Retain tradition or face the unknown

The news that 3 Paper Buildings and Plowden Buildings are to merge is another sign of the forced change at the Bar.

All chambers are having to examine their options in the light of a series of attacks on traditional and long-cherished practices at the Inns.

Law firms are increasingly retaining work which previously would have gone to the Bar.

Meanwhile, the Government is presiding over the biggest change to legal aid in history with little sign that the position of the Bar was even considered.

At the same time, the Inland Revenue is looking to change the tax arrangements for work in progress.

The Bar would be correct in thinking it is completely under attack. But then it has never been particularly geared up to change. After all, it is a collection of individuals who more often than not are barristers because of their desire to practice as individuals, and this makes change all the more difficult.

Despite this reluctance, chambers are now having to grapple with the "unknown" or, as its refered to by other businesses, the "real world".

But sacking clerks or offering solicitors tea is not the answer to a revitalised and vigorous Bar.

As Peter Scott QC has pointed out chambers need to create a corporate identity even if this is in itself an antithesis of the Bar's foundations.

Some chambers are beginning to see the writing on the wall for traditional practices and are reviewing their options.

Sets such as 7 Fountain Court and Priory Chambers in Birmingham have already taken steps in this direction and gone for the "bigger is better" option.

Merger for mergers sake are not the only answer but wise chambers are fast learning that they must now enter the "real world".