The Value of Chambers

Word: chambers Middle English < chambre Old French < camera Latin < kamara Greek.

Origin: from Latin camera, meaning ‘vault, arched chamber’; from Greek kamara, meaning ‘object with an arched cover’ or ‘private room’.

Chambers is a barrister’s office space.

The noun is used both singularly to mean a specific office (‘Ms X is in chambers today’) and collectively to mean the entire group of offices (‘I’ll see you tomorrow in chambers’).

Sometimes people refer to a group of chambers as a ‘floor’ (‘Mr X is on floor Y’) or as a ‘set’ of chambers (‘Ms T is part of a leading commercial set in Brisbane’).

Some barristers choose not to have chambers. Instead, they might have a door tenancy, work from their own office space, work from a virtual office, or simply work from home.

All of these options can work.

There are plenty of reasons not to have chambers.

Chambers are expensive. Why would you want to fork out good money to work with your competitors?

Some might suggest there is little difference between having chambers or occupying commercial office space on your own.

I have a different view.

Chambers are a valuable part of a barrister’s practice. Let me give you some reasons.

First, chambers look and feel good.

They give the impression (both to yourself and to your clients and solicitors) that you are part of an active group of barristers.

You’re in a lovely space and ready to work.

Second, chambers have other barristers right there next to you.

People in chambers become your emotional and professional support network.

Having colleagues to bounce ideas off, proofread your work, give you an honest opinion or lend you a compassionate ear is priceless.

Third, chambers allow you to be part of a group of professionals with a varied skill set.

Different barristers have different skills. Clients are benefited by a barrister’s professional relationships in chambers.

If you’re unsure about something, you can always knock on the door and get a second opinion from another barrister in chambers. In my experience, other barristers will drop what they’re doing to give you their attention. Day or night. During office hours, before or after work.

My favourite thing about chambers?

The people.

People make working at the Bar more enjoyable.

People are the real value of chambers.


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Dealing with difficult clients

Difficult Clients

One of the most challenging aspects of legal practice is dealing with difficult clients.

There are many kinds of difficult clients.

Some include:

  • the angry client;
  • the obsessive client;
  • the over-involved client;
  • the secretive/deceitful client;
  • the dependent client;
  • the client who already knows everything;
  • the depressed or mentally-ill client;
  • the client affected by drugs or alcohol.

What should I do?

Whatever the type of difficult client, the first thing to ask yourself is whether you, as the client’s solicitor, should be acting for that client.

After all, solicitors don’t need to act for everyone who comes through their door.

Some of the questions I would be asking are:

  1. Has this client been to a solicitor before for this particular problem?
  2. If not, who else has been involved?
  3. What sort of personality does the client have and do I feel comfortable with that personality?
  4. Do I have the resources for this particular client?
  5. Can I meet the client’s expectations on costs, timing and deliverables?
  6. Is the client asking me something beyond what I can deliver?
  7. Is the client worth my professional time?

Should I get a Barrister?

If your matter involves litigation, your barrister can help you manage a difficult client.

This is because Barristers can:

  1. Provide you with a quick character assessment of the client.
  2. “Cut to the chase” and speak directly to clients without much tip-toeing.
  3. Give clients a quick reality check when they are being unreasonable in their expectations.
  4. Confirm the advice provided by you, the client’s solicitor, or add to your advice to give a broader picture.
  5. Re-frame a client’s expectations, which can be very difficult particularly when you have an ongoing relationship with a client.
  6. Test the truth of a client before allowing them to get into the witness box.
  7. Give you a frank assessment of a client’s character and how they are likely to perform in court.

There are many other advantages of using a barrister to help you manage a difficult client.

When a client makes really important decisions, ideally you want to have written and signed instructions from the client.

It’s also important to take detailed and accurate notes of what is said in conference with your barrister and your client.

Client management is something truly unique to the legal profession. The skills involved in managing clients never go out of fashion and only get better over time.

All clients deserve to be treated with courtesy and respect.

As lawyers, we will inevitably encounter difficult clients. Being mindful of how we deal with them is something that should be a top priority for all of us.


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