You have been at the Bar for the last seven years (previously Chambers Director at 23 Gray’s Inn Square) and for the last three years as CEO at Matrix Chambers. As one of the most revered senior executives at the Bar, how have you seen the landscape change?
Hugely, and I have been very privileged to be in a position in which I can see this more clearly than some of my colleagues in other sets because of the diversity of the work that Matrix specialises in, and their modern approach. The legal services market is becoming more sophisticated and the Bar is definitely part of this. We are working in an increasingly competitive market which is becoming more commercial and we are striving to provide quality legal services. I am looking forward to working with the opportunities provided by the Legal Services Act 2007 and with the changes in funding both for private and publicly funded work. It is a fascinating and challenging time to be involved in legal management, especially at the Bar.
Matrix Chambers is still in its first decade of trading…what do you think is the secret of the set’s success?
I think it is the quality of our people (both staff and members), our openness to change, our values and our diversity. We have evolved and are not the same set we were ten years ago but we have managed to maintain the same set of values. Matrix is open to change and we have reacted to the changing market by hiring the “right people” who we believe will help us adapt and add value for our clients. With the landscape changing dramatically, getting buy-in from members is key. We do things differently at Matrix: for example, for a number of years we have had a team of staff dedicated to assisting with legal research, in much the same way as legal support lawyers do in law firms. We have a modern management structure that operates like the board of directors of a company; we have moved away from the inefficiency of the traditional chambers’ hierarchy. We have systems in place that have improved our service delivery, the way the barristers interact with their clients, remote working, and so on.
2008/09 was a strong year for your chambers including awards for “Best Marketed Chambers”, “Set of the Year in Human Rights & Public Law” with six of your members taking Silk/junior of the year for their respected practices…how important are these types of awards in attracting quality hires?
It’s always great to get the awards and we’re very proud of our achievements. The key to attracting good people is a good reputation, good work and a good level of service. We openly recruit where there is a business need. We’re very pleased to have seen so many of our juniors take Silk, and talented trainees join us as members. Whilst we have taken on ten new members in the last year I believe that ongoing, organic growth is the key to our future success and we are concentrating our efforts on developing our trainees and junior members’ careers.
What are the exciting things that lie in the future for Matrix?
Obviously our ten year anniversary party! We are also expanding globally and are working on building our international member network. This is partly due to the growth we are experiencing in international human rights work, but actually we are finding this a growing trend in most of our core practice areas. We are re-energising our commitment to our charitable causes fund and our community projects. We are developing as a business and growing in turnover and size. We are continuing our work on actively promoting work/life balance for staff and members and increasing the diversity of our member and staff teams.
How do things look for your chambers in the coming year against the worst economic conditions for a long time?
Our turnover increased by 16% last year and we are forecasting positive economic growth for the current financial year. Whilst we have seen a reduction in some of our areas of work, because of the very diverse nature of our practice areas, overall we have not been adversely affected by the economic downturn. We are renowned for having a very significant appellate practice domestically and internationally, with more House of Lords’ cases than any other set. Work of this level is unlikely to diminish. I am confident in the future for Matrix being challenging but very promising.
Lindsay Scott was interviewed by Guy Hewetson and Anil Shah, LPA Legal