Chambers' branding is good on paper

It is not only law firms which are brushing up their image chambers have been updating their look, too, reports Linda Tsang. Linda Tsang is a freelance journalist.

If solicitors are sometimes regarded as being stuffy, then barristers,with their wigs and gowns, are often seen as positively olde worlde. Yet a number of chambers have been dragging themselves into the twentieth century in time for the millennium.

In the process of updating their business practices with new technology, they have also been brushing up their images starting with their brochures.

One set that has left behind the typical look of most chambers' brochures marbled dark colour with sombre black and white photographs is 10-11 Gray's Inn Square, headed by Alan Masters.

With its striking illustrations, mission statement and glossy feel, the new-look brochure it published last year could have been mistaken for that of a trendy media firm.

But as senior clerk Richard Loasby explains: 'You need something more than a brochure which just says that the set takes on pupils and when each of the tenants was called.'

His chambers decided to seek outside help from consultancy firm Legal Practice Development.

The costs involved were 'certainly five figures', but Loasby explains that 'now it is all done, the chambers has the disks, and we can get it [the brochure] updated and printed'.

He adds: 'The technology provided with the brochure is flexible enough for it to be adapted and used for the set's Christmas card as well as for letterheads and releases.'

What the set wanted was for the brochure to give an idea of how it actually does things. Loasby explains: 'This is not a normal type of chambers, it is a bit more laid-back and less stuffy, which is a selling point to clients. The chambers is also a limited company, so it is slightly unusual in having that corporate commercial outlook.'

Reactions have been mostly positive there has been the odd solicitor who thought that it was 'too glossy' but most have said it is different, and a number have even read it.

But looks are not everything as one senior clerk comments: 'There can be a world of difference between what a set's barristers actually do and what its members would like to do. What most clients are looking for is a good track record of working as a team and on precedent-setting cases.'

This is certainly provided by other brochures such as the 84-page tome from Anthony Grabiner QC's chambers at One Essex Court and the ring-bound volume from 4-5 Gray's Inn Square, headed by Michael Beloff QC and Elizabeth Appleby QC, which is obviously easy to update.

Another commercial set, Devereux Chambers, has produced a more recent brief-sized brochure which is more in the mould of 10-11 Gray's Inn Square's offering.

Practice manager Angela Griffiths said the set wanted 'a fresh and simple image away from the pomp and formality traditionally associated with the Bar'.

Other, more unusual brochures have included the one produced by Doughty Street Chambers with its modern, quirky drawings of the chambers doorway on the cover and generic illustrations inside what practice manager Christine Kings describes as the 'cuddly version'.

At 11 Stone Buildings, headed by Michael Beckman QC, the bold move was taken of having caricatures drawn of all the tenants and the clerks.

The quality of many of the brochures now being produced demonstrates that more and more people appreciate the fact that not only should every chambers have a brochure, but it should also be done properly.

However, some chambers still consider that once the brochure is published, the set's marketing is completed. Then the brochure is not normally updated for another three to five years. But as Loasby warns: 'It is a useless document unless you use it in the right way as part of a proper strategy which raises the profile of the set.'

In his chamber's case, there has also been a series of follow-up questionnaires and phone inquiries tailored to each of the clients.

Doughty Street's Kings agrees that the brochure has to be part of a proper strategy in terms of circulation and effective distribution from chambers to clients, which includes having up-to-date mailing lists.

The chambers is in the process of preparing a new brochure which will incorporate conditional fee agreements; with periodic changes in practice, three years is seen as the optimum gap for updates.

She advises: 'Brochures don't have to look like wine lists you should ask the solicitors what information they want and need in them; and obviously, don't put anything in them that you can't deliver.'