60 seconds with Vincent Denham - Chambers Director at 42BR Barristers

Mar 20th, 2024 by Hewetson & Co

You’ve been the longest serving senior executive at the Bar having been the first CEO at St Philip’s Chambers in 1998. How has the attitude towards the role of a CEO evolved over that time?

You’re right, I was appointed by St Philips in October 1998 and was the first “non-lawyer” (I really dislike that expression) professional manager at the Bar. My first job was to implement the practical aspects of the merger between No. 7 Fountain Court and Priory Chamber that had created St Philips, at the time the biggest set in the country with 85 members.

We had at least two of most things, including senior clerks, and two sets of accommodation. The overwhelming attitude to me being there was relief that someone could come in and “sort out the issues” of the operational side of Chambers, especially HR and the complex mix of salary/bonus/commission/status issues that had not been addressed.

On that point, the relationship between the CEO and the (traditional) Senior Clerk is one that could cause tension and probably did lead to several early CEO appointments in other Chambers not being successful. The fault for that lies with the CEO rather than the Senior Clerk I suspect. The second job was to manage the relocation of Chambers to their new (in 2001) premises in Temple Row.

I think that my real success (if there was one) was that I enabled my successors at St Philips (notably Paul Wilson) to push things on further than I could have done as their “first” CEO.

Naturally, over time more Chambers have recognised the value that professional management can bring to Chambers and there have been many success stories; I think the biggest change in the past 25 years (!!) has been the recognition that regardless of legal structure, a set of chambers is a business, in many cases a multi-million-pound business, and needs to be managed and run as such if it is to succeed.

You will have been at 42BR for 7 years as of June this year and in your tenure, chambers’ revenue has more than doubled. The impact of the right hand being on the tiller can be profound, no?

I think having the right team of people who can do the simple things well is the foundation of it, along with being clear about standards and what you expect from both staff and barristers. We have more than doubled our revenue in that time, but we have also laid some important foundations for the future security and growth of the business.

We recognise that we compete in two markets; the market for work from “good firms” and the market for talented barristers to do that work; not just pupils but established barristers with relationships and good practices to bring to us.

We have a genuine practice management programme with individual barrister business plans and career discussions at least annually; this helps the practice managers to be clear about their own objectives too.

We were fortunate to look round your, if I may, very impressive new premises shortly after you moved in - how have the last six months been?

Relocating was seen as a critical step in our development; our space at 42 Bedford Row had become “unfit for purpose” both before but especially after the lockdown. Beautiful from the outside, but a warren of corridors, inaccessible rooms, and staircases on the inside with a poor client experience.

Our new space at Staple Inn has been designed to offer distinct spaces for quiet working, remote hearings/conferences, and social/touchdown activity.

It has been carefully planned to offer barristers and staff the facilities they need to feel that coming into Chambers is a preferred option to (always) working at home.

We moved here in September, and it is encouraging to see increasing numbers of barristers choosing to come to Chambers to work.

What’s the direction of travel for chambers and what are you trying to build on?

It would be easy to say “more of the same”, but we are very aware of our strengths and this is reflected in our practice group structure. I learned at St Philips that the quality market will buy from a “multi-disciplinary” set if it can see real strength in depth in its departments. That is what we are looking to promote through active knowledge sharing and targeted recruitment.

You’ve recently restructured your clerks’ room - what impact has that made?

Creating the role of “Director of Clerking” was an essential step to ensure that clerks’ room operations have a focal point. Steve Sheridan is an experienced practice manager in both civil and family spheres and is ideally placed to orchestrate improved performance in the room. It is important for one individual to know what is going on across the room and to direct things accordingly.

As most opportunities now at the Bar for senior executives are replacing someone, what advice would you give to anyone considering a career change at the Bar?

There is a saying among clerks that someone in a management role either does or does not “get” how the Bar works. I think a manager coming from commerce (as I did) needs to take time to understand these nuances without indulging them unnecessarily.

Don’t be afraid to challenge tradition but be aware that sometimes the oldest ways are still the best ways of doing things. Change does not always mean improvement.

When you’re away from chambers, how do you like to spend your time?

I still play drums in a couple of covers/tribute bands and play golf when I can (which is not often!)

We’ve known each other and worked together for over 20 years, so I may be able to guess this...! Name three things about yourself, two true and one false.

I have had a season ticket at Leeds United FC since 1968.

I played as a session drummer with some notable musicians in the 1970’s

I once took 8 wickets in an innings while playing cricket for Styal cricket Club in the Cheshire league in 1986.

Our Work

  • Silks
  • Barristers
  • Chambers management
  • Clerks/Admin
  • Bespoke


When considering a chambers move with my team, I met with all the major players in the industry. Guy and Tony were our clear preferred choice.

They were authentic in their approach, challenged us when they felt it necessary and ultimately delivered a seamless service. Most importantly they showed complete discretion, which was for us the most important criteria.

Their reputation for being leaders in their field is well deserved and I would not hesitate to recommend them to others.

Banking Silk
Premier Commercial Set, London
© Copyright 2024 Hewetson & Co. | All Rights Reserved Hewetson & Co Ltd | Privacy Policy
Web design and Development by Moore-Wilson