Keeping ahead of the pack: innovation and transformation at Hardwicke
Transforming a barristers’ chambers and creating a leading commercial set capable to dealing with all the challenges of the modern legal market takes vision, skill, teamwork and determination. All of which Hardwicke’s management team has in abundance. As the set looks back on its most successful year to date, CEO Amanda Illing takes stock and reflects on Hardwicke’s achievements.
Innovation has been at the heart of Hardwicke from its very inception. Amanda recalls working alongside leading silk Nigel Jones QC as Head of Chambers when she first joined – an exceptional individual who combines outstanding legal ability with shrewd strategic ability, first rate business acumen and excellent people management skills.
Current Heads of Chambers Paul Reed QC and PJ Kirby QC have continued with the same approach. A good business also recognises when it needs expertise from others and herein lies another key component which has been necessary to Hardwicke’s transformation – excellent staff recruited for particular skill sets and allowed to develop their roles so as to play to their strengths.
Like many other leading commercial sets, Hardwicke had started off life with quite a diverse legal offering. However, the legal market never stands still and Hardwicke soon recognised that its future success depended on a rationalisation of the practice areas it offered so as to present as a coherent, commercial offering to clients.
The role of a CEO in a chambers depends on each set’s needs and the particular skills and experience of the person holding the position. As Amanda explains:
“For some chambers the role is as the finance and business leader, for others the CEO takes a strong marketing lead or there is an emphasis on client relationship management. My personal focus is on strategic direction, clients, and running Hardwicke as a modern, professional business. Luckily, I work alongside an amazing group of colleagues because I cannot be (and should not be) delivering all these things myself.’
It is a key part of Amanda’s role that she recognises talent and nurtures colleagues so as to put together a resilient, cohesive and collaborative team. Deborah Anderson joined as Chambers Director and it recruited then promoted both Hardwicke’s Senior Practice Managers (Richard Sumarno and James Duncan-Hartill).
“Collaboration is absolutely key to a successful business,” says Amanda. “I am proud that the people at Hardwicke operate so effectively. Collaboration is also fundamental to the successful implementation of our business plan.”
Achieving this requires not only the vision necessary to put together a plan but also complete transparency of operation. Traditionally barristers’ chambers have been rather secretive in their operation.
“Hardwicke has very clear administrative structures and a culture of openness,” explains Amanda, adding with a laugh that encouraging members to air their views sometimes requires resilience on the part of those receiving them.
“We recognise that we need to be ambitious, even if, at the time, it seems a stretch. Without ambition, businesses stagnate.”
This is not something that could be said of Hardwicke. Having focussed over the last six years to eight main practice areas (commercial dispute resolution, construction, insolvency, insurance, private client, professional negligence and property as well as a niche in clinical negligence/personal injury), Hardwicke has been recruiting well to enable it to develop those areas further.
Last year also saw chambers invest in a brand new website, designed to reflect its new structure and showcase its talent and achievements. This website has been structured so as to benefit from the latest developments in IT (eg the analytics underlying the site) and with the primary objective of taking the viewer to the information they require as quickly and succinctly as possible. Pages such as member profiles and event details are downloadable as PDFs and the site is designed to meet the increasing number of viewers from mobile devices.
“It has been a momentous year,” says Amanda. “The website is definitely helping the legal market understand what Hardwicke is now – what we do and what we stand for. We have used the website project to look in detail at how we categorise and showcase our practice areas.”
Showcasing that expertise is key as Hardwicke is keen to demonstrate its involvement in high profile and leading cases such as:
- SKAT v Elysium Global (Dubai) Limited: a claim by the Danish Government to recover £2bn+ alleged to have been paid out pursuant to a fraudulent conspiracy against 96 defendants in the Commercial Court, the DIFC and local Dubai court with associated proceedings in the US and Malaysia. The claim involves one of the largest disclosure exercises ever and is making headlines worldwide.
- Enterprise. The insolvency of this leading Gibraltan insurer has had ramifications across the UK, France, Greece, Italy and Ireland and includes a £47m arbitration, advising on claims arising courtesy of Enterprise’s extensive motor book, disputed ownership of various books of UK business, a 11m dispute concerning gap insurance and recovery of £114m of reinsurance.
- Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Saeed Bin Shakhboot Al Nehayan v Ioannis Kent AKA John Kent  EWHC 333 (Comm) (22 February 2018): the multi-million £ claims arose from a joint venture demerger. The judgment established new law on the duty of good faith in commercial contracts. There is also an important judgment on sanctions/debarring orders for non-disclosure (QBD (Comm) (Christopher Hancock QC) 11/04/2017 LTL 13/4/2017).
Hardwicke’s success is not only in attracting quality cases and clients. It has also persuaded the legal market that it is a quality outfit going places. Legal directory recommendations have increased substantially year on year and awards have been flowing in. In the last year Hardwicke won Chambers of the Year (British Legal Awards) and has been shortlisted for the Modern Law Chambers of the Year 2019 Award, Brie Stevens-Hoare QC was awarded Real Estate Silk of the Year (Chambers Bar Awards) and shortlisted for the inaugural Inspirational Woman Barrister of the Year as well as Modern Law’s Barrister of the Year 2019 whilst Deborah Anderson won the inaugural Bar Pro Bono Staff Award. David Pliener was shortlisted for a Chambers Bar Award, Amanda for CEO of the Year and the staff for Practice Team of the Year at the Legal 500 Awards.
Amanda is justifiably proud of the distance Hardwicke has come .
“However, all these achievements are as nothing,” she concludes, “if you do not create a place where people want to work. Mutual respect, consideration of those less fortunate and a balance between professional and personal lives lies at the heart of Hardwicke’s culture. It is this achievement of which I am most proud.”
This article was first published in Modern Law Magazine.
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