THE role of a barrister clerk might not be as glamourous as the role of the barrister but rest assured it is just as important.
For those unfamiliar, a barrister clerk is the matchmaker between solicitors and barristers, and as such they're the trusted advisor and facilitator of connections to ensure the right barrister can be matched with the right situation.
It's a process that's been in place for decades, but Stephen Foley (pictured), managing director of taLaw.com has developed technology to disrupt the profession entirely, and speeding up the process tenfold.
The technology, called BarristerSELECT, speeds up the process of finding a barrister much simpler. If a solicitor puts in a request with BarristerSELECT by noon they should receive a list of barristers to choose from by 4.30pm the same day.
The technology, currently only available in New South Wales, connects solicitors with the most progressive chambers, allowing solicitors to quickly and transparently brief barristers for opinion and representation.
Foley says his technology removes an often incredibly time consuming process from the day of a solicitor.
"Solicitors can spend hours on end calling different chambers, trying to find the best (and readily available) barrister for their client's brief," says Foley.
"We are giving this time back, as well as providing access to a wide range of chambers, with our intuitive online form, that takes a maximum of five minutes to complete."
There are other online services that collate lists of barristers, but unlike BarristerSELECT, these are merely lists that display names and CVs of barristers. They don't matchmake like Foley's technology.
"This is really the world's first system where we make this job simpler," says Foley.
"Let's put the person who actually does know who is the right person, the barrister clerk, the trusted independent advisor, to put forward the right barrister. I think that's the difference between our system and other barrister registrations, and solicitors know that difference."
"Barrister clerks have built careers on the premise that they have a responsibility to nurture and grow the practices of their barristers. The barrister clerk will always put the best barrister forward as the reputation of chambers is front of mind."
The application aims to solve the issue faced by solicitors of the sheer number of barristers' chambers in NSW. Currently there are over 80 chambers in Sydney, which makes the job of a solicitor daunting considering it might take hours to call and find the right barrister who is available for the job.
When developing BarristerSELECT, Foley ensured that the new principles of 'equitable briefing' were pushed to the fore. With women comprising only 22 per cent of barristers in NSW, barrister clerks have been encouraged to put forward the best female barrister for the brief if the solicitor chooses this option. Last year, the Law Council of Australia unveiled an 'equitable briefing' policy, making it an imperative for corporate firms to have equitable representation in briefing.
"You couldn't implement a change without having a service like this to bring about that change," says Foley.
"You need to put it out to the progressive chambers in Sydney and get a response at a much bigger level than just a few chambers."
Right now, Foley expects BarristerSELECT to be taken on board by Sydney's most 'progressive' chambers - that is those willing to embrace technological innovations like taLaw's suite of online services that include BarristerSELECT, eBrief, and iChambers.
"We have over 600 barristers involved in this process so 25 per cent of the NSW bar will be potentially put forward for work, and the other 2,400 barristers can still be preselected in BarristerSELECT and we'll notify the chambers."
BarristerSELECT is currently available in Sydney with the online service free for solicitors to brief and chambers charged an administration fee once a barrister is engaged by a firm.
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