What is it like to be a GCN Practice Manager?

2 March 2023

Practice Manager Q&A

We asked our practice managers, Christian Wolfenden and Michael Johnston to share their experiences of the role and how it differs from other places they have worked…

What is your day-to-day experience like at GCN? What areas do you clerk and how do you share the responsibilities?

Christian: ‘Mike and I share the running of the diary, alternating who checks through it daily. We find this works really well, as it means each of us has a good grasp of counsel’s up to date commitments and workloads, and it also gives variety to our roles, as neither is solely just working on the diary every day. We also share the bookings of upcoming hearings and conferences, and we each deal with general email and phone enquiries to chambers. Both of us clerk all practice areas, although my background was mainly criminal and Mike’s was civil and family, we have learnt a lot since starting at GCN!’

Michael: ‘My day to day responsibilities involve working with the clerks to put fixtures or opportunities into counsels’ diaries across a wide range of legal disciplines. There’s a bit of problem solving with colleagues, barristers and solicitors, as well as agreeing fees.

‘I also liaise with court staff to confirm hearings for dates in our diary and to make representations for advanced bookings to ensure smoother diary management. GCN covers a wide range of legal disciplines in which there are new things to learn and adapt to throughout the working week.’

“Being part of a set with such a strong ethos and commitment to justice for the most vulnerable in society means I take pride in the work as well.”

What do you enjoy most about the role?

Christian: ‘I really enjoy the variety of practice areas that we cover, because we have very strong teams in a number of different areas of law, you are constantly switching between them which makes for interesting clerking.’

Michael: ‘I enjoy the variety within the job as each area of law requires a different knowledge and each barrister has different needs, so I find different ways to assist them in the way they work.

‘I also really enjoy working with the practice management team at GCN.’

“First name terms helps to work together on a much more personal level.”

What differences are there at GCN in comparison to other chambers you’ve worked in?

Christian: ‘For me, it’s the collaborative nature of chambers. I feel that I can always ask members of the team for help and guidance, which is very refreshing! Being part of a set with such a strong ethos and commitment to justice for the most vulnerable in society means I take pride in the work as well.’

Michael: ‘The support and flexibility Chambers has to offer staff members has had a very positive effect on my home and work balance.

‘The barristers offer training workshops on the areas of law they specialise in which is very helpful for my understanding of their specific practice’

What is your relationship like with the barristers at GCN?

Christian: ‘We have an excellent relationship. The barristers are all down to earth and easy to get along with. They’re always happy to talk through things and look at how best to resolve issues and maintain good relationships with our clients. There is no “us and them” with the barristers and clerks here, it’s a real team that I feel lucky to be a part of.’

Michael: ‘I feel the barristers are very approachable and having first name terms helps to work together on a much more personal level.

‘I found the barristers at GCN are happy to talk about work related matters or general conversation in equal measure.’

Christian has been clerking since 2007 and joined Garden Court North Chambers in April 2022. His previous role was with St Johns Buildings in Sheffield, where he worked as Lead Criminal Clerk for six years.

Michael joined Garden Court North Chambers as a Practice Manager in July 2022 from St John’s Buildings in Manchester. His first chambers was Young Street Chambers where he started as an office junior in 1999 and later became a clerk dealing with civil and criminal matters.  

Find out more about our current Practice Manager vacancy.

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