UK roundup – The bar

Hackney Council chooses dozen for panel
It took them the best part of the year, but Hackney Borough Council has finally unveiled its brand-new barristers’ panel.

The 12-strong panel is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK – although other councils, including a Midlands triumvirate of Derby, Leicester and Stoke-on-Trent, have also begun the process.

Hackney had one major goal in mind when it started its review: to save money. Accordingly, sets were ranked on price before the procurement team looked at service delivery and suitability for the different types of work. The 12 lucky chambers – 4 Brick Court, Bridewell Chambers, Lamb Building, Hardwicke Building, Henderson Chambers, 13 King’s Bench Walk, 1 Middle Temple Lane Chambers, Outer Temple Chambers, Renaissance Chambers, Tanfield Chambers, Three Raymond Building and Tooks Chambers – will now share in Hackney’s legal spend. The sets have been appointed to cover planning, property, procurement, employment, education, corporate governance, social services and general litigation work.

Plenty of sets applied for places on the panel and failed. A member of the administration team at one unsuccessful set commented that as soon as price became paramount, the chambers knew its chances of success were diminished.

The panel will be reviewed at some point in the future. In the meantime, it will be worth keeping track of how many organisations choose to follow Hackney’s lead in this untested method of instructing barristers.

Scottish QCs advocate steps to see off English
A move away from the traditional is also afoot north of the border, where two Scottish advocates are aiming to shake up the enclosed advocacy market.

John Campbell QC and John Carruthers are two of the 460 or so Scottish advocates currently practising. The number is dramatically smaller than the number of barristers in England and Wales, making the market much less competitive and far more old-fashioned.

Carruthers and Campbell are planning to leave their respective ‘stables’ – groups of advocates managed by a team of clerks and named after the senior clerk – to set up an English-style chambers. In a dramatic move away from the norm, the duo are hiring a clerk and business development manager and will be investing in the chambers management software commonly used south of the border. Carruthers tells The Lawyer that the pair’s move is an effort to fight back against the threat of competition from English barristers moving north to take on work in Scotland. The English and Welsh chambers system allows barristers to market their services actively, and while this is still a relatively new innovation, it has been wholeheartedly embraced by most of the larger sets.

Many Scottish advocates are also heading south to take up door or full tenancies at London sets. One recent example saw Flynn Stable’s Heriot Currie QC move to Monckton Chambers.

Campbell and Carruthers join just one other advocate, Richard Anderson, in not sourcing their clerking services from the Faculty of Advocates’ company Faculty Services Limited. They have declared their independence in fine style, and now just need to make the venture work in order to be the vanguard of a new era in Scottish advocacy.

First set director to change face of Hollis Whiteman
Modernisation is also the aim at criminal giant Hollis Whiteman Chambers. Earlier this year Hollis Whiteman bid farewell to five barristers, its senior clerk Michael Greenaway and first junior clerk Nick Newman as they quit to set up new high-value set Cloth Fair Chambers.

At the time, head of chambers Vivian Robinson QC announced a strategic review of management that would see a brand-new structure, including Hollis Whiteman’s first-ever chambers director.

Vicky Thompson, who joins the set from Bates Wells & Braithwaite, where she was a senior manager working with former Maitland Chambers chief executive Peter Bennett, has now arrived to set about the modernisation process.

Thompson’s background prior to her work at Bates Wells was in bar management, so she is ideally placed to work with new senior clerk Bill Conner to drive Hollis Whiteman through the changes proposed by the Carter reforms of legal aid.

Old Square’s winning ways in landmark case
MEANwhile, Old Square Chambers has had a rather good month. The employment and personal injury specialists had barristers on both sides of the landmark European Court of Justice equal pay claim brought by Bernadette Cadman against the Health & Safety Executive, making it a real win-win situation. The set has also hired two extra barristers, with Paul Gilroy QC of 9 St John Street Chambers in Manchester and Simon Gorton from Liverpool set Atlantic Chambers moving into Old Square’s brand new premises.

The chambers has shifted to larger offices in Bedford Row after it ran out of space in its old Verulam Building premises, and has funded the acquisition through the nowcommon pension fund scheme method, property investors and members’ contributions.