UK Bar: Client Service at the Bar
The following sets are particularly commended for their provision of quality client service
1 Chancery Lane
Sources characterise 1 Chancery Lane as “a brilliant chambers offering some of the best clerking in the country, without a shadow of a doubt." The “absolutely fantastic” Clark Chessis is “exactly what you want in a senior clerk,” according to market commentators. He “runs the team extremely well” and is lauded for his “great market knowledge, which enables him to always select just the right barrister for any given case.” Commentators also heap praise upon the broader clerking team, describing them as “experts who absolutely know what they're doing,” and “just a great group of people to deal with.” They are “very organised, responsive and efficient, and never promise what they can't deliver.” Impressed instructing solicitors cite their “very good relationships with the clerks” as a major reason for the frequent repeat instructions received by the set, as well as the clerks' provision of a “highly personal service.” Overall, commentators “cannot fault the set, from the clerks through to the barristers. Nothing is too much trouble, they never have to be asked twice, and they deliver a service above and beyond what you would expect.”
1 Crown Office Row
1 Crown Office Row “recognises how important service is and provides fantastic clerking which is second to none.” The “well-organised” chambers receives particular praise for its extensive seminar programme, which spans areas as diverse as London, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds, and is noted for its superior meeting facilities following the refurbishment of its conference rooms. Instructing solicitors report that the “amazing team of clerks” housed in the set make 1 Crown Office Row a “go-to chambers.” In the words of one source, “the clerks are just great and are one of the biggest selling points of the set.” The clerking team is led by the highly-regarded Matthew Phipps, whom sources describe as “fantastic, experienced and very approachable.” His team is also well-respected, with sources commenting on the clerks' “brilliance and their ability to build strong relationships with instructing solicitors.” They are further praised for their deft management of matters and for their ability to resolve issues with ease, including those relating to fees and costs. Sources report a very high level of satisfaction with the service overall, and agree that “the very accommodating and very organised clerking team make it easy to use 1 Crown Office Row.” In addition to its celebrated clerking team, the set also distributes an annual newsletter and is responsible for running the 'Human Rights Blog,' a respected, award-winning resource that provides both insightful commentary and a platform for discussion and debate.
9 Gough Square
Commentators report that they are “very satisfied” with the service provided by the staff at 9 Gough Square. “From the receptionists and clerks through to the head of chambers, they are reliably friendly, polite, professional, well-presented and welcoming.” Many solicitors cite the “highly-organised clerking team” as a key motivation for instructing the set, adding that “they really do go above and beyond the call of duty and are always happy to help, which makes instructing solicitors' lives very easy.” Head clerk, Michael Goodridge, “runs the show,” and is characterised as an “exceptional, extremely helpful” member of the team. Commentators enthuse that “there is no senior clerk more committed or enthusiastic than Michael – he has a knack for making things happen and is instrumental to the success of this chambers.” He is also considered to be “commercially astute and able to resolve issues quickly given his excellent grasp of the market.” Goodridge is lauded for the way in which he “runs a well-organised ship,” consisting of “excellent clerks who are really on the ball and highly-effective.” The “helpful and attentive” clerking team receive further praise for their “very commercially-minded and realistic approach.”
Fountain Court Chambers
Fountain court is highlighted for its “excellent, all-round service.” According to impressed sources, “the clerking team provides impeccable assistance and advice; you can't ask for much more.” Alex Taylor leads the clerking team, while Paul Martenstyn continues to act in the capacity of deputy senior clerk. They are singled out as “a class above the rest” given their “responsiveness, approachability and true understanding of the value of commercial relationships. They will always match the right counsel to the right cases, and they're not salesmen; they want to offer quality at the right price.” According to market commentators, the wider clerking team consists of “incredibly responsive, helpful, organised, commercially-minded and customer-focused” individuals. The set is praised for its transparent billing and willingness to engage in “sensible discussions on fees,” while the clerks are also lauded for the way in which they are “enormously accommodating when advice is needed at short notice.” Instructing solicitors particularly appreciate that the chambers “never oversells or over-promises.” Overall, “the staff here are just brilliant – they always go above and beyond the call of duty, and nothing is too much hassle. The service is exceptional.”
One Essex Court
Given the extensive range of cases handled by the tenants at One Essex Court, instructing solicitors appreciate that the set has "great depth in the clerking team.” The chambers boasts “universally excellent clerking,” and commentators note that “whichever clerk you deal with, they are always responsive and responsible.” Solicitors are confident that “if you say that a case involves certain aspects, and a client has certain needs, the clerks will always come up with a fair and accurate account of each barrister they suggest.” Sources also consider those in the clerks' room to be helpful when assistance is required at short notice, with one source saying: “knowing you have someone on hand to help makes you really feel that One Essex are part of the team.” Darren Burrows is the senior clerk at the set and attracts a wealth of praise for his extensive experience and knowledge. “Burrows is an absolute legend,” says one source. “His responsiveness is incredible and he knows the chambers inside and out.” Sources summarise that “the thing that really sets One Essex Court apart is the clerking and the whole mentality of how they do their job. They're wonderful.”
Serjeants' Inn Chambers
The quality clerking team at Serjeants' Inn Chambers is known to be "very friendly, well-organised and always happy to assist with finding a barrister at the last minute." This "co-operative, helpful and responsive" team is noted for being particularly easy to deal with and highly approachable. Commentators direct praise at the set's "absolutely brilliant" Lee Johnson, a "lovely and down-to-earth" senior clerk with a "solution-orientated" approach. In addition, the group is commended for its ability to put on excellent training sessions, and the director of client care, Catherine Calder, is singled out for praise: "she is seriously impressive and stunningly well-organised. She is one of those people you want to hire for any job and is just worth her weight in gold."
She is ably assisted by Jon Comlay, whose “highbrow approach to the job” is much appreciated by commentators. Interviewees also comment on the set's impressive premises at 85 Fleet Street, particularly highlighting the integration of technology into the fabric of the building. One source acknowledges that this use of technology "sounds like a small thing, but is really important and makes a big difference to a lay client."
2 Hare Court
Sources attest that the clerks at 2 Hare Court are “very approachable, organised, contactable even late into the night, and always clear about what they can achieve and offer.” They are highly knowledgeable about the various practice areas covered by the set's barristers, and are particularly praised for their ability to swiftly match up the most appropriate member of counsel to each case. One impressed source enthuses: “The clerks are outstanding. They bend over backwards to help and have an incisive understanding of specialist areas of law which enables them to tailor their assistance accordingly.” This “well-oiled machine” is led by director of clerking Julian Campbell, who is “incredibly supportive, highly efficient and someone who applies commerciality to his clerking.” Ben Heaviside, the set's “fantastic” senior practice clerk, is also highly-praised by instructing solicitors. In addition, practice clerk Tara Johnson is regarded as “the queen of clerks” by one impressed source, who says: “Tara is keen to learn about each case to ensure that it is carefully allocated. She always goes above and beyond and attends to requests instantaneously. She is incredibly personable and holds exceptional knowledge about members of chambers’ practice and development.”
5 Paper Buildings
The clerks' room at 5 Paper Buildings receives widespread praise from instructing solicitors. One source describes the "exceptional service" provided by the clerks, who are known to be "extremely accommodating and extremely communicative." Another interviewee commends the way in which solicitors can "reliably deal with one point of contact who is always absolutely up to date with the cases, which is a very sensible way of managing things." Crucially, sources find that the set "takes a really reasonable approach to fees which makes it very easy to have frank conversations" regarding costs and clients' budgets. The seven-strong clerking and administrative team is led by the "smart and charming" Dale Jones, who has held the senior clerk role since 2004. Jones is characterised as a "very responsive and no-nonsense" individual who offers a true wealth of experience.
4 New Square
Senior clerk Lizzy Stewart heads the clerking team, which is described as “very helpful, friendly and accommodating.” Instructing solicitors are impressed by the responsiveness, commitment and turnaround time of the team, with one commenting that “the clerks are spot on; they are always available and always willing to try to help with things at short notice,” and another adding that “they will go the extra mile to get things done within 24 hours, if needs be.” Solicitors appreciate the clerks' in-depth knowledge of counsel's strengths and specialisms, saying: “the clerks are always able to deliver someone at the right level and with the right expertise, regardless of the issue or how unusual it might be. They have a good understanding of the barristers' particular strengths, and they always make recommendations with plenty of explanation as to why." Lizzy Stewart epitomises the set's attitude to client service given her “approachability and willingness to have open discussions." Two deputy senior clerks are also highlighted by commentators: Dennis Peck “repeatedly goes above and beyond what is asked of him,” and Alex Dolby is “very quick and very helpful.” Overall, the impression is of “a modern, outward-looking chambers" housing "very personable clerks and barristers."
Senior clerks Lucy Barbett and Mark Dann manage a clerks' room that provides an “absolutely first class service,” and is staffed by a team who are “very helpful and attentive, from the most senior through to the juniors.” Solicitors comment that “Lucy Barbett is wonderful. She's highly attuned to client needs and is just so good at picking the right barrister for a case. If Lucy promises she will do something, you know she will. There's no question that she won't deliver.” Sources are similarly appreciative of Mark Dann, who is characterised as “very helpful and responsive.” Instructing parties report “a more modern feel” to 11KBW's clerking: user-friendly, responsive, dedicated and supportive are common epithets for the team, who “could not be nicer or more accommodating” and who “ will readily go the extra mile to assist.” They are particularly praised for their sensitivity to solicitors' requirements, with sources saying that “they are mindful of your needs and understand the pressures of being a solicitor and the need to give a quick response. They really take the trouble to understand the work we are doing.” Candour and flexibility characterise the set's fee arrangements, with one solicitor reporting that “billing is always clear and transparent, and I always feel like I can talk to clerks about it.” Sources also appreciate that clerks are “good at suggesting which barrister will be appropriate for a case, and can usually find someone at very short notice." One of the set's distinguishing attributes is its willingness to provide 'extra' services. Sources "really value that additional support given to practitioners," and report that regional conferences are “an invaluable service that we wouldn't normally get access to locally.” Solicitors also appreciate the set's “useful and regularly updated FOIA blog.” With an “extremely knowledgeable group of barristers who deliver a top quality and cost effective service” and an administrative team who are “among the best clerks in London,” counsel and clerks alike share the credit for 11KBW's reputation as “a very well-run and organised chambers.” Instructing solicitors continue to find that “the set is very keen on maintaining client relationships,” and state that “the mentality of their barristers is what attracts us and our clients to them.”
Senior clerk David Hockney is a "charming guy and a pleasure to deal with.” He has a reputation for being “very responsive and easy to talk to with regard to fees." He runs an excellent and user-friendly team, which is known for its responsiveness, approachability and commercial awareness. First junior clerk John Keegan is “great, very responsive and good at getting listings." The senior clerking team beneath him is made up of: the “brilliant” Sam Fullilive; Gemma Goodwin, who is “always at the end of the phone” and “very good at getting back to you”; and Steven Duffet, who is “very effective, very kind, and always has all the details about the case.” Solicitors also praise clerks “at the junior end who go out of their way to get what you need.” This dedication is typical of the team, which is “singled out for being exceptionally helpful and going the extra mile when you have difficult cases.” As well as being open to discussions on fees, the clerking team is “keen to sort out any issues,” and one source would have “no hesitation in picking up the phone and speaking to them candidly.” The set's client service is summed up by one solicitor, who says: "the clerking has been absolutely perfect; head clerk David Hockney runs a very sharp operation there. They like to find a way to facilitate all pockets and be pragmatic, and they're willing to accommodate you which means, in turn, you keep going back for more." Another satisfied customer commented: "The chambers as a whole is fantastic. The commitment to the best interests of the client is exemplary and the barristers are very ably supported by everyone from the receptionist to the clerks. Monckton is a class act."
Matrix Chambers takes a relatively unusual but highly successful approach to case administration, dividing practice areas among dedicated clerking teams. Jason Housden is the senior practice manager and leads Practice Team X, which handles the administration of telecoms, commercial, corporate compliance, competition, EU law, human rights, immigration, public law, community care, health and mental health, education, and environmental law cases. Sources find him “particularly impressive and very quick to respond.” Cliff Holland is head of Practice Team M, which handles clerking for employment, media, information and sports law cases, while Paul Venables heads Practice Team T, which looks after arbitration, public international law, crime, extradition, regulatory, inquests and inquiries and police law. Both these two are known for their geniality and in-depth knowledge of the practice areas they handle. Solicitors find the practice team model “very forward-thinking” and consider Matrix to be “one of the best sets in terms of how it is run.” Sources report that one of the many selling points for instructing parties is that the clerks “truly take the time to understand what solicitor clients want and readily accommodate all the requests we make, whilst being extremely personable.” Counsel are routinely described as user-friendly, easy to work with and good with clients. This modern and dynamic chambers is considered to be “the gold standard of clerking” and, from clerks to counsel, “has an ethos that is very supportive.”
Led by senior clerk Justin Wilson, the team at Atkin is described as “absolutely top of the range and in a league of its own.” It is highlighted as a modern and innovative set, and one that “doesn't rely on past reputation or rest on its laurels.” The group's approach is captured by sources who note that “their clerks go above and beyond for you and are always thinking of new ways to help.” The set's service focus came up again and again during our research and is epitomised by Justin who receives particular praise for “taking the time to get to know you so he knows exactly what you want and who you would work well with.” The wider team is also highly praised and includes “committed, service-focussed clerks, all of whom are pleasant to work with and can't do enough to help.” The team is also consistently praised for its fairness on fees with sources noting that “the clerks place an impetus on giving you the best bang for your buck.” “They are very good at doing deals on fees,” and “they assist you with costs and budgets.”
Brick Court Chambers
A set that is singled out for its “first rate” clerking and “client service-oriented, commercial approach.” Instructing solicitors describe a clerksroom that is “extremely efficient and keen to assist and respond immediate to queries or requests,” as well as one that is “organised, helpful and a flawless operation overall.” The team is led by Julian Hawes and Ian Moyler, who “run a good shop,” alongside deputy senior clerk Paul Dennison who is praised for his “extreme efficiency.” The group is applauded for its understanding of the firms it works with. “They get to know you as a client and recommend people who will be a good fit,” reports one source, whilst another notes that they are “transparent about availability and strike the right balance between making people available and not over selling people who are too busy.” The clerks are noted for being forward thinking, as exemplified by one source who says “they've adapted to the post-Jackson world and they have a good understanding of cost and client demands.”
Francis Taylor Building
Sources are unequivocal when they describe the clerking at Francis Taylor as “absolutely top rate.” Instructing solicitors run out of superlatives when detailing the team's excellence, with one saying “the clerking is exemplary. The best. I can't fault it to be honest, the client care ticks all of the boxes.” The group is said to manage their barristers very well, with sources noting that “they know all the availability and have sensible discussions on fees, which makes the whole process tremendously easy.” The team's commercial acumen is second to none, as demonstrated by the clerks' “commercial mindedness and understanding of the different requirements of its clients” and its “ability to match the style of barrister to the differing needs of commercial and private clients.” Francis Taylor Building is best summed up, as it was by one interviewee, as “a very efficient and friendly set where the clerks are unerringly helpful and accommodating.”
A set conspicuous for the high quality client service dispensed by its “top class” clerking team. Interviewees speak of a “very sophisticated, top notch operation” led by chief clerk John White. Instructing solicitors reveal that “John and the clerks at Henderson have always been excellent and without doubt go beyond expectations.” Users of the set talk of the relaxed yet effective work style of the “highly personable team.” Numerous sources echoed the sentiment that “the fact the clerks and barristers are very nice people to deal with is really valued by the client.” A recurring theme of the commentary from our interviews was the reliability of the clerking team. One solicitor noted that “you don't get bumped from the diary for potentially sexier work,” whilst another notes that “they will find the right level person for the piece of work and, if it's urgent, they'll really work to find someone in the time you need.” They are further praised along these lines for being “very helpful in terms of recommending people and giving price and fee estimates.” One impressed source said: “they are just reliable. You never feel let down by them and they set out to deliver a high level of service.”
Instructing solicitors flock to 7KBW because of its winning “combination of excellent barristers and a first-rate clerking team.” Senior clerk Bernie Hyatt is highlighted for his “very engaging” manner and facility for forging and maintaining strong relationships, which are underpinned by his organisational ability: “Bernie's the man to make a plan,” says one solicitor. Also charged with running the team, senior clerk Greg Leyden is, according to one source, “one of the primary reasons I go to the set: he's very good at putting you with the right people.” The culture of service they oversee is “always extremely friendly and commercially-minded,” as witnessed by reports that “the clerks are very responsive, very accommodating and adept at arranging listings and counsels' diaries.” Another source adds, “I have never seen more supportive clerks in my life - whether it be responding to questions, requests for numbers or just queries about availability, they really seem to care.” The combined impressions of the support offered by the team are perhaps best summarised by a client who said, “the clerks at 7KBW make such a difference: they provide a committed and excellent service and are a credit to the chambers.” The set is further blessed in having Practice Development and Marketing Director Brian Lee on board. Lee is a man of great experience who is noted for his great market contacts and in-depth knowledge of the commercial law scene both domestically and overseas.
Long-standing clients of the set remark on the “Rolls-Royce service” they have enjoyed seamlessly over the years. William Meade oversees the “top-notch clerking” here, and is “a proactive, forward-looking senior clerk who instils that approach in the rest of the team.” Another source adds, “he is absolutely brilliant: if I have a certain type of case and client, I know whoever he recommends will be an excellent fit.” A number of solicitors are grateful for the lengths the clerks will go to on their behalf, with one recalling, “we instructed them at the last minute a couple of times and they were efficient and swift in getting us a barrister.” Another sums up the prevailing sentiment that “they can't do enough for you – they are very receptive and very supportive.” As well as a tireless work ethic, sources also report that “the value for money is outstanding,” and that the set is “very competitive and accommodating on rates.” The overall impression revealed by an impressive brace of positive references is one of a set which is joined-up and dedicated to client service at all levels, from barristers who “go the extra mile to ensure cases are properly prepared” to clerks who “organise the diaries effectively. If we need to shoehorn a conference in ASAP, you can be sure that it will be pencilled in.”
Interviewees find the set “takes a modern approach to dealing with clients and providing the ever-evolving services which barristers these days are called upon to produce.” The task of marshalling the set's powerful resources falls to chief executive Carolyn McCombe and senior clerks Stewart Gibbs and Carl Wall. Sources say “the clerking has always been good there: they return calls quickly, they make you feel very welcome and are very attentive.” Instructing solicitors appreciate that “they never try and foist people on you; rather, they listen to what you're looking for on each case and try and match you to the appropriate counsel.” Another source adds, “they have a great knack for finding absolutely the right person at the right price and understand the need to invest in long-term relationships with instructing solicitors.” A common theme in interviews is that, given the talent housed by the set, “they're one of the most competitively priced chambers,” and “are open to discussions about fees - they understand the world we live in.” Another hallmark of chambers is its “very collegiate” spirit; the barristers “operate as a very close-knit set and the silks often recommend juniors to us.” One source neatly sums up: “The whole team is efficient in their communication, clear in their fee estimates and understand the need to act in unison with instructing solicitors to provide a seamless client service.”
Interviewees find the operation at Ropewalk “pleasingly modern and easy to deal with,” while the clerks are praised for their “deep understanding of the market.” The clerking team is led by Tony Hill, a man of great good cheer, who, according to one long-standing user of the set, “will always find a means by which he can get something sorted out, even if I'm asking for instructions at the last minute.” He presides over a service culture that encourages “friendly and cooperative” interactions with solicitors and clients. Sources describe the clerks as “courteous, accommodating, absolutely lovely and anxious to please.” “They ensure that if you can't get your counsel of choice, there is always someone there as a back-up who is as good as your first choice.” Another source says “they will always find out exactly what the case is about before recommending someone, and will always find someone that they know will do the job well.” The set's fees, for a stable of extremely talented and accomplished barristers, are deemed to be very reasonable, and sources find the clerks are prepared to be flexible in budget discussions, leaving interviewees “satisfied with the value for money” on offer. The overwhelming impression is of a set where “the clerking is superb: they're always happy to help and will go the extra mile to do so.”