Matheu Swallow reports

The newly established Lancaster Buildings in Manchester is the first intellectual property set to be based outside of London.

However, its most striking feature is that it has been given the moniker of the first "virtual chambers". The IP specialists at the set collectively call themselves the Northern Intellectual Property Chambers (NIPC).

Their strategy is to make themselves available to solicitors everywhere by offering a service which makes full use of modern technology. NIPC can boast experts based all over the UK and Ireland all able to work from home while keeping in touch with clients and each other via e-mail, telephone conferencing and their Web site.

One of the main advantages is that costs are low because the premises are small and members save time on commuting.

One of the most innovative aspects of Lancaster Buildings' Web site is its role as the "virtual home" of the "The Cyberlaw Consortium", which the set has established with a group of Malaysian law firms.

In a memorandum of understanding, the two sides have agreed to work together to promote the greater awareness and understanding of cyberlaw – the laws required for the successful establishment, running and development of the Internet.

The agreement will involve an exchange of lawyers between Lancaster Buildings and members of the Malaysian Cyberlaw Consortium. NIPC barristers will brief visiting Malaysian lawyers on the law and the practice of IP law in the UK and Europe, who in turn will contribute articles on Asian Pacific Cyberlaw to the NIPC IP newsletter available on

Robert Roper, the senior litigation partner from Manchester firm Cobbetts says that, although traditionally his firm has tended to instruct London sets, he finds NIPC's service "very helpful, the barristers very informed and the Web site very instructive".

A sole practitioner from the south of England who first instructed John Lambert, NIPC's head of chambers, three years ago and has continued to do so ever since, finds the service offered by NIPC very user-friendly and efficient.