The barrister as businessman: top tips

Consideration  was  given  for the editing and publishing of this post

Written by Paul Watson

Being a barrister isn’t an easy job. You’ve got to mount the defence for major crimes, be even handed when dealing with shifty characters and pick through complex legal processes to find the right course of action for your client.

But while you might have the litigation skills of a pro, it’s quite possible that you don’t have the business skills to match.

Indeed, the bigwigs of the legal trade can strike out on their own and gather some profits. But running a business (even as a self-employed barrister in chambers) and staying on top of your day-to-day jobs can potentially make short shrift of your personal life.

With that in mind, what can you do to make sure your business headaches don’t put your job on the ropes?

Train your brain

You might think you’re hot with the law, but have you got the mettle to guide others?

It’s not as simple as it sounds. Without the appropriate training, you risk flying blind.

Not so with business management training from a distance learning provider. Study with one of these courses in your spare time and you’ll learn how to motivate staff, create appropriate business projections and turn your one-horse firm into a shining example of the law.

And, thanks to the efficiency of online distance learning, your studies don’t have to dominate your life. Simply dip in and out when you can. You’ll soon be ruling your roost like you command your brief.

Delegation prospers

When starting up, it’s understandable to want to shoulder the responsibility for everything yourself. Your cash is suddenly on the line like never before and you can’t allow others to mess it up.

But if you can find people you trust, delegate your tasks and relieve some of the stress.

This largely falls down to the interview process. That guy who comes to an interview and tells you he can get you a new computer “on the rob” might mean well, but he’s not a great choice.

Find people with a great CV, reliable references and a streetwise attitude. You’ll be able to give them the work you don’t have time for – or just can’t be bothered with.

The right office

People don’t want to visit a barrister and see an office resembling Philip Marlowe’s. Your workplace should relax people into the long arm of the law, yet still instil confidence in your sense of professionalism and experience.

This is a tight balancing act, but one that’s worth it in the end. Hire an interior designer to kit out your place and you’ll have it looking spiffy – perfect for keeping your clients in a chilled state of mind.

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Interesting family law case on complying with court orders

Brought to you by our friends at 1 King’s Bench Walk

An interesting judgment came from the Court of Appeal last month in the area of family law on the issue of complying with court orders. The case was called Re W (Children) and one statement which stands out in particular is that of Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division who emphasised that in the Family Court amending a timetable fixed by the court was not permitted without the court’s prior approval. What’s more, there was an obligation on every party immediately to inform the court of any non-compliance. You can read the full judgment here.

1 King’s Bench Walk is a barristers’ chambers in London specialising in family law.


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Third party litigation funding: a significant opportunity to drive law firm growth

Brought to you by our friends at Vannin Capital PCC Limited

The benefits of litigation funding for claimants are relatively well understood, but little has been written about how litigation funding can be used by law firms as a business development tool to increase the volume of contentious matters flowing into their litigation and disputes departments.

Law firms facing significant challenges

Law firms are faced with a myriad of challenges in the current marketplace. They are expected to grow profits – and, specifically, demonstrate increasing profits per equity partner (PEP) – year-on-year whilst grappling with business model issues including: persistent downward pressure on fees from increasingly demanding clients, how to move away from the billable hour without eroding profitability, intensifying competition to win instructions and the emergence of alternative business models.

On top of this, clients have become more sophisticated. They realise that, owing to the rapid growth of law firms over the past several decades and a recent slackening in demand, it’s a buyers’ market for legal services. As a consequence, law firms can no longer rely solely on their existing relationships or claims of top-tier expertise to differentiate themselves from their competitors and win business.

Selling litigation and arbitration services also requires law firm partners, perhaps more than in other areas, to address clients’ concerns around uncertainty of the final bill. An article in The Lawyer at the end of 2013 entitled ‘Clients rail against botched litigation budgets’ stated: ‘General counsel and other leading in-house lawyers claim that even experienced law firms are often woefully inept at accurately forecasting litigation costs, with the average disparity between budget and the final bill being nearly 40 per cent.’

Litigation funding offers opportunities for law firms

If law firms are able to continue educating their clients about the advantages of litigation funding, there are likely to be significant resulting benefits for those law firms.

There are three main benefits:

Increased number of claims in the market

In the absence of litigation funding, claims will only be pursued if there is sufficient budget at the client to do so. Typically only the strongest claims or those that are of most strategic importance to the client’s business will be prosecuted. As a consequence, numerous meritorious claims are never pursued and the client is likely to be losing out financially as a result.

Rather than increasing budgets and putting more cash at risk, clients can use litigation funding to pursue these potentially valuable claims with no impact on cash flow and no downside risk if the claim is unsuccessful.

Litigation funding allows clients to unlock the unrealised value in their litigation assets and, as a consequence, delivers an increased flow of contentious matters to the law firms that advise them. It’s a win-win.

Ability to take market share from competitors

Losing business to cheaper competitors is a constant concern for law firm partners. For clients that are unable or unwilling to pay the level of fees a particular law firm requires, that law firm should suggest that they consider litigation funding. The client benefits in the usual way (i.e. it will not have to outlay any cash and will not suffer any loss if the claim is unsuccessful) and the law firm will be able to charge its hourly rate with payment of its fees guaranteed by the litigation funder.

This can be a powerful tool to prevent clients going to cheaper law firms and may even allow a law firm to target its business development and marketing efforts at clients that would not have been able to afford its fees without third party litigation funding.

 Reduction of uncertainty on recoverability of fees

Litigation funders have extensive experience of cost budgeting since every case they fund will have an agreed budget drawn up which forms an integral part of the litigation funding agreement. A law firm who works with a litigation funder will benefit from this experience, which increases the likelihood of the law firm recovering its fees – if the law firm sticks to the agreed budget then their fees are guaranteed by the litigation funder.

This removes the risk that the law firm cannot recover fees directly from its own clients and goes a long way to reducing the likelihood of cost overruns.


The litigation funding marketing is growing rapidly. Law firms that build productive relationships with litigation funders and educate their clients on the benefits of using third party litigation funding will strengthen their contentious practices to the likely detriment of those that do not.

Find out more about Vannin Capital and litigation funding at

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Talk about online business

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Talk on comedy and the law at ICLR

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Queen’s Counsel Lawyer’s Omnibus

QC_Omnibus_6Feb2013 (1)2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the Queen’s Counsel cartoons by Alex Williams first having appeared in ‘The Times’ and we’re proud that we will be publishing this bumper omnibus edition to mark this milestone. The draft cover is on the left and the book will be out later in the year.

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