Outer Temple Chambers has taken the unprecedented step of setting up what is effectively a separate international law firm, employing a solicitor.
Outer Temple International (OTI), a Bar Standards Board-regulated entity, has now secured insurance and is set to go live this week.
Christine Kings, one of the two directors at Outer Temple, told Legal Futures that the firm had previously been approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) but failed to find insurance at a reasonable price.
Ms Kings said she was “relieved” the BSB had approved OTI as an entity. It is insured by a private insurance company, rather than Bar Mutual.
“We have international commercial work going into chambers, and every now and then it requires the services of a solicitor,” she said. “We wanted to keep it under the Outer Temple umbrella.
“Cases that need a solicitor will go to OTI, which will either brief a barrister in chambers or someone at another set. It means we can keep work in-house and manage the whole process ourselves.”
The chambers first approached the SRA because the BSB was not then authorised to regulate entities. Ms Kings said the new firm was approved by the SRA as a recognised body in January 2016, but there was a “major problem” with the “very high premiums” quoted by insurers.
She said the entire process had become a “very long road” and it had taken three years to reach this point.
OTI has two directors – Michael Bowes QC, a business crime and civil fraud specialist who is also joint head of chambers, and Dr Ali Almihdar, a dual-qualified English barrister and Saudi national. Dr Almihdar has his own firm in Saudi Arabia, and lives both there and in the UK.
Ms Kings said they may convert OTI into an alternative business structure once the BSB starts licensing them. The regulator’s application has been approved but is awaiting the designation order to pass through Parliament. The BSB said it would confirm the launch date of ABS regulation this has happened. “We cannot say when this will be because this is outside of the BSB’s control.”
Along with Mr Bowes and Dr Almihdar, the other barristers mentioned on the BSB entities register as managers of OTI are David Wescott QC, a personal injury specialist, Nicolas Stallworthy QC, a pensions specialist, James Counsell, who specialises in professional negligence, and Natasha Joffe, an employment barrister.
The head of legal practice is solicitor Hema Parmar, and the head of finance and administration is the current finance manager of Outer Temple chambers, Andrew Dinkenor.
Legal Futures revealed last month that criminal law specialists 6 Pump Court had become the first major chambers to set up a BSB-regulated entity.
However, the purpose for which the chambers set up 6 Pump Court Limited – criminal legal aid contracting – has disappeared after the Ministry of Justice ditched two-tier contracts in the summer.