Barristers vote with their feet

Tenancy in chambers is no longer, it seems, tenancy for life. Hopping to and fro between chambers has become increasingly frequent with many barristers uprooting and simply moving on. Why this new flexible approach? Five years ago, barristers moving chambers was almost unheard of. Equally, those poaching talent from other sets would find themselves blackballed.

However, many junior barristers have become disillusioned with life at the bar. Some chambers are out of step with the feelings of their members and a large number of sets are not geared up to think of themselves as businesses with all the managerial responsibilities this engenders.

So if junior barristers are disaffected, who can blame them? Those chambers which do not have an effective strategy will suffer most, because barristers no longer have to stay put in a less than satisfactory situation.

For the smart sets, the willingness of barristers to move presents unprecedented opportunities. Now they can cherry pick barristers who fit in with their practices, which in turn means they can develop particular areas of expertise. They can keep an eye on barristers whom they may like to recruit in the future.

If the lesser-focused do not look after their members, they may find themselves victims of the new flexible regime. With no restrictive covenants in place, the defection of a number of barristers could be catastrophic for a set.

It is a situation which needs serious consideration by chambers' management who may arrive in chambers one morning to discover half its members missing. Chambers do not have to spend thousands of pounds on consultants who may have little knowledge of the Bar. Instead, they must provide the best possible opportunities for barristers to develop their practices. The realities of the business world are unlikely to go away.