Pair of consultancies set up to fill sets' management vacuum

Two consultancies have been established to offer chambers independent practice management and marketing advice.

Former director of chambers at Barnards Inn, Andrea Kennedy, has been undertaking freelance consultancy work since she left the set in October, while solicitor Vicky Thompson has just established a practice management and marketing service for the Bar offering a no-outcome, no-fee option.

Victoria Thompson Associates maintains it will achieve specific objectives as defined by clients, such as implementing the Bar Practice Management Standard, within a month of receiving instructions or it will waive the £5,000 fee.

Thompson, who used to work for the Lord Chancellor's Department, researched the Bar for 12 months before launching her consultancy, and is confident there is demand for a wide range of services.

She said some barristers were incapable of running their administrative affairs, not because of incompetence, but because of a lack of interest in that side of the business or heavy workloads. Thompson is aiming her service at sets which are still being managed by senior clerks, a group who have not always welcomed the arrival of a practice manager into their chambers.

She said she wanted to work with the clerk's room, but would not be frightened of identifying a set's weaknesses.

"I think too many people around this part of the profession are not prepared to say what they think," she said.

Kennedy, who is offering internal management, marketing and strategic advice for chambers, said consultants must have an empathy with and understanding of clients' needs.

"The good consultant for the Bar will have a clear understanding of the Bar because it's unlike any other business I'm aware of. It's such a unique profession in the way it's run," she said.

Legal Practice Management Association chair Christine Kings, who is practice manager at Doughty Street Chambers, said the arrival of freelance practice management consultants offered benefits and drawbacks to the Bar. "Some chambers might find it useful if they wanted a practice manager but for whatever reason it would be too disruptive to employ one full time."

But she added: "I don't think you can bring about the massive change of culture that is necessary at the Bar by using outside consultants."