Clerksroom Direct, which has over 1,000 direct access barristers on its books, has said that only around only 20% of its recent cases have come directly from members of the public.
Stephen Ward, chief executive of the chambers Clerksroom, said around half were referred by law firms and 30% from barristers’ chambers unable to carry out the work themselves.
“At the moment most of our cases are from law firm referrals or barristers’ chambers,” Mr Ward said. “If they get clients they can’t handle, they refer them to us.”
However, he said a proper public marketing campaign had not yet begun.
Mr Ward told Legal Futures in June that Clerksroom Direct was working well and conversions of direct access enquiries into work were running at around 50% . However, he said this week that conversions had slumped to 18% in the last two months.
As a result he said Clerksroom Direct had changed its model and recruited an experienced clerk, Sam Morgan from 3 Paper Buildings, to telephone clients who made enquiries.
Mr Morgan joined Clerksroom’s Taunton office just over a week ago, and since then Mr Ward said the conversion rate had already increased to 75%.
Mr Ward said the value of cases had also gone up, including one case worth £8,000 referred by a solicitor and another worth £6,000 referred by a chambers – well above the average target Clerksroom Direct had set itself of £1,000 plus VAT.
“We realised that the only method that worked was ringing up the client and speaking to them. With an average time of three minutes, the case would convert.
“Much to our frustration, we decided that we had to appoint a clerk to deal with our public access cases.
“Clients were registering an interest in getting a quote from us. They didn’t need a clerk to do this, but they needed help reading the profiles of barristers and understanding what areas of law they did.
“It makes a remarkable difference if someone else reviews the situation, rings the clients and puts them in touch with the right barrister who can respond with a quote.”
Mr Ward said that if more work came in as a result of Mr Morgan’s arrival, there may be a need for a team of junior clerks or sales staff.
“They won’t be clerks in the sense of running all over London with trolleys full of papers. Clients need someone to talk to and understand what they need. It will be more of a sales and telephone skills role.”
Mr Ward added that because Clerksroom Direct required barristers to give fixed-fee quotes and clients to pay agreed fees in advance, it was not treated by the Bar Standards Board as holding client money and there was no need for it to use the BARCO escrow account service.