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Barristers to instruct solicitors under new business model

28 April 2010

Barristers’ chambers could instruct solicitors under the Bar Council’s plans for new business structures.

The idea is to give sets of chambers more flexibility in bidding for work from large companies and local authorities. The plan would also allow barristers to bid for legal aid contracts.

Launching the new business model, called ‘ProcureCo’, Nicholas Green QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said this week that some chambers had already set up similar companies on a case-by-case basis.

“I am aware from numerous conversations with members of the Bar and with clerks and practice managers that the Bar needs greater flexibility in what is a rapidly changing marketplace,” he said.

“I am confident that the Bar will take the model terms and modify and develop them to suit their particular needs.”

Green said the Bar Council had instructed solicitors Field Fisher Waterhouse to draw up a set of documents to act as a ‘toolkit’ which could be adapted by sets of chambers.

In his introduction to the ‘ProcureCo’ documents, Green said: “The basic thinking underlying the model reflects the self-employed Bar’s strongly held belief that it wishes to preserve the traditional chambers structure at its core.

“The profession is characterised by a strong adhesion to the principle of independence where each member of chambers owes his or her primary duty to the court and to clients but not to colleagues in chambers.

“For this reason the partnership model, with its attendant complications arising out of conflicts of interest, is not one which the Bar generally considers makes business sense.”

Green said the ProcureCo model preserved the traditional chambers structure but allowed corporate vehicles to be added as adjuncts or ‘bolt-ons’.

He said the model would give the Bar the ability to bring together a range of skills.

“For example, a ProcureCo might win a contract for work with a block purchaser which requires the skills of a solicitor in conjunction with those of the barrister,” he said.

In this case, barristers would be used for some of the work and solicitors on a ProcureCo panel for the rest.

Green said chambers were considering setting up (or had already set up) ProcureCos for a diverse range of work including international work, City advisory work, ADR and mediation, arbitration and local authority work.

He added that the Bar Council was also discussing with the LSC the use of different business models for direct legal aid contracting.

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