In what is believed to be the first move of its kind, Matrix Chambers is to employ paralegals.
The first paralegal, law student Anjoli Singh, has already been recruited and will join the set in October to work on a major piece of international litigation that will be heard in the International Court of Justice.
Chief executive Nick Martin says: “We will be trying to establish a pool of paralegals – a panel – who can be brought in for specific matters to assist with research and case preparation.”
There are no Bar Council regulations restricting the employment of paralegals, but it will raise questions about future employment of solicitors by chambers, a practice which is currently prohibited.
The Office of Fair Trading’s investigation into competition restrictions may address this issue as it is looking at the rules that prevent barristers from managing litigation.
The paralegals will be used to assist Matrix’s legal information manager to offer a new legal research service.
Martin says: “This is all part of Matrix moving to a slightly more integrated legal practice.”
The set is also keen to investigate the possibility of changing rules to allow chambers to contract as corporate entities with nation states and international companies on major pieces of international litigation.
Martin says that at a time when many traditional sources of income for the bar are under attack, a change to the current restrictions would have both administrative and competitive benefits.
“The competition for this work is increasingly between international law firms and other practitioners, including UK-based barristers,” he says.