Most chambers have pictures on their walls. This is not surprising since each interior is designed as, or has been deli- berately kept to resemble, a 19th century gentleman's sitting-room.
Of these pictures, around half are antique prints in varying stages of decomposition. Some are quite striking, but many need reframing or even restoration. The remaining pieces of art are mostly recent watercolours or etchings, mainly architectural, with subjects such as the buildings along the River Thames, Cambridge colleges and the Inns of Court.
A few barristers have taken a particular interest in the art on show in their working environment. At least one room in King's Bench Walk, for example, has a collection of cool, abstract contemporary paintings, proving that modern art is not necessarily out of place in a traditional interior.
In other chambers, barristers often opt to have pictures that are relevant to their area of specialisation. But in most cases, barristers' chambers retain an air reminiscent of a Dickensian otherworld.
Naturally, the Bar wants to preserve its differences and distinctions, but pictures in the workplace can give a more formal and telling impression of the set to the solicitors and clients who visit the chambers.
Even during the recession, most of the commercial world accepted that art had an important role in a business context. Pictures – or the lack of them – are frequently the most distinguishing aspect of a company's meeting room or reception area.
Art in a chambers or an office can play an important role in projecting a positive 'corporate' image to clients and other professionals, as well as employees. The professions and institutions are investing more time and money in the careful and intelligent use of art.
Hanging pictures which reflect the particular specialisations of a legal practice is an option for both barristers' chambers and law firms. There is also a wide range of art inspired by contemporary architecture, ranging from limited edition etchings to multiple image photography. Ideally, a barrister can use artwork in the chambers to subtly convey an impression of success, good taste and individuality.
For a recent law firm commission Art Contact, an art consultancy, researched and supplied bright, abstract limited edition prints with architectural motifs as a reference to the practice's property and construction work. As a contrast, hand-coloured engravings of distinguished 19th century judges were provided for meeting rooms in order to reflect the firm's history and continuity with the past.
Compared with law firms, which often promote their image through brochures as well as through interior design, barristers are only just catching up in the marketing stakes.
Like most professionals, barristers tend to be frantically busy; unlike others, they must pay for pictures from their own pockets, not inherit them from the previous incumbent of their chambers. If the pictures on the walls are to have more impact than the wallpaper behind them, advice is available to ensure limited resources are efficiently and imaginatively used.