Claire and I have spent some time in the past few weeks talking to clients and organisations in the market. We are very grateful to those who spared their time and been prepared to offer their advice.
The practice development service offered by Complete Counsel is intended to give Barristers the best opportunity to maintain and develop their practice in a challenging market. Understanding the needs and expectations of clients and suppliers is clearly vital if this service is to be valuable.
What has been striking is how similar the views are of those we have spoken to. First, in terms of their perception that the Bar is still wedded to a very traditional model and therefore the working processes and standards that fit with such a model.
Secondly, and by way of contrast, there is a clear consensus as to what the customers, or in many cases, potential customers of the Bar really want.
Reflecting on this, and in the best traditions of management speak, the acronym of RUSE emerges, that is,
This means responding quickly, appropriately and fully.
Understanding clients’ needs
Responsiveness is clearly part of this, but Barristers also need to understand the financial and time pressures on their clients. Barristers who insist on formality of instruction and billing for every small item of advice are not understanding the needs of their clients.
Sophisticated law firms now have the capacity to conduct litigation without any obvious need for the services of the Bar. If Barristers are going to be instructed, then they have to be perceived as offering something more in terms of detailed knowledge, specialised advice and above all, advocacy skills.
This obviously includes education, training and informal support, in particular for junior lawyers. Astute Barristers will assist their clients with networking and client contact.
These principles may seem basic and as predating the emergence of the digital economy. However, the new and developing working practices based on IT can be seen in the specific application of these principles in terms of responsiveness, informality and wide networking. The inevitability is that Barristers who will succeed in this market must be more prepared to step into the frontline and not hide behind a clerking process.