The Lawyer Management: 9 Gough Square

Fiona Robb, a former management consultant at KPMG, was previously chief operating officer at patent and trademark attorney firm Boult Wade Tennant and before that head of ­operations at Norton Rose.


What does your role involve?

I’m almost at the end of my second month in the job and so far I’d ­describe my role as encompassing pretty much everything about the day-to-day running of a leading set of barristers and the strategic planning for the business. It’s this variety and ability to interact with every area of the business that attracted me to the role. Each day so far has been different and I’m never sure what the next will bring. That keeps life interesting.

What made you want to join a barristers’ chambers?

When the previous CEO moved on I joined as only the fourth CEO in all that time. One of the reasons I wanted to join 9 Gough Square [chambers of Grahame Aldous QC] was because of the lawyers’ reputation for being friendly and approachable, as well as being good at what they do.
The two don’t always go together, and being a set that specialises in the areas of civil and criminal law ­[including personal injury and ­clinical negligence] means we’re often closer to the ’human story’ in a legal ­situation than can sometimes be the case.

What’s in your in-tray?

One of the aspects of my role that I’m particularly enjoying is the opportunity to meet clients and business partners to find out from them what we do well, what we could do better and how we can work together in the future. I’m also putting together the business plan and budget for discussion at the AGM in March. Chambers is run as a democracy, with every barrister having a say in how it’s managed. This is a very different corporate model from what I’ve been used to and makes a refreshing change. The fact that for a long time this chambers has bought into the idea of being properly managed has made my first few weeks easier.

Who’s in your core team?

The senior clerks and functional heads on the support team report to me.

Which boards do you sit on?

I attend the management committee and work closely with it. It is, in ­effect, the board of directors.

What’s the most pressing external issue that’s likely to have an impact on your role?

There are big changes on the horizon in funding and legislation that will affect some of our work and that of our clients. There’s a great deal of ­uncertainty about what the effect of these changes will be and part of my role is to make sure we’re ready to adapt to the challenges and opportunities they bring. Whenever I’m out networking it’s obvious that this is a big unknown. Nobody really knows how it’s going to work. We see it as a question of building on the relationships we have with our clients – building trust and understanding of each other’s needs.

What are the key ways you hope to improve efficiency at 9 Gough Square?

I hope to prepare us for legislative and market changes and to build on the reputation and goodwill we have with clients. I want to bring a more corporate approach to some of the ways we do things, particularly in the area of managing finance, marketing and business development, but at the same time I want to make sure we ­retain our friendly and approachable ’vibe’.

Which technology products does chambers use?

We use a system called Meridian Law that’s unique to barristers and not like anything I’ve used before. It’s like a combined diary and case management system, and it takes a while to get to grips with its functionality. We’re committed, however, to serious investment in IT and making it work for us and our clients.