Bar growth buoyed by direct instructions

The civil bar saw revenues move upwards at the end of the last financial year, driven in part by growth in the number of direct access instructions from in-house counsel.

Monckton Chambers reported growth of 22 per cent at the latest year-end, from £17.25m to £21m.

According to senior clerk David Hockney the financial performance comes as a result of a five-year plan put in place by chambers two years ago aimed at broadening Monckton’s practice base to boost income.

Those aims included targeting new QC appointments; in 2011 the set was boosted when three of its juniors – Tim Ward, Daniel Beard and Paul Harris – were awarded silk. “It was very beneficial,” said Hockney. “They’re three of the busiest members of chambers.”

According to Hockney growth has also been driven by investing in relationships directly with in-house counsel, with around 60 per cent of income now generated via the direct route.

The set has seen a rise in the number of competition-related instructions it receives as well as an increase in disputes on an EU level, both core practice areas for chambers.

Matrix Chambers has also seen growth in direct instructions as well as a rise in competition work. Chief executive Lindsay Scott said chambers defied expectations of a flat year by posting an increase in turnover of 7.7 per cent from £18.6m to £20.3m.

“We’ve had a very successful year,” commented Scott. “Turnover is higher than we budgeted for in the recession.”

While growth has slowed across the civil bar, chambers are still enjoying a post-recession boom with many predicting a further boost for the 2012-13 year as claims filter through.

At Quadrant Chambers turnover climbed 8.2 per cent from £24.9m to £26.05m, having posted falling turnover in the previous year. Likewise, Landmark Chambers saw a return to growth with turnover up 8.5 per cent from £20m to £21.7m, though the set is behind its 2009-10 level of £22m.

Following a contraction from £15.8m to £15m in 2010-11 Hardwicke has also returned to growth with revenues up 8.6 per cent to £16.29m.

Growth has slowed at Outer Temple and 11KBW, however, with the former posting relatively flat results of £20.1m, down from £20.3m a year earlier, while 11KBW posted a marginal increase from £17.15 to £17.2m.

Outside London, chambers are reporting turnover hikes despite cuts to public sector budgets. Birmingham-headquartered No 5 Chambers, which is home to 238 members, saw turnover rise by 17.9 per cent from £36.48m to £43m.

At Kings Chambers, which is headquartered in Manchester, turnover was up by 13.3 per cent from £21.4m to £24.25m. The set is intending to build on its recent success by opening a base in Birmingham (18 July 2012).

Bristol-headquartered 3 Paper Buildings increased revenues by 9.7 per cent from £16.93 to £18.57m.

Despite the apparent growth the bar is grappling with commercialism with clients demanding higher standards of customer services at a better price. New entrants to the profession, such as fixed-fee vehicle Riverview Law, have also underlined the need for chambers to adapt to the new economic climate. In-house counsel are also using the bar as a means to cut better deals with litigators, turning first to counsel before using this as leverage to agree deals with solicitor teams (18 July 2012).