Mercantile Barristers Info
Mercantile Barristers Ltd London Chambers: Review
Over the past few years we've been increasing the number of barristers on our network. Even though it's been well over a decade since the law changed to allow people direct access to a barrister rather than going through a solicitor - for some reason the majority of people still are not aware. Not only are they unaware that it's possible, but according to our most recent poll 71% of you didn't even know the difference between a solicitor and barrister.
That excerpt is from the front page of the Mercantile Barristers website and more firms should really have a prominent, brief but explanatory statement like this on their sites. Some firms have several paragraphs of jargon about it, some bury information halfway down some inner pages, and some seem to say nothing at all. It's unusual because it's a great thing that the public should be more aware of.
Unlike the launch of 'No Win No Fee' back in the 90s, for some reason 'Direct Access' as a slogan has not caught on. It's odd because the idea is similar. It allows people better access to legal services and reduces costs.
Unfortunately, there are no cold hard statistics to back this up yet. However, the reasoning is perfectly sound. Originally you would have had to hire a solicitor who would then select a barrister on your behalf. That barrister would then show up to court once that stage was reached. Often the first time you meet the barrister would be at the court house for the hearing. None of that is ideal and is now not necessary.
It usually only takes that briefest of explanations for the lightbulb to go off and people to start searching for a barrister themselves. So, why should you pick Mercantile Barristers?
At first glance you might be put off by the fact the firm was founded in 2016. With so many law firms out there stating establishment dates back in the 1800s - any founding date this century is going to make a firm sound in its infancy. But realistically, the only thing old about those other firms is the name. There isn't a wise 200 year old solicitor mentoring and monitoring everyone at the firm. It could be packed with a dozen newly graduated solicitors with less than a years' experience.
The head of Mercantile Barristers, Samuel Okoronkwo, has 29 years of commercial and legal practice experience under his belt. He's worked on everything from talent employment to intellectual property, image rights, merchandising, sponsorship, licensing, broadcasting rights and more. The qualifications, experience and focus of each team member is clearly laid out on the firm's website too. A far more impressive use of space than the usual Team pages we've seen where staff are going on about their favourite colours, pets and hobbies. (No really!)
That's the first time I've ever seen those last two words used to describe a barrister, but nearly all firms say something like this about being modern and friendly. Certainly not every firm that says so actually is. Are there any tell-tale signs to know what a firm is like really beyond the sales-pitching on the website?
Independent reviews are a good place to start. Sadly these can be abused and Mercantile Barristers seems to have had some bad luck in this area. We're all aware that one person can come back onto a review board pretending to be different people making negative claims. But it's also true that many firms write positive reviews about themselves pretending to be members of the public.
It can be difficult, but with practice you can start to spot real from fake. A good tip is to see how many other reviews a person has left. If a firm has over thirty 5☆ reviews all from people that have only ever left 1 review in their whole life - they're probably fake. Also most genuine reviews make a reference such as 'Thank you Sandy, you were awesome and patient with us.' rather than just 'Excellent service. Highly recommend.' Lastly, if the person's profile says they live in Edinburgh and they are reviewing a London law firm, take it with a pinch of salt.
So why do we like Mercantile? Several reasons. Some just personal from our interactions with them, however a few you can see for yourself would be:
- As I mentioned before, the team page is packed full of proper bios so you can really get to know the background and potential experience of the people.
- They have case histories which we're a huge fan of as they not only offer people points of reference but also allow further insight into how the firm works and the general processes involved using relatable stories.
- Despite my earlier comments about 'sales-pitchy' statements there is not nearly as much as you'd see on the majority of law firm's sites and even then they are relatively understated.
- They clearly love their industry and work because they've written real articles on various subjects to post in their blog. Blogs may have started going out of fashion when people's attention span became limited to 140 characters at a time. Still, they have taken the time to write and post some real pieces. On other websites, the 'Blog' or 'News' sections are sometimes just rehashes of stories lifted from the BBC website or more opportunities to sell the firm.
No dumbing down. No 'sign up now and get a free ipad'. Whilst that paragraph and others might be considered to negate their other statements regarding being unstuffy and down-to-earth - I think it shows a unique personality and a real impression of the firm as a whole rather than everything being vague marketing statements copy/pasted from the last website you visited.
A quick note on navigation though. www.mercantilebarristers.com is the official website we link to above with www.mercantilebarristers.co.uk apparently owned by someone else. The most common error would probably be Merchant Barristers, but there isn't much else it could be confused for. However, with phishing and bank detail switch scams (see our last article) still prevalent it is always a good idea to bookmark the site if you're planning on coming back to it. You never know.
General Notes: Usually if Legal Aid is possible we've mentioned it above, but you can always ask. We haven't looked in depth at their recruitment program so are unaware of any job vacancies available. For a career with Mercantile Barristers it's best to visit the website (www.mercantilebarristers.com), check opening hours, and find the correct phone/email contact details. Simply emailing a CV to reception looks lazy. Each law firm's Law Society and/or SRA number should be on their site, usually at the bottom of each page.
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