The current fashion in many sets is to move to a Chief Executive model. It sounds good - have someone to come in and run the business of chambers. In smaller sets - and nowadays fewer than 60 barristers is a small set - it is, however, difficult to justify the expense of a professional general manager. Often what chambers mean when they say they want a Chief Executive (or Chambers Director or whatever name is decided on), they actually want someone who has a primary focus on sales - not even marketing. This probably requires the prospective CEO to have a marketing background and to enjoy the sales role - and to be able to sell to solicitors, insurers, corporate clients and public agencies (a difficult task as we all know).
Having sales at the centre of a small business like a set of chambers is entirely correct. Unless chambers is large enough to support a marketing/sales function (that a good general manager can then direct), the senior administrator will be responsible for sales (it is likely that it will be referred to as marketing, but generally it is sales).
So - how does a set of chambers get access to the strategic thinking, the strategic administration, that a good, experienced, general manager can provide.
This is where the 'Virtual Director' comes in. Chambers can find an individual or an organisation who has the administrative skills required - but who does not join the payroll. Chambers then has access to an individual who can offer advice about:
- strategic thinking
- regulatory compliance
- purchasing and procurement
- supplier contracts
- supplier liaison
- staffing issues
- leadership coaching
- soft skills training
These are all issues that arise in chambers. It can be quite a challenge for a Marketing Director or a Senior Clerk or a Director of Clerking to (a) know about these sorts of things and (b) have the time required to address them properly.
This is where the Virtual Director comes in. With an up to date understanding of the regulatory framework (as it applies to the business of chambers) and expertise in running business, the Virtual Director can offer expert advice to chambers as well as its members and staff. There is generally no on-going commitment (although chambers can choose to pay a retainer which will ensure that the Virtual Director does not work with any chambers engaged in the same area of law) and payments can be decided in advance for project work. On-going advice is simply charged as done - rounded to the nearest minute.
Smaller sets of chambers now have access to the sort of expert advice only normally available to the very largest (richest) sets.
The Sales Bit...
I would be delighted to discuss your requirements and to discuss how the Virtual Director might work in your set of chambers. Email Peter Blair for more information.