Doughty corporate plan aims to beat fee squeeze

Doughty Street Chambers is planning to launch a subsidiary incorporated body to channel direct access work.

Robin Jackson
Robin Jackson

Chambers director Robin Jackson said: “We are of course looking at all options for using corporate entities to best effect. That doesn’t necessarily mean all ­members of chambers will be working on a corporate structure; it could well be we have an umbrella ­organisation.”

The move will enable Doughty Street’s members to group together to pitch for work and, in some cases, offer deals on fees.

It is envisaged that the corporate structure would target clients in the public sector, such as local authorities that have moved towards establishing bar panels.

“We need to start dealing with clients in a different way,” said Jackson.

The mid-tier bar is being forced to modernise in order to keep up with wider changes in the profession. Pressures on fees are being passed on to barristers by litigators and legal aid work is also under pressure from the Legal Services Commission.

Having the ability to be more flexible on costs is one way that sets can compete. However, any plans cannot be put into action until the Bar Standards Board (BSB) agrees a framework for regulating entities as opposed to ­individuals.

The BSB launched a consultation on regulatory reform in September, but the approved reforms are not expected to come into effect until 2013.

Jackson said the regulator was at risk of falling behind the barristers it regulates, adding: “In my view, they need to hurry up.”