Working with your clerks
How best to engage with your clerks to encourage work to come your way;
and what your clerks need from you
- When you start on your feet as a pupil there is likely to be a particular person who clerks you. It is important to build and maintain a good relationship with this person.
- It goes without saying that your clerks need you to be reliable and punctual, to give them reliable feedback, and advance warning (if possible) of any problems you may see coming up with your diary or workload. They need to see that you have presence, and the ability to make a good impression on professional clients. And that you fit into the work and ethos of Chambers.
- Always remember that your clerks are people with their own stresses and that they have a number of barristers to manage and cajole.
- Remember too that they wish to do whatever they reasonably can to help you.
From a YBC Member:“Though some of them have a funny way of showing it….!”
- As a junior tenant try to arrange a practice development meeting with your clerk or a more senior clerk. Try to have these meetings on a regular basis to discuss your career, where it is going and where you want to go next. Such meetings should take place about once a year, perhaps more frequently in the first years of tenancy.
- Traditionally clerks have a role in marketing chambers and barristers. Much of this work is also done by practice managers or other chambers staff. Don’t leave marketing entirely to others. Ultimately, you may be better at selling your services than they are, or at the least may be able to make a valuable contribution to support their efforts. Even if you can’t, the effort is much appreciated and will not go unnoticed.
- It is important to remember that you and your clerks ultimately have the same goal in mind: a successful practice for you. Teamwork is therefore crucial. This involves communication. If you do not have time to do a particular piece of work properly, or are about to keel over with exhaustion, tell the clerks. Equally, if you are quiet, also tell the clerks. They have many barristers’ practices to manage and may not have noticed. As much notice as possible of potential quiet periods, however, is useful. Clerks are unlikely to be able to magic a brief out of thin air on no notice.
- If you encounter particular stresses, health problems or difficulties, always involve your clerks. There are some tips on how go about this on the wellbeing section of the Toolkit.
Simon Boutwood, Director of Harcourt Chambers gives a clerks’ view:
- The pupils who take on anything and everything (as long as it’s within their competence of course) are the ones who will do well at the Bar. If your clerks ask you to do a piece of work, and you have time to prepare it, then do it. If you resist, or are picky, they’ll eventually give up asking.
- And don’t complain about the fee, or offer “suggestions” as to what the fee should be!!
- If you work hard on things you might not necessarily want to do when you’re very junior, the good work will invariably come your way as you become more senior.
- Build your career by being helpful and available. If you put yourself out, your clerks will notice, and so will your clients.
Comment: there is more on fees, the way in which they are negotiated, and the junior barrister’s lot on the Terms of Payment page within the financial section of the Toolkit.