they talk. Often experts rush to share their expertise before the client has finished speaking, and even forget to check the information received before advising.

Another vital part of the communication process is empathic conversation. This involves connecting to the emotional content of the discussion you are participating in. How you make people feel is critical in building and maintaining relationships. Do they feel understood – respected – appreciated?

Another classic way to communicate trust is to deliver what you say you are going to within the agreed time frame. Remember that the solicitor may have informed their client of these dates. Also, solicitors have told me that they highly value you being available as a sounding board on the telephone.

2. Business intelligence

Start with developing strong commercial knowledge about solicitors and law firms operating in your target marketplace. It is easy to collect some of this information from their websites or online resources. Use this information to connect and engage solicitors. They remember those barristers who have taken the time to get to know them and what’s important to them from the start of the relationship.

This can enable you to be proactive in adding value to solicitors over and above the legal services you deliver. For example, you might spot a business opportunity to write articles in your specialism to support your solicitors on their websites. Another example of collegiate business opportunities is writing a joint book. For example, Jodie Hill MD of Thrive Law and Chelsea Brooke-Ward of Park Square Chambers are currently completing A practical guide to valuing discrimination claims.

To thrive you also need to know which clients are profitable for you. Further, where you provide free expertise, you need to be aware of those solicitors that will reciprocate and those that don’t.

3. Promoting yourself

How did your current solicitor clients find you? Chambers’ website, LinkedIn, Chambers Directory (or similar publications), networking events, referrals, your own contact list?

Being ranked in The Legal 500 and/or having testimonials about your expertise as well as your characteristics on your online profiles can bring you to the attention of potential clients.

Keeping your profile on chambers’ website and LinkedIn up-to-date is good business practice. Take soundings from clients you know well and trust to see what appeals to them from these sources. Often lawyers will read about you before sending instructions, especially where they don’t know you.

Don’t forget that solicitors will ask their colleagues about what you are like to work with, as well as how competent you are.

Another way to showcase your expertise is to deliver online webinars or in-person presentations to your target clients and/or their clients.

For instance, the last webinar I delivered was with Iain Halliday of Themis Advocates and attracted nearly 65 immigration lawyers. My contribution was on maximising business opportunities flowing from changes in legislation thus endorsing the webinar’s practical theme.

Does your chambers show video clips from your webinars; and have you remembered to post these on LinkedIn?

4. Planning

Do you have a target client list you want to connect to? How do you want to locate and meet these clients?

Planning will help you prioritise your marketing time. A quick way to identify and connect with solicitors is using LinkedIn. You can then engage them in conversations or invite them to any appropriate social or seminar events being run by your chambers. A good daily marketing habit is spending between 15-20 minutes connecting, talking and posting online.

Your plan should include which networking events suit you and the law firms you want to work for. You can then prepare a list of who is critical, important or just nice to know at those networking events.

Once you have secured your solicitors, think about how much time you need to spend maintaining your client base. Do you know what they value? For example, speed of response to emails is critical as everyone values their time; and is a quick way to maintain trust. You don’t want to be late to the ‘party’ and then find they have chosen someone else or added you to their list of unresponsive counsel to avoid.

Having a plan enables you to measure what is working, so you can build on this and what is not, so you can change it.

5. Networking

These skills are still vital whether you are networking in person or online. Does meeting and talking outside the formal setting fill you with terror or excitement?

If you are new at networking events start at the beginning – how do you introduce yourself? A great way to connect to your audience is to describe what you do using the ‘help’ approach which can be varied depending who you are talking to. I help/enable... to do or understand... to achieve.... result. An example of mine would be ‘I help lawyers to master their networking skills so that they can increase their client base.’

Another good tip to creating interesting small talk is using these three simple words – past, present and future. It has the added bonus that it should provide you with both the market and individual knowledge of the solicitor you are talking to. Examples of this technique. ‘How long have they worked for their law firm/worked in their field? What are the current challenges in their chosen field or with work/life balance? Where do they see themselves/their speciality in the future given the AI incursion into legal services?’

You can then add in appropriate stories or statistics from your own expertise and experience. Statistics that relate to your cases, especially successful ones, reinforce you as the trusted expert. Have a couple in your back pocket for when you need them.

Don’t forget to network within your chambers to build productive relationships with colleagues and clerks. Both can assist you in connecting with solicitors. Young barristers often generate a significant number of instructions this way, especially if they are flexible.


Underpinning these business skills is the most unrecognised one – knowing your strengths/weakness, qualities and values. Being aware of these is critical to your success. How well do you know yourself? Can you list your top three qualities that enable you to work effectively with your current solicitors and law firms? A great way to identify these is to review your last six testimonials. What are the common themes?

One quality which will always be in demand is – likeability! This is a key quality to engage both your solicitors and the clients you both represent. Is this you? Another important personal quality is professionalism as it is regarded as a core attribute of barristers. It is an important part of the service you are offering but should not take the place of approachability.

When I was an in-house lawyer, professionalism and likeability were as important as your competence. The lawyers I coach tell me their top qualities for being successful are tenacity and resilience. I totally agree, as working for yourself can be a roller coaster ride with highs and lows.

This article has introduced some key business skills to expand your client base, so what are your next steps? To continue learning, exploring and developing your business skills which will enable you to grow your client base. Then produce your plan and action it. I wish you all success in your endeavours going forward.