Barrister disruptor secures eight-figure investment from private equity house

Cash injection from Lloyds Banking Group subsidiary will support plans to double turnover within two years
Portrait style photographs of Stephen Ward and Christina Blacklaws

Stephen Ward and Christina Blacklaws

The Barrister Group (TBG), an umbrella for various barrister-led legal brands, has obtained eight-figure funding from LDC, a private equity subsidiary of Lloyds Banking Group.

The investment, understood to be not less than £10m, is to support TBG’s ambitious plans for growth, based on an IT-enabled alternative model of chambers supported through remote working.

TBG, which was formed in 2022, encompasses Clerksroom Chambers, co-founded by Stephen Ward, along with direct access provider Clerksroom Direct.

It also includes smaller London sets like Exchequer Chambers, led by Andrew Thornhill KC, Addington Chambers, and Anglo-Spanish set, Delcanto Chambers, and a number of specialist practice brands.

Supported by its own proprietary management software, Chambers365, into which TBG’s predecessors had invested £3m, TBG offers remote working facilities and management to barristers seeking flexibility in practice management at reduced costs while combining traditional clerking skills with modern practice management. 

Stephen Ward – best known for founding and championing Clerksroom, one of the foundation brands within the TBG umbrella – said that while the traditional chambers model had its place, it may not be suitable for all barristers. 

“Our model offers many advantages that other chambers may not be able to match. We are building the Bar of the 21st century and LDC's experience of building tech-enabled services companies will help us take the next step in making that happen,” Ward said.  

Harry Hodgkin, the CEO of TBG, and a non-practising barrister, said the investment was an opportunity to look to the future, allowing a range of barristers to join the rebranded venture, from new entrants to experienced KCs, as well as specialist practitioners in public law, property law, family law and commercial law. 

Having experienced 86% growth in hearings held by TBG barristers since 2017, TBG aims to capitalise on the investment by seeking 2,000 instructions per month, and to double the average instruction value of its members by 50% within 24 months.

It will also mount an assertive marketing campaign for a larger share of corporate and public sector work, including direct access, with the aim of doubling turnover within 24 months by targeting in-house and corporate solicitors unfamiliar with the brand, including to win local authority work.

Aligned to the investment will be a strong push for further recruitment and a larger share of public access enquiries – all of which will be regionally focused and technology-driven. 

Ward said: “From a direct access point of view, most people and businesses are simply not yet aware that they can access legal services directly from expert barristers. TBG will look to change that perception.” 

The investment will be led by LDC directors Oliver Schofield and Stefan Gunn, who, together with Ward, and experienced senior clerks Matthew Wildish, Kevin Morrow, Gary Carney and Russell Hobbs, will aim to support the practices of existing members, and develop and grow specialist practice groups.

Hodgkin said LDC’s regional network, sector experience and insights made their investment “a real draw for us”.

That, and board-level support, would “enable us to expand and develop as a business and a set, giving greater access to the profession for those less inclined towards the older chambers model”.

Former Law Society president, Christina Blacklaws, who is a non-executive director of TBG, said LDC’s investment was not just an investment in chambers, but in legal technology, diversity and access to justice, enabling solicitors and the public to instruct counsel quickly and efficiently.

She added: “It's also an investment in an alternative way of working at and with the Bar which allows greater choice for a profession whose wellbeing is a common cause of concern.”

Blacklaws, who is also chair of LawTech UK, previously worked for Co-Op Legal prior to taking up the Law Society presidency in 2018. She also serves as a NED for Ogier, Blake Morgan and Birmingham firm Anthony Collins.

Schofield said: “TBG has the potential to revolutionise the future of the Bar,” adding: “We’re excited to support the team as they continue to pursue their growth plans.”

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]