There have been significant changes happening at 2 Paper Buildings: a new head of chambers, expanding to new premises and a new identity. Why now?

It seems that everything is happening at once, but these changes have been planned over a good period of time. The decision to move to bigger and better premises was taken some time ago, and it has taken a while to get everything right. Sir Desmond decided that the move would be the right time for him to step down as head of chambers after nearly quarter of a century, and Harendra de Silva QC is taking over as the new head. We also thought that, with the change of address and a new head of chambers, the time was right for a new name as well.

You have recently taken on a new senior clerk as well?

Whilst we may have a new home, a new head and a new name, we wanted to go back to a more traditional clerking structure. We were absolutely delighted to capture the services of Michael Martin as our new senior clerk. He is one of the true heavyweights in clerking and his leadership, knowledge and wealth of experience will play a huge role in the years to come.

Creating a new identity is relatively new at the Bar and goes against tradition. Were your members happy with this?

There was overwhelming support for the move, but a recognition that we couldn’t go on calling ourselves 2PB at a different address. We didn’t want to lose our identity and knew that our new name would say something about us as a brand, balancing the chambers’ traditions with our modern approach. We felt that simply taking the name of our new address wouldn’t do that and so we have gone for something a little less traditional. We used an excellent marketing firm to assist us and got our members closely involved with this project, as ultimately, the members are the identity of any chambers. We are really happy with the new name.

Is there anything you’d like to share on chambers’ new identity?

I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little longer. We are still finalising the design, colour scheme and website, and then we will be ready for the launch of the new name. We hope to publicise this in the April edition of Counsel, so you will have to wait until then.

Why are you making all these changes when the criminal Bar are facing such tough challenges?

The criminal Bar has always faced challenges, and we know that a key part of ensuring survival and success is to make sure that we are fully prepared for what lies ahead. We have been carefully preparing chambers to face the challenges the criminal Bar faces, and these changes are an important part of that business plan. We are optimistic this will put us in a strong position to flourish.

What future challenges do you envisage?

There are so many challenges to the criminal Bar at the moment. Obviously the issue over very high cost cases, and fees more generally, are at the forefront of the mind, but there are also the challenges posed by “in-house” advocates and the proposals for legal disciplinary practices. Frankly, just keeping up with all the consultation processes for the changes is something of a challenge at the moment.

How will the changes to the criminal Bar impact on your chambers?

There is no point in pretending that the real-terms cuts in funding and the seizing of certain work by “in-house” advocates will not have an impact upon us. These are difficult times for the criminal Bar as a whole, but we think that we are extremely well placed to weather the storm, and to emerge from it even stronger. The new premises, the restructuring of the clerking and the new identity are all a part of making sure that we are ready to face the challenges.

When will the new era begin?

Harendra de Silva QC and Michael Martin are already in place, and we hope to be in our new premises in April. The launch of the new identity will be an ongoing project for about 18 months and we hope to start rolling out this project at the beginning of March. It has been a lot of work co-ordinating multiple projects, but we are all looking forward to a new era at these chambers.

John Holland was interviewed by Guy Hewetson and Anil Shah, LPA Legal