The Institute of Barristers’ Clerks, founded in 1922, protects and promotes the interests of its members, and provides support, advice and opportunity.
You are celebrating your 30th anniversary at the Bar this year and were appointed Chairman of the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks (IBC) a few months ago. To what do you credit your success?
First will be the support, enthusiasm and guidance that I was given for many years by the senior clerks for whom I worked as a junior clerk. Combined with that is the fact that I have been lucky enough to have worked with some excellent barristers. I also credit the fact that this is a job that I love to do. I am a ‘people person’; I believe I understand what makes people tick and I enjoy working with barristers, solicitors and clients to provide the best service I can. I am still enthusiastic that my role as a clerk provides me with tremendous opportunities and I feel privileged to have influence on the development of my chambers.
What challenges have you faced as a senior clerk?
I don’t think my experiences of the challenges will be significantly different to any other clerk: volume of work, managing individual barristers within a structure that is not a partnership and the ever increasing amount of regulation. As a member of the Wellbeing at the Bar Working Group (WATB), I would also mention the (sadly not unique to me, although thankfully rare) challenge that I experienced in one of my previous sets: facing unreasonable behaviour which caused real strain. As a result, the work I am doing now with the WATB group to provide clerks with wellbeing support is vitally important to me.
The nature of a clerk’s role has changed drastically over the last 15 years. What do you perceive a modern clerk to be?
Clerking is a traditional name for what is now very modern business management. As well as all the traditional tasks that barristers’ clerks undertake, clerks now have roles in business development, practice management, regulation and ensuring the smooth running of what are multimillion pound businesses. Modern clerks will be professional, adaptable, focused on client service and able to think about ways to develop their chambers and themselves.
As Chairman of the IBC, what role do you wish for clerks to play in the future development of the Bar and how will you assist them?
I believe that the IBC already plays a really important role in the future development of the Bar. The IBC is represented on a number of different Bar Council committees and I wish for that to continue. I have been delighted that in addition to the half dozen or so Bar Council committees on which we already sit, since becoming Chairman I have been co-opted by Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC to join the Bar Council General Management Committee. That means that the IBC is now represented at the highest level within the Bar Council. In addition, also since I became Chairman, Louisa Nye, Chair of the Young Barristers’ Committee, has invited the IBC to be co-opted onto the committee. I believe that developing close links and mutual respect between the younger members of our professions is crucial for both professions’ future success.
Aside from searching for job vacancies, how else can clerks engage with the IBC?
This is really important to me. The IBC is doing a huge amount of work on behalf of our members, and provides far more than job adverts. In my welcome message to the membership I stressed that in order for the IBC to be effective, we need clerks to engage with us. I recently updated the membership via an end-of-term message which set out the huge amount of work that was being done on their behalf. Where matters are raised with the IBC, we have a voice and can make a difference. I appeal to heads of chambers and barristers to encourage their clerks to become members of the IBC. As I say, we are the organisation working with, and consulted by, the Bar Council and others for our views. We are also consulted by, and work with, the Bar Standards Board; with the increase in regulation we are able to provide our members with valuable information to ensure they are properly acting and fulfilling their regulatory obligations. Being a member of the IBC will help keep clerks and chambers up-to-date. The management committee and I are approachable and we encourage clerks to become members and help us work on the issues that they are facing.
What is the best advice you’ve been given in your career?
I remember being a junior clerk in my first ever month in chambers. The phone rang and the solicitor caller asked me to arrange for a barrister to go to court that afternoon. I went into a member of chambers’ room and asked them to go to court, which they promptly did. Speaking to my father that evening, I debated whether I had done the right thing. He responded: ‘Until someone tells you to stop, I would just keep going.’ Thirty years later no one has told me to stop, so that seems like very good advice.
How do you like spending time away from chambers?
I am very fortunate that I have two musical sons and so on any given day or weekend one of them will generally be performing at a concert. Music is one of my great loves and so to watch my sons performing provides both enjoyment and pride.
Nick Hill was interviewed by Guy Hewetson and Tony Stephenson of Hewetson Shah LLP