This week we’re all talking barristers’ chambers

When thinking about becoming a barrister there are more options than simply working in private practice at the bar.

This week North West Firm Hill Dickinson became the latest firm to launch an in-house barristers chambers following on the coat-tails of litigation giant Herbert Smith and national firm Eversheds (see story).

It has reignited the debate over whether in-house advocacy units are a viable option for barristers.

The idea of an in-house chambers is to offer a one-stop-shop to clients.

Barristers and solicitor-advocates work side by side to offer, what Herbert Smiths litigation chief Sonya Leydecker calls a much better service as it saves money and time.

The savings apparently come from the units not having to refer out work to the bar on simple court applications and short hearings of about a week or so.

Another bonus for the law firm is that bringing a chambers in-house could be a good foundation to prepare for the overhaul of the legal profession that will take effect when the Legal Services Act comes into force.

The act which, is expected to come into play in four years, will see among others companies being able to invest in law firms but more importantly will allow barristers and solicitors to set up together as partners, which isnt currently allowed.

Therefore, law firms that already have barristers in-house have first-mover advantage when it comes to setting up barrister-solicitor partnerships if they so wish.

So for the client and the law firm it sounds that an in-house chambers is an attractive set up. But whats the attraction for the barrister?

If complex advocacy is their true love then a law firms unit would not be the right place for them. When it comes to the more specialist or long-term cases the in-house sets will still have to refer the work to the bar.

Using a law firms own team would not be cost effective as it ties too many of its lawyers up for to long a period. Also it wouldnt necessarily be in the clients best interest as the firms advocates might not have the expert knowledge required.

The court work for the in-house barrister therefore may not be as interesting as that a barrister at the bar would get.

On the flipside, an in-house chambers can offer barristers stability that the bar cannot. Private practitioner barristers are self-employed so their income can vary one year to the next.

As part of a law firms set there is a guaranteed wage, which has to be appealing to the young barrister starting out.

To be an in-house barrister or not to be? You decide.