Friday, 24 December 2021

Amanda Illing


In 2021, one job stood out as Kysen's proudest moment: helping one barristers' chambers rename to  Gatehouse, when the set decided to sever associations with its former namesake and slave trade supporter Lord Hardwicke in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
  One of the boldest and most positive moves I’ve seen in law in my entire career.   
Working closely with CEO Amanda Illing on this was a privilege… and an education in how to bring people along with your thinking and create true consensus.  Marshalling over 100 barristers, plus staff, getting everyone to agree to something as emotive as what their set is going to be called, is no mean feat!  I had the pleasure of sitting in on the multiple focus groups she ran with the always delightful Charles Bagot QC in what they called the "Working Title Sub Committee" to develop the new name.  I can tell you she was masterful in corralling all the different parts of chambers and getting everyone working together as one.  It also says a lot about the culture of collaboration at this particular set of chambers: amazing to see how effectively and harmoniously everyone worked together. And she was doing this whilst also in the middle of a refurbishment project of a building they were planning to move to, and many other related projects. As she describes it, "I was in the middle of a massive series of Venn diagrams!". 
Before this latest round of Covid restrictions I popped in to have breakfast with Amanda at the set’s new home in Gray’s Inn, at 1 Lady Hale Gate (you can see how far Gatehouse has moved away from the set’s Lord Hardwicke connections, just from the address!)  I was blown away.  Their new accommodation looks nothing like a barristers’ chambers, instead channeling smart, City law firm.  The interiors are spacious, sleek and contemporary, very pleasing to the eye… and not a single piece of wood panelling in sight! There are gorgeous pop-out colours and interesting fabrics everywhere, and a plethora of inviting spaces all around the building to entice people to meet with colleagues and clients and commune, also to enable people to take a moment of solitude in a manic day for their wellbeing or for prayer.  And as you’d expect there’s also the state-of-the-art facilities for hosting virtual hearings.  I haven’t even started on the party space on the top floor: a very cleverly designed area with a number of beautiful rooms that can be sectioned off or opened up into a larger sweep, segueing onto an amazing top floor terrace that overlooks the whole of Gray’s Inn.  What a view! A metaphor for the fact that Amanda and her team are giving us all a new perspective on the Bar. 

I interviewed Amanda for this blog several years ago, when we first worked for her and the set.  I remember opening with “Amanda Illing is famous for tearing down walls in Chambers…”   One of the first things she did when she joined in 2009 was to convince Chambers that it was essential to rip down the partitions separating the different members of the admin team, so that clerks, marketers, managers and the finance team could all see and hear one another, and work as one team.  Over 10 years later, she has taken this creative approach to planning workspace in a way that promotes better collaboration to a whole new level.  She’s raising the bar for everyone at the Bar 😉. 
Love this campaign highlighting the role of language in #inclusivity.  
Forward-thinking set 7BR has created a series of infographics, following interviews with five AccessAble Ambassadors, each designed to highlight the realities and #accessibility issues facing a disabled person when they’re asked to simply ‘swing by’ or ‘nip to the loo’.  For a disabled person, ‘popping to the shop’ can be a dramatically different experience.  Have you seen the campaign on 7BR's social?  If not you can connect with their Twitter and LinkedIn feeds here...

The campaign is part of an exciting project 7BR will be announcing in early 2022.  Another set that is raising the bar at the Bar, this time in relation to attitudes to accessibilit

Whilst in Glasgow this month I had a lovely opportunity to pop in to see ex Kysenite Fred Banning 
(who I'm proud to say started his legal PR career with us 15 years ago, pretty much straight out of Uni) and enjoy an amazing spectacle in his street: a Winter Wonderland Christmas lights extravaganza that he and his neighbours have put on, festooning their houses and gardens with festival fare, to raise money for Cancer Research UK

People travel miles to see it and it has been incredibly effective at raising money: over £10,000 so far and counting! 
At Kysen we decided to make our annual Christmas charity donation to support this heartwarming initiative.  If you want to make a donation too, you can use this link here.  

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