Herbert Smith is set to throw down the gauntlet to the bar with the launch of its own set of chambers – with the hire of a top QC and up to six junior barristers – to decrease its reliance on the junior bar.
The firm intends to use the chambers to provide a more seamless service to clients who need a barrister’s advice, but do not want to use outside counsel.
Herbert Smith head of litigation David Gold told The Lawyer: “As a firm, we’re committed to increasing our advocacy profile. We’re looking at all options as to how to do this, but haven’t yet committed to a course of action.”
Herbert Smith does not intend to stop using any of the barristers or chambers it currently has relationships with, but would hope to use its own barristers, including the top QC it wants to attract, on everything up to and including its biggest cases.
One source at the firm stressed that partners will always choose the best barrister for a case, without being pressured to use internal counsel. “We could have a situation where a top QC like Jonathan Sumption is leading a couple of our own juniors. However, we’d like it if clients wanted to use our QC,” the source said.
The firm is believed to be planning to tempt clients into using its own barristers with the promise of lower hourly rates than it currently charges for its solicitor-advocates.
A source at a rival City firm said: “This is the ideal way of getting around that problem. Everyone has been talking about this idea for years, but if there’s one firm that can pull it off, it will be Herbert Smith.”
It is understood that the chambers will be based at Herbert Smith’s existing conference facility in 5 Bell Yard, but that the barristers will be encouraged to work out of the firm’s main Broadgate offices as much as possible. Gold said that the plan is still at an early stage.