UK BAR: Client Service at the BAR
Discover which sets are particularly commended for their provision of quality client service, as researched by the Chambers UK Bar team.
Crown Office Chambers
Impressed instructing solicitors report that the clerking at Crown Office Chambers is “consistently excellent and a real draw for chambers,” adding that “the clerks are always very helpful and you can really trust their recommendations.” The clerking team is led by the “very responsive and attentive” Andy Flanagan, the set’s senior managing clerk, who is consistently praised as “a lovely guy who really knows the different strengths of his counsel.” Flanagan is ably supported by a strong team of senior clerks, including the “understanding and responsive” Steve Purse, who serves as the senior insurance and professional liability clerk, and the “excellent” James Wilkinson, who clerks the set’s clinical negligence and personal injury team. The set’s senior criminal regulatory and environmental clerk Toby Sparrow is also held in high regard by instructing solicitors, who describe him as “incredibly proactive, very accommodating and straightforward to deal with on fees.” Interviewees further add: “He is extremely focused, works well in relation to all his barristers and takes a keen interest in the cases coming through the door. He’s very easy to deal with and works hard to ensure availability – Toby really enhances the regulatory offering.” In addition to the stellar service provided by the clerking team, the set’s seminar series is also mentioned regularly by interviewees, who describe the events as “very informative and on trend in terms of recent legal issues and developments.” Another solicitor notes: “The clerking team is one of the major selling points of Crown Office Chambers – everyone is approachable, responsive and takes a commercial approach. They can be flexible on fees and are prompt in issuing fee notes, which is such a simple thing but makes all the difference.”
4 Paper Buildings
According to one source: “4 Paper Buildings stands out not just for the exceptional calibre of its barristers, but also because of the warmth and team spirit shown at every level of chambers, including by the clerks, who are the best in London.” The clerking team is exceptionally well-regarded by those that instruct the set, with one solicitor reporting: “They are accommodating with timeframes, flexible with fees when needed and always have someone suitable to offer for a case.” Another remarks that “the set is my first port of call as I have never had a bad experience and the clerks are superb – everyone is friendly, efficient and always on hand to assist.” Interviewees speak extremely highly of senior clerk Michael Reeves, who “runs a tight ship” and “is a fantastic example of how to make clients feel appreciated and looked after.” First junior clerk Paul Hennessy also receives fulsome praise from sources who say: “Paul is wonderful – so helpful and willing to do whatever is necessary to help you out in a difficult situation. Nothing is ever too much trouble for him.” This accommodating and supportive atmosphere is considered a key aspect of the set’s appeal within the family law market, and firmly positions the clerks as a team that is “second to none” and “will never let you down.”
7 King’s Bench Walk
The clerks’ room at this “stellar chambers” is led by two highly experienced senior clerks: Greg Leyden and Bernie Hyatt. Hyatt, a well-recognised figure among his fellow clerks, instructing solicitors and barristers, is described as “the perfect middle man.” This has much to do with the fact that he is “always responsive,” but sources also say he “has a caring attitude towards the solicitors and the barristers.” Greg Leyden is “fantastic, responsive at all times of day, and flexible and accommodating with fees and trying to find the right people.” Leyden and Hyatt are “supported by a first- class team,” including three clerks and one arbitrators’ clerk. First junior clerk Gary Rose is widely praised by instructing solicitors at top City firms. “He is an excellent clerk,” says one source, who adds: “He is proactive, sensible, reasonable on fees and extremely helpful.” Another impressed interviewee told us: “Gary is great – one of the best in the business. He’s always really understanding and solutions-focused.” Instructing solicitors particularly appreciate that the experience of the more senior members of the team, and the training of the more recent recruits to the clerks’ room, means that the instruction process is always well-handled and friendly. One source says: “When they pick up the phone they are pleased to hear from you and they’re good at building a rapport.” The clerks are also commended for their commercial approach and “are able to see the bigger picture.” With such expertise present in the clerks’ room, this comment from a solicitor will come as no surprise: “It is the best clerking team I’ve worked with.”
The barristers at Quadrant take on “big-ticket” cases and are ably supported by what one interviewee calls the “best clerking team in London.” “Quadrant Chambers is driven by excellence at every level,” says another source, adding: “The clerks provide an efficient and seamless service. I have been particularly impressed by this set’s responsiveness and client-focused approach, which place it among the top performers in the market.” Senior clerks Gary Ventura and Simon Slattery draw significant praise from instructing solicitors. “Gary is very good at putting you with the right barrister for the issue you have,” says one impressed source, while another appreciates that he is “incredibly well connected and straight talking.” Sources also comment on the clerks’ ability to build relationships, and particularly note that Ventura is “always genuinely interested in your firm and you can tell he is in it for the long haul.” Slattery, who joined Quadrant in 2013, is described as “very experienced and very user-friendly.” Busy instructing solicitors are quick to sing his praises and note that he is “very efficient, easy to deal with and easy to pick up the phone to.” Daniel Westerman continues to go from strength to strength and deserves a “special mention” for his promotion to senior practice manager in 2020, as do the practice managers: John Walker, Paul Bloxham and Daryl Hughes. The “particularly helpful and on the ball” Jordan Elliott and Billy Beckett are the set’s two assistant practice managers. Three junior clerks, who are noted to have “really good contacts with the court,” and a team of accomplished fees clerks complete the “world class” clerking team at Quadrant. Clients of the set also benefit from the expertise of COO Peter Blair and Sarah Longden, the set’s business development director.
Outer Temple Chambers
Outer Temple is described as a “very modern set” with a “phenomenally attentive clerking team.” One instructing solicitor notes that the clerks provide “a wonderful service that is professional, friendly, personal and very efficient,” while another praises the team as “approachable and extremely helpful.” Coming in for particular praise are the “excellent” Paul Barton and Graham Woods, who serve as practice directors in the set’s health team. Barton “provides a first-rate service” and is lauded by solicitors as “helpful, friendly, quick and responsive,” while Woods is “a real pleasure to work with” and “takes a commercial approach to working with solicitors.” Practice directors Nicholas Levett, David Smith and Matt Sale, who head the set’s business team, are also highlighted by interviewees for their commitment to client service. Solicitors praise the team as “first class” and note that the clerks are “particularly good at providing competitive fees.” Levett is singled out for praise by our interviewees, who note that he is “very personable and strikes up a great rapport for those instructing the barristers. He goes the extra mile and provides a Rolls Royce service.” Practice manager Adam Macdonald is also recommended by instructing solicitors, with one describing him as “faultless.” Others say: “The clerks at Outer Temple go above and beyond; it is the standout set for client care.”
The clerks at Twenty Essex attract a great deal of praise from instructing solicitors. On an administrative level, interviewees are pleased with the fact that “the back office runs very smoothly” and that the clerks are “always responsive.” In addition, the ability of the clerks to understand each individual client is particularly lauded, with one source noting: “They are adaptable to our client’s circumstances.” Although the barristers at Twenty Essex are busy, the clerks are “very good at placing appointments” and “always very efficient,” which enables solicitors to book in time with their preferred counsel. Practice directors Arron Zitver and Christopher Theobald are “very flexible, always trying to help and find the right person and very commercial.” Anthony Carroll completes the trio of practice directors at Twenty Essex. Three practice managers are also available to assist solicitors. Tara Shah and Rachael Osborne both bring extensive expertise and experience to the team and George Bennett is praised as “very straightforward.” The assistant practice managers and junior clerks are also excellent additions to the clerks’ room. Sources see the team at Twenty Essex as an “innovative” group who are not afraid to modernise to provide an exemplary service to their clients. Overall, as one solicitor puts it, “Twenty Essex always provides exceptional legal services,” from the set’s top silks to the most junior of clerks.
Led by “fantastic” chambers director Vince Plant, Devereux is consistently praised by instructing solicitors for its dedication to client service. Interviewees laude the chambers as “the most responsive, understanding and user-friendly set at the Bar,” with “a fantastic team of clerks who are responsive but also very experienced and know what is needed at any given time.” Solicitors draw considerable attention to the set’s provision of a “personalised yet professional service,” noting that “all the clerks are really friendly, and you get the sense that everyone really knows you and your case.” Another interviewee goes on to add: “The clerking has a personal touch and they’re all very helpful. They’ll try to work towards whatever deadlines you have and are very patient, flexible and collaborative.” Senior practice manager Glenn Billenness and practice manager Cyrus Biggs are both praised as being “extremely easy to deal with,” and solicitors note that both clerks “put a lot of effort into getting to know the team.” Several other members of the clerking team are also singled out for praise by interviewees, including deputy practice manager James Hudson and practice manager Chris Downes. Hudson is “always helpful and polite,” reports one solicitor, while another notes that Downes is “absolutely fantastic” and “a real standout in the clerking world.” The team’s commercial awareness is also regularly mentioned by interviewees, who praise Devereux as “a very commercial and modern set” and report that “the clerks really understand the commercial needs of solicitors.” Another solicitor adds: “I would always use Devereux above any other set as the client care filters right the way through the chambers from the QCs to the clerks. Everyone on the clerking team is very responsive, very friendly and will go out of their way to help and find the right fit.”
9 Gough Chambers
“Everyone at 9 Gough Chambers goes above and beyond with regards to the service they provide,” according to one impressed interviewee, while another notes that “the clerking team is the best of the best – they’re always available, deal with issues straight away, understand how their clients work and are realistic with fees.” The clerking team is headed by the “very impressive” Michael Goodridge, who has served as director of clerking and business development at the set for over 16 years. Instructing solicitors draw considerable attention to his responsiveness and user-friendly approach, reporting that “he never fails to return a call or respond to an email, and possesses all the qualities that other sets’ senior clerks so often lack.” Solicitors also regularly mention his commercial acumen as a very valuable attribute, noting that “he has a unique understanding of the pressures that firms face and of the commercial matrix underpinning the relationship between solicitor and barrister.” Goodridge is ably supported by a strong team of clerks, including the “always brilliant and very accommodating” Jaime Brooks, the senior family and court of protection and managing civil clerk, and the “excellent” senior criminal clerk David Landa. The “very helpful and responsive” Ellie Brand, the executive civil and mediation clerk, is also routinely singled out for praise. One instructing solicitor reports that she “deserves special mention for her ability to juggle several tasks at once and for being so patient,” while another attests that she is “always happy to go the extra mile to assist.” Interviewees further note: “The set would not be as efficient as it is without this clerking team, and Michael Goodridge goes out of his way to ensure things are going to plan and that his clients are happy, which is critical.”
1 Crown Office Row
“The clerks at 1 Crown Office Row are the best in the industry,” reports one impressed source, who explains: “They are excellent at developing and maintaining relationships and offer a very personalised service.” Instructing solicitors appreciate the clerks’ dedication to client service, noting that “they routinely go out of their way to help and accommodate our needs, are very approachable and take pride in what they do.” The flexibility of the clerking team is also appreciated, with interviewees reporting: “They are very proactive and will bend over backwards to help and ensure deadlines are met.” Senior clerk Matthew Phipps oversees a “well-organised and efficient” team, and is ably assisted by a strong team of junior clerks. Several members of the team are held out for praise by impressed instructing solicitors, including first junior clerk John Mclaren and second junior Chloe Turvill. “They will move heaven and earth to accommodate us,” notes one interviewee, who adds: “The service they provide is first class.” Sources are also quick to highlight the clerks’ in depth knowledge of their barristers’ practices and individual strengths, and appreciate that “they can be relied upon to provide an excellent recommendation and can match you with the best barrister for the case in hand.” A final client praises 1 Crown Office Row as “a delightful chambers with a great set of clerks who do an utterly amazing job.”
Byrom Street Chambers
“The clerks at Byrom Street Chambers will always go above and beyond to help,” attests one impressed interviewee, adding: “They are the most organised clerks that I have ever come across and are very quick to take any action that is needed.” Instructing solicitors regularly highlight the flexibility of the team as a real strength, noting that “the clerks go out of their way to accommodate our needs, and are proactive, helpful and efficient in the delivery of their service.” The “absolutely brilliant” senior clerk Steve Price and deputy senior clerk Matt Tudor are held in particularly high regard by interviewees: “The whole team is worthy of praise, but Steve and Matt are always on the ball and are very helpful.” Another solicitor adds: “They are both very personal in their approach and very commercially effective.” The “seamless service” provided by the team is also regularly mentioned by instructing solicitors, who report that “everyone is so quick to respond and able to anticipate difficulties.” The strength of the clerking team perhaps best summarised by one interviewee who states: “The clerks are outstanding - everyone is so approachable and helpful. They outshine all other chambers around the country.”
Instructing solicitors praise 7BR as “a very modern and efficient set of chambers,” adding that “when you ring up the reception staff are really nice and will put you through to the knowledgeable and helpful clerks who go out of their way to help you with any queries.” The clerking team is led by the set’s joint senior clerks Paul Eeles and Steven Wright and is consistently praised as “the absolute best in the industry.” The team’s ability to match barristers with cases is regularly mentioned by interviewees as a key strength, with one solicitor noting that Paul Eeles and first junior Mark Waterson “go above and beyond to facilitate the use of counsel – when someone is unavailable they offer suitable and highly competent alternatives. If work is passed to another barrister, I know that barrister will come with the personal recommendation of Paul or Mark, and that is good enough for me.” While the clerking team is regularly held out for praise by interviewees, the client service offered by the set’s barristers is also more than worthy of mention. Instructing solicitors note that the barristers “understand the sensitive nature of the work they are dealing with and are very aware of their responsibilities,” and describe the tenants as “very responsive and willing to work as a team when pursuing cases.” Another solicitor adds: “The barristers are charming, approachable and always on hand to help – you can trust 7BR with the most complex of cases and know that your clients will be in good hands.” The set’s commitment to client service is further exemplified through its annual provision of a “widely respected and well attended” seminar series – the Skeleton Series. Instructing solicitors are quick to praise the lectures as “extremely informative and useful,” adding that “the series is very enjoyable and includes talks from very eminent barristers and medical experts in often quite complex areas of law.
2 Temple Gardens
Sources are full of praise for the “excellent, reliable and approachable” clerks at 2 Temple Gardens, who are highly recommended for their efficiency and responsiveness. “The clerking is excellent and response times are spot on,” says one interviewee, while another notes that “if you ask them to do something, it will get done.” The team is also lauded for its open and flexible approach, with sources saying that “they always have a solution in place, rather than just coming to you with a problem, and are always willing to enter into a dialogue.” Senior clerk Lee Tyler and deputy senior clerk Paul Cray both receive praise for “always going beyond the call of duty,” an attitude which sources make clear also extends to the team as a whole; they are “extremely proactive and endeavour to find solutions” and “always make you feel like your business is of the utmost importance.” More junior members of the clerking team also receive strong individual recommendations, including Leanne Taylor, Billy Hammonds and Matthew Moylan, who is singled out by one instructing solicitor as “one of the best clerks I’ve dealt with.” Overall, the quality and consistency of the clerking has impressed commentators, who describe the team as “second to none” and “the best of all the sets we’ve used.
According to instructing solicitors, “the client service provided by 11KBW is top notch, and everything about working with them is perfect.” One source enthuses: “They always go out of their way to help – when I have had situations where I needed representation or advice quickly they have done everything they could to try to accommodate me.” Clients appreciate that they “understand your requirements in terms of availability and the type of work, and they know who would benefit your client most.” Further, they can be relied upon to “come up with creative solutions to your particular needs.” The team is jointly led by the “fantastic” Lucy Barbet and Mark Dann, whom clients find to be fully on top of complex legal issues, and able to deal with rapidly developing situations in an unflustered manner. “They never panic,” according to one client, “but remain calm, sensible and responsive.” Team leader Lee Cutler receives plaudits for his “very effective approach”; commentators add: “He is very pleasant, and understands your needs and is easy to get hold of.” Among others who attract special praise are Joe Freeman and team leader Harry Gilson: “They take a very sensible approach to fees and have a pragmatic understanding of the client’s commercial drivers.” Meanwhile, clients remark that Michael Smith and Hannah Rayner “are extremely supportive, and always respond to queries immediately.” The set is notable for its provision of resources in the form of blogs, seminars and newsletters, which are highly valued by our interviewees: “The monthly public procurement and state aid updates are very useful, as was a recent webinar on Covid-19.” The Panopticon blog is also noted to be “genuinely a must-read for lawyers in the data law space.”
39 Essex Chambers
Solicitors find that, “while others do an adequate job, the clerks at 39 Essex really go the extra mile.” “The clerking team is absolutely fabulous,” according to one source: “Out of all the sets I have dealt with in 20 years, these are the clerks who really know how to look after solicitors – they are permanently in touch and always inviting you to functions and keeping a close relationship going.” Moreover, they “really understand the work, and just get what you want really quickly.” Director of clerking Lindsay Scott, who is well known as an innovator in the profession, is ably assisted by senior clerks Alastair Davidson and Michael Kaplan in co-ordinating a “progressive, modern, ambitious and international” team. The set’s practice managers are praised as “highly organised and very efficient at coming back to you,” and solicitors note that they “always turn around the work when they say they will.” Public law specialists Sheraton Doyle and Peter Campbell are repeatedly singled out for approbation by our interviewees: “They make a real effort to get to know you and the work you do, so that they make sure they are offering you the best barrister for your case.” Meanwhile, commercial solicitors highlight Niki Merison as a man who “goes out of his way to assist with extras and is sensible on fees.” Sources enthusiastically commend deputy senior clerk Andrew Poyser as “probably the best planning clerk we come across,” adding: “He is honest, transparent and accommodating with us; he is relatively understated and modest and takes a genuine interest in our work.” Others view Ben Sundborg and Tom Gibbons, who lead the practice management for civil liability, as “particularly affable clerks with whom we have developed a good relationship,” while Hannah Milne is said to be “very responsive, and excellent at managing her barristers’ diaries.” Clients are confident that the “user-friendly” chambers “never tries to swindle us,” adding that “on the rare occasions we want to challenge the billing, they will always facilitate a sensible conversation.” Also appreciated by instructing solicitors are the practice managers’ efforts towards organising bespoke training programmes led by the barristers. Roderick Noble is the set’s director of Asian business.
4 Pump Court
According to instructing solicitors, "the clerks at 4 Pump Court are excellent and always willing to be commercial and flexible." The set’s senior clerks Carl Wall and Stewart Gibbs run “the best clerking team in London” according to one interviewee. They are praised for being “very approachable, easy to contact and prepared to engage in open discussions,” a theme picked up by another solicitor who notes that they are “prepared to be flexible and work diaries very well.” Deputy senior clerks Oliver Miney and Lucy Burrows are also regularly singled out for praise, and are described by impressed interviewees as “very responsive” and “absolutely superb.” Below them is a team that is described as “exceptional” across the board. According to one instructing solicitor, “whether making initial enquiries for a suitable barrister, attending chambers for a witness conference or arranging conference calls with counsel, the service is always responsive and professional.” The set’s appeal is summed up by one interviewee who said: "The clerks are my favourites – they go above and beyond, are really helpful and nothing is too much trouble."
Instructing solicitors find that Wilberforce Chambers houses “a real depth of talent and is very well clerked,” adding: “Everyone I have encountered at the set has been a real pleasure to deal with.” The team is led by practice director Nicholas Luckman and head practice manager Mark Rushton, who earn praise from interviewees who describe them as “good fun to be around” and note that they “always try to accommodate us and to help out where they can.” Sources praise the team as “forward-thinking, friendly and approachable,” adding that “the clerks are all on the ball and have details of the matter to hand – the tendency at some sets is that only specific clerks will discuss a particular matter, and it is refreshing that this type of rigid approach is not followed at Wilberforce.” It is evident that this collaborative and flexible approach and commitment to client service extends beyond the clerks’ room, as one source relates: “Access to senior counsel is sometimes difficult, so having contact details including direct mobile numbers means that when something kicks off after traditional working hours, I can contact counsel and discuss our next moves, whereas some sets would have you working through the clerks only.” The sense that this is a progressive operation is furthered by reports that the set has made “good use of technology around the Covid-19 crisis”. In short, “the clerking team is fantastic, they are extremely efficient, know their barristers very well and have a good handle on their skill sets and offer quick turnaround on requests.”
Six Pump Court
“The excellent service provided by the clerking team is one of Six Pump Court’s biggest strengths” one client reveals, and given the multifaceted nature of the praise the team attracts, it isn’t hard to see why this is the case. Sources praise the “versatility” of the clerks’ room and note that “they are very hands on with moving things along and if you need something really urgently, they always get it done.” Availability is another key benefit the team offers, with one instructing solicitor remarking: “I can call them out of office hours and they will get back to me within the hour, which is priceless to me.” This high-quality service level begins at the top, with senior clerk Richard Constable described as “unbelievable in terms of what he will make happen for you.” First junior clerk Ryan Barrow is also lauded as “a star in the clerks’ room,” with one interviewee saying: “He has exceptional organisation skills, the ability to manage fees and he always goes out of his way to ensure that I get my choice of counsel.” Indeed, speaking of the culture of the chambers as a whole, solicitors indicate that “nothing is too much trouble and everyone at the set is always willing to work with you and take into account your needs and wishes.” Other sources commend the team for “presenting solutions rather than problems,” while the set’s proactive provision of helpful legal update seminars is also regularly mentioned by interviewees when discussing the set’s commitment to client service.
“You feel you are in good hands, with people who understand the practicality of litigation and go the extra mile to help,” according to one instructing solicitor, whose experience of working with Serle Court rings true alongside many others reported to our researchers. Another says, “the clerks are incredibly helpful and available, they really know their way around the court system, and are very reasonable on fees as well”. “Client-friendly” and “easy to work with” are impressions frequently encountered in our interview transcripts, as is praise for the team, led by head clerk Steven Whitaker who in turn is assisted by senior clerks Nicholas Hockney and Daniel Wheeler, and senior fees clerk Leigh Byas. Sources are keen to highlight the clerks’ knowledge of both their barristers’ practices and the needs of the instructing solicitors as a real strength, noting that “they are very good at identifying and matching needs for specific client requirements - they identify who has technical expertise and go beyond that to get the insight to tailor the barrister to the client in tandem with the information we give them. They also take a sensible approach on fees which really helps to manage relationships with clients.” Above all, a signature of Serle Court’s client service is that the “clerking and accounts functions are seamless and without fail always pleasant to deal with.” Another interviewee sums up the set’s appeal well in saying, “the clerking team are wholly inobtrusive and don’t give the hard sell; when organising complicated hearings and associated arrangements it makes a huge difference that the set is well clerked - it all happens just as it should”.
Three New Square
It would be difficult to think of a senior clerk who has been more influential on the profession in recent years than Nick Hill, who was chair of the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks from 2016 to 2019. No wonder clients of this IP specialist set consider him a “massive asset to the chambers.” According to our sources, Hill has “modernised the way the set deals with its network,” and reassures clients by being “very clear and open in his communication,” and “laying everything out on the table rather than doing shady deals behind closed doors.” Solicitors appreciate the fact that he has “invested a lot of time into getting to know the IP world properly.” They also applaud him for establishing a “family atmosphere” and a “proper, personal relationship” between the set and its clients. Hill is supported by the “very professional and efficient” Tim Fairburn, who earns praise from solicitors who describe him as “extremely approachable, and always available at the end of the phone.” Instructing solicitors also identify David Court as a man who “understands the pressure points in your job and does what he can to assist,” while chambers administrator Zena Robbins is said to be “absolutely wonderful at breaking down the barriers and being really welcoming to clients who are not used to instructing a barrister.” One interviewee summarises the client experience as follows: “The team provides a phenomenal service which goes above and beyond anything you would expect of a traditional clerks’ room. I think Three New Square stands head and shoulders above other sets in this regard.”
5 Paper Buildings
The “Rolls-Royce service” provided by the clerks at 5 Paper Buildings is widely regarded as a considerable benefit of choosing to instruct the chambers. Sources characterise it as a “very accommodating set,” with commentators quick to highlight that “they take on board concerns and are ever so approachable.” Interviewees also commend the personal nature of the relationships formed by the team, with one instructing solicitor saying: “It’s a different level of client service – I feel like I am part of their family.” At the head of the clerking team is senior clerk Dale Jones, who maintains a reputation as “the dean of all senior clerks” due to his constructive approach. One impressed interviewee attests: “If there is ever an issue, I can call him up and he’ll sort everything out.” Jones’ flexible and collaborative attitude is mirrored by first junior clerk Graham Briggs and second junior Dan Barnett, who receive praise for being “adept at coming up with practical solutions.” An important aspect of the service provided by chambers as a whole is its commitment to attending to clients’ needs in a timely manner, with market sources revealing that “when organising diaries and fees, everyone is very on the ball.” Overall, it is the “helpful and efficient” service provided that most stands out, with one client summarising the experience succinctly: “My overall impression of the set is that they are a fantastic set of chambers to work with. Everyone I come into contact with there is always very helpful and pleasant to work with.”