Fountain takes jump into marketing

John Malpas reports

A BACKROOM shake-up at the largest UK set has created a new post with the dreaded term "marketing" in its title.

But for the newly-appointed director of marketing at Five Fountain Court, the term has been one which barristers have been afraid to use for too long.

The huge Birmingham set, which has over 60 tenants, has appointed French lawyer Olivier Morel as director of marketing. His brief is to give "structure and depth" to the chambers' marketing policy and he is blunt about his role.

"No business can survive without long-term planning and focused marketing," he said.

Morel was tax adviser at accountants Robson Rhodes but increasingly devoted his time implementing its marketing strategy. And it is for his marketing skills that he has been hired by Five Fountain Court.

The chambers will be hoping his appointment will bring an end to an unhappy few months sparked by the spring departure of former practice director David Symonds. In July, Symonds agreed an out of court settlement with the set after threatening constructive dismissal over the contractual dispute which led to his departure.

The chambers' response to Symonds' departure has been a rethink of its administrative structure. Morel is in charge of marketing while senior clerk Tony McDaid heads the clerking, although he is the ultimate head of the administration.

Deputy head of chambers Gareth Evans QC said: "Olivier put the difference between their two roles very well at a recent reception we held for him. He said: 'Tony was the man who put us on to the stage while Morel is the man who puts the spotlight on to us. We cannot do without either of them.'"

Both Morel and McDaid say they get on well together, meeting at least once a week to exchange ideas. Morel stresses that the demarcation lines are clear. "Conflicts take place when people think someone else is trying to do their job."

Among his tasks is the branding of the chambers so the different specialist groups are all speaking with the same voice. It starts with simple matters such as everyone using the same headed paper but includes the distribution of up-to-date chambers directories and the organisation of client seminars.

The set is sensitive to the common charge that provincial chambers are not up to scratch. And while it disputes the assertion, it is also keen to develop a positive, proactive relationship with Birmingham firms.

One of Morel's key roles will be the swift establishment of an effective client care system for the chambers and he wants to keep in touch with law firms to ensure the chambers is performing up to scratch.

But he says it is a two-way thing, with firms keen to know about some of the set's younger employees. The move will be welcomed by Pinsent Curtis managing partner Brian Hopkinson. "We get visits from London chambers all the time. Why don't we get any from chambers in Birmingham?"