Ex-Castle Chambers clerk to take barristers out of chambers and into cut-price service

Exeter barristers' clerk Jan Wood is pioneering a unique cut-price chambers-free service under which she will retain barristers, rather than being employed by them.

Aiming to create a broad-based set, Wood will initially be looking to take on 10 barristers whom she will retain at her own discretion.

Wood, who was senior clerk for four years at the now disbanding Castle Chambers, will become freelance from 12 May and act for independent barristers in the Western Circuit and beyond.

Operating out of a small office located near Exeter's courts with no library or conference facilities, Wood will use modern communications to keep in touch with her tenants.

She is pitching her business at barristers who dislike the administration work that goes with chambers, and do not want to have to pay heavy fees as a tenant.

Wood aims to cut a typical tenant's chambers costs by around two-thirds and claims to have won support from solicitors, the Bar Council and the Western Circuit.

Bar Council professional standards committee secretary Mark Stubbs said he had never come across such a scheme before, but that there was nothing in the Bar Council's code of practice to prevent barristers using such a service.

Wood has already secured the business of her former head of chambers, Christina Gorna, and two other Castle tenants, Gavin Collett and John Lee.

One senior London clerk commented: “What you have got here is a case where the tail is wagging the dog.” He added that there was a niche for Wood's practice. “If there's only one clerk doing it, she'll do all right,” he said.

See Chambers, page 7