Chambers Web sites prove an online hit

Chris fogarty reports

TWENTY sets of chambers have now launched Web sites on the Internet – and they are reporting an excellent response to their decision to go online.

Commercial and shipping law set 4 Essex Court has received more than 1,500 online visits or "hits" since late July, when it became the 20th chambers to set up a Web site.

The set is now averaging more than 200 hits a day. One person visiting a chambers site who looked at five of Essex Court's 140 multilingual pages would constitute five hits.

"I didn't expect there to be that number of hits," said Essex Court senior clerk Gordon Armstrong.

"I thought it would take a while for this Internet technology to capture people's imagination."

Conrad McDonnell, a tenant at Milton Grundy's Gray's Inn Chambers, said it was possible to identify some companies by their computer's sign-on code.

By doing this, the chambers has worked out that the majority of the 25 to 30 people (the equivalent of around 125-130 hits) who daily access its site and its Tax Case Reporting Service are from within the profession and not just casual Internet browsers.

McDonnell designed the page himself and is convinced the Web is a valuable marketing tool for a chambers.

"I believe anything we can do to make people aware of us has to be extremely cost-effective," he said.

One of the first law-related Internet sites was set up in 1993 by former 10 King's Bench Walk barrister Nicholas Lockett, who is now with solicitors Field Fisher Waterhouse.

Since then more than 100 solicitors' firms have established sites, though chambers have been slower to be convinced of their worth.

Commercial and Chancery set 11 Stone Buildings is averaging 300 hits a day on its 10- month-old Internet site.