Interview with: Mark Fraser, Barrister

Rose Court Chambers | View firm profile

What do you see as the main points that differentiate Rose Court from your competitors?

Rose Court was established at the beginning of 2021 amidst the tumult of a global pandemic. The Criminal Justice System buckled in part, as a result of Covid 19, but the seeds of failure had been sown as a result of decades of under-funding and neglect.

We are a virtual set and intend to remain so until the legal landscape is clearer, but we intend to acquire premises in the not-too-distant future. This is partly due to our desire to have and nurture our own pupils. The next generation of barristers and legal experts.

These premises will not be on the scale that many well-known chambers currently occupy. We feel that large and expensive premises are unwarranted, wasteful and unnecessary, especially following the advent of the CCDS and the increased the use of CVP and PVL. We use cutting edge technology to provide a 21st century service to our lay and professional clients.

First and foremost, principles of equality, diversity and transparency lie at the core of our constitution and are paramount in everything we do and stand for. The strides made in the previous decade to open up the Bar to those underrepresented groups and those who have historically suffered discrimination, are being rapidly eroded. We aim to do something to change that.

Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

Rose Court is extremely strong in all areas of serious crime and we are also entering into strategic partnerships with well-known and highly respected solicitors in order to increase our presence in areas such as Private Prosecutions, Corporate Investigations and Anti Bribery and Corruption compliance.

Rose Court has a wealth of experience in all aspects of Financial Crime. We aim to further enhance this expertise by offering high-level advice and representation to corporate clients and individuals both in terms of initial advice regarding compliance structures and policies, but also regarding pre- litigation advice, disclosure and case strategy and representation in subsequent legal proceedings, whether they be Private Prosecutions or those initiated by the SFO, CPS and FCA.

Rose Court is also actively establishing  partnerships and working arrangements with sporting governing bodies with a view to participating in the fight against corruption and illegal gambling in all sporting arenas. Sporting Governing Bodies (e.g., The FA, ECB and the LTA to name but a few) require specialist criminal lawyers with an in-depth knowledge of financial crime and bribery/corruption legislation, to assist in their investigations into illegal betting and match fixing. We aim to provide them with exactly that. Our members’ expertise in asset tracing, forensic accounting and money laundering constructs, mean that we are well-placed to offer the services needed.

Watch this space.

How has direct public access changed the work of your chambers? Is this a growth area for your set?

This is a huge growth area, but one which is still relatively untapped by the Criminal Bar as a whole. Rose Court is developing a dedicated team to attract and undertake this work. Not every case is suited to Direct Access of course, but any organisation seeking to reach out to lay clients must make it easy for them to reach back. Policies, including fees, must be accessible and transparent, as must the contractual arrangement and rights of redress, should that client feel they have not received the service they expected and deserved.

What other issues are driving change at the modern Bar? How are you adapting to such change?

The advent of CCDS and the more widespread use of other technologies, including CVP and other forms of video linking and conferencing, have the capacity if properly used and embraced, to improve representation by ensuring greater ease and frequency of access to Counsel, continuity of representation and better communication between professional and lay clients.

I say, “capacity if used and embraced”, as some courts seem to be slipping back into the habit of listing cases for parties to attend ‘in person’ when it really is unnecessary.

The risks in transmission of Covid 19 aside, it risks jeopardising one of the few benefits to have accrued to participants within the Criminal Justice System during the pandemic.

It should also be said that as well as benefiting the wellbeing of participants within the Criminal Justice System and supporting the retention of those with childcare responsibilities, the use of technology also results in reduced expenses for all, including the state. This further results in an increased capacity for courts to undertake more work to reduce the backlog going forward.

Rose Court was formed within the period in which these changes have taken effect and we are mindful of using technology to maximise connectivity to ensure the best representation possible.

What’s the main change you’ve made in the chambers that will benefit clients?

Although our numbers have increased significantly since inception, we are still a relatively small set of chambers. Nonetheless, we appreciate the need for high quality management of our interaction with courts and clients alike and this is why we have invested so heavily in technology.

All Clerks and Members have embraced and are cognisant of the need to fully utilise the advances in video conferencing and secure document sharing in order to maximise and improve the service offered to both lay and professional clients.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

We have also invested significantly in recruiting a high-quality clerking team to compliment that technology. One might ask (and it has been) “why do you need so many clerks?” The answer is two-fold. Firstly, we intend to grow rapidly and are already identifying other individuals that could complement our excellent clerking team in the future. Secondly, the increased use of technology is not an excuse to remove the personal touch. We are in the business of people. Understanding their needs, be they a professional or a lay client and helping to satisfy those needs is our aim and purpose. Technology simply helps our people to do what we do, better and more efficiently.

What other chambers’ facilities are a benefit to clients?

Chambers uses state or the art technology to maximise its efficiency and productivity. Nonetheless, as explained above, we aim to acquire premises in the future through which we aim to extend our innovative use of technology which will serve as a conduit for both our professional lay clients to interact with courts and experts to create a much more user friendly and productive experience.

In the meantime, we acquire the use of state-of-the-art facilities when required to ensure that our clients do not in any way feel prejudiced by the fact that we are a currently a virtual chambers.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their Chambers – where do you see the chambers in three years’ time?

We have had a huge amount of support from loyal firms and many more who have come into the fold – inspired and encouraged by what we are doing. They want to work with and be associated with, a chambers that has a clear identity, ethos and direction. They have told us that whilst of course they want excellence and quality from chambers, they do not want a remote and/or unapproachable partner. Nor do they want a chambers that does not reflect the community it often serves.

Our Outreach Programme (although in its infancy) is one way in which we seek, through our partnerships with others including Middle Temple’s Access to the Bar Scheme, to put some of the principles Rose Court is founded upon into play.

In addition, our commitment to serving our community and “giving back” will (in the near future) be reflected by our interaction with local schools and charities, with a view to providing insight and guidance for the younger generation and those without recourse to traditional legal services, as well as raising awareness for issues which would otherwise go unnoticed.

In three years, I see chambers being a significantly larger and well-established new force in the legal market, bringing high-quality representation, through a new and effective model which utilises technology, and supports the local community, but not at the expense of a human approach.