Exchange Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

‘Northern powerhouse’ Exchange Chambers has over 200 barristers, including 23 silks, and three sites — in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool — making it one of the largest chambers in the country. In 2022, Exchange took on a record eight pupils across its locations. It seems the set is big in all things, including the broad range of work it does. The set is multidisciplinary, operating in everything from crime to commercial. Highly regarded at the Northern Bar, practice areas include commercial dispute resolution, family, insolvency, employment, business and property, private prosecutions, tax, professional discipline, and many others. In short, there’s very little that the set doesn’t do!

The work is often of high quality too as members of Exchange Chambers get their hands on some of the biggest legal matters in the north. Past cases have included representing the University of Salford at the Manchester Arena Inquiry, representing the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police before an employment tribunal, and working on a case involving a Salford Gangland conspiracy to murder rival gang members. The set’s work extends beyond the north, however. Members have, for example, acted in the North Wales (Waterhouse) Child Abuse Inquiry, working on the merger between Unilever and Alberto Culver, and the ‘Blue 25’ Inquest concerning the deaths of five UK servicemen shot by a rogue Afghan policeman. One junior at the set tells us the work is “very stimulating”, “high quality” and is often of the type that “makes a real difference to people’s lives”. 

The exciting work keeps coming. In the past year, Nicola Daley has successfully prosecuted a multi-million-pound cannabis trafficking operation, David Went has acted as part of the counsel team for RHA who obtained the green light from the Competition Appeal Tribunal for a £2 billion claim relating to the trucks cartel to proceed, and Julian King has successfully defended a police sergeant in front of a misconduct hearing after he was accused of violently punching a detainee. 

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Of course, while work is generally “interesting and varied”, there are some less exciting cases — well, it can’t all be billion dollar claims! Speaking of the quality of work, one junior tells us, “sometimes it’s very stimulating. At other times it reminds me of being forced to eat greens as a child!” As a pupil or junior, it’s inevitable that some bread and butter cases will be less flavoursome, but the reputation of Exchange Chambers means there will always be someone around you doing something exciting, and there is a sense of learning by osmosis from these people. 

It should be noted that applicants to this set apply to a practice area — either crime, family, common law, or commercial — which would suggest that you are somewhat limited in what you will see during pupillage, and possibly your first few years of tenancy, by this decision.

Despite how large the set is — almost like a law firm rather than a traditional chambers — it is described as “an extended family” by one tenant. There is generally always someone on hand to help you out if you are struggling with a case or just need a chat. The pandemic has somewhat affected this. One junior confides: “We used to have a very busy chambers with an open door policy — and we have not quite been able to replicate that remotely… yet!” Even if you can’t physically speak to somebody, though, we hear that many members are just a call away. We are told, in particular, that senior members make a large time investment into supporting junior colleagues who are “never turned away”. Informal mentorship from more senior barristers is also on offer, with one source commenting their mentors “have been very supportive of [their] aims and ambitions”. One tenant goes so far as to say: “This is one of the most supportive, friendly and welcoming Chambers in the country. I have spoken to many of my contemporaries and none of the support they have received compares to Exchange Chambers.” 

When it comes to work-life balance at Exchange, views are pretty mixed. This is most likely due to the wide range of practice areas that members operate in — experiences will differ greatly depending on the sort of work you are doing. While one barrister tells us that “Chambers give really good support over well-being and diary flexibility particularly to those with caring responsibilities,” another despairs, “I work every night — on the night’s when I don’t work, I feel guilty, because I’m so used to work”. It seems particularly stressful on the criminal side, with members reporting “endless emails and endless court orders with impossible deadlines”. Clerks are, however, “quick to spot when someone is struggling” and Chambers are supportive of people setting boundaries. Some members also note that it is “better since remote hearings were introduced” — not having to travel four hours for a 30 minute hearing can only be a good thing! 

While the focus is definitely work not play — as is only to be expected of life at the Bar! — there is definitely a social side at Exchange for those who want it. We hear there was a huge Chambers dinner earlier this year to celebrate the former CEO’s retirement. Web socials have also become popular as many people continue to work from home. Many members do note the impact that the pandemic has had: we’re told the social side is “sadly, not what it was” but another tenant comments that they are sure “things will even out”. Pre-Covid, we hear there were regular activities linked with charitable activities such as abseiling down the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral or completing the ‘Three Peaks Challenge’ — we hope these can return soon as they certainly sound like good fun! 

As mentioned, Exchange Chambers is split across three sites: Manchester, Leeds, and Liverpool. Each is located in a prime position within the city and all of the sites are “modern, functional, and impressive” as well as “immaculately maintained”. The Manchester office even has a rooftop terrace! We are told there is a “good mix of common areas for those with paper-lite practices who are often in court and individual rooms and shared rooms for others more desk based”, along with a lot of conference space.  Technology within the offices is generally praised, and premises are well-connected with video linked meetings across all three cities and monthly internal newsletters. The IT staff are also said to be lovely, with Mike and Jon in the Liverpool premises being praised for their expertise. The irony of spending money on refurbs when more people are working from home has not, however, been lost on one tenant who complains, “I’m not sure why we need these fancy buildings now when all our work is digital!” At least it’s popular with the clients!

Those interested in applying to Exchange Chambers will be competing for up to eight pupillages on offer. The award is £25,000. Applicants should apply through Chambers’s own application form. They will apply to a specific practice area: either crime, family, common law, or commercial. The criteria on which any application will be assessed are: a fine intellect, sound judgment, clarity of thought and expression, an ability to achieve, a capacity for sustained hard work under pressure, an ability to relate appropriately to the very widest cross section of society, confidence, enthusiasm, integrity, broadness of mind, and a commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. Those scoring highest in the paper application will be invited to a first round interview, lasting about 25 minutes. Prior to the interview, candidates will be provided with a question that will form of the basis of the discussion. Based on performance in this interview, no more than 12 candidates will then be invited to a second round, which lasts a full day and will include a mixture of formal interviews and assessed practical exercises. This almost replicates a law firm assessment centre and is an unusual selection method, but certainly allows candidates to show off an array of skills.   

It’s probably fair to say that Exchange offers a level of on-the-job advocacy training that is only possible outside of London. At the regional bar, pupils will be in court more frequently than in the capital, and pupils at Exchange can expect to be on their feet almost every day in their second six. One former pupil said: “The support I received during pupillage was excellent, I am lucky to have worked since then with a number of senior juniors and silks who are experts in the field”. Indeed, chambers now has a dedicated Pupillage Manager who oversees and supports pupils’ development and progress. Training continues beyond pupillage, with one tenant telling us “the senior juniors and silks I have worked with over the years have been key in my development as a barrister”. Another, who was been a member at three other chambers, says the training at Exchange is “in a class of its own”. Some members, perhaps unsurprisingly, do describe themselves as “self-trained” — there is a lot of learning on the job after all! 

In addition to its training, Exchange Chambers has shown commitment to equality and diversity through involvement in several initiatives. Twenty-two of the set’s barristers are part of a mentoring programme to inspire people from all backgrounds to pursue a career in the law, while other members frequently pen articles detailing their diverse journeys to the Bar. Further, the set has recently launched a new pupillage podcast series: found here.  The set also partners with Inner Temple’s Pegasus Access and Support Scheme and provides work experience through, among others, the Sutton Trust. One of Exchange’s barristers is a founding member of the ‘All Rise’ project, inviting barristers to speak out and stand against abusive, bullying, and belittling behaviour by wearing an All Rise pin badge as a symbol of allyship. The set is also involved in many charity initiatives such as a charity walk for Access to Justice and charity bike ride for Marie Curie. All in all, they certainly seem a good bunch. 

What The Junior Barristers Say

Eve Salter

Your journey to pupillage

I went to Liverpool John Moores University and studied law. During my third year, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and the remaining few months of my degree were online. I went on to complete the LLM Barrister Training Course at BPP Manchester, given the pandemic was well underway by this point, I completed the entirety of the Bar course online. I completed all of my qualifying sessions online, with the majority of pupillage interviews online too. Alongside my degree and the bar course, I was a Special Constable with Merseyside Police. This gave me a unique perspective on criminal law in action. Throughout University, I completed a number of mini-pupillages, two with Exchange Chambers.

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The pupillage experience

I knew I always wanted to be based up North and in particular, in Liverpool. My family are here and through my experiences during mini-pupillages, I saw how close-knit and friendly the Northern Bar is. Exchange have a fantastic reputation and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent shadowing barristers from there.

The pupillage application consisted of a paper application, followed by two interviews. When I applied, it was during the pandemic so my interviews were over Zoom. The first round interview was a panel interview, with a set 5 minute presentation on a topic I was given a few days prior. The second round interview spanned over a full day and consisted of a panel interview, an advocacy exercise (given in advance) and a written exercise (given on the day). Whilst I was extremely nervous during the interviews, I appreciated how all those interviewing me aimed to make the process as stress-free as possible. There were no trick questions and they wanted to get the best out of me.

A couple of months before starting pupillage, Chambers emailed me to tell me who my pupil supervisor would be. My pupil supervisor then organised to meet with me prior to starting to answer any questions I may have, introduce themselves and ensure we were ready to start. My pupillage was due to start during the Bar Action strike, therefore I delayed my start.

Throughout my first six, I spent time with barristers across the three cities on a variety of cases. My supervisor ensured I was able to visit as many court centres as possible so she could show me where everything was. I spent my first six months watching and absorbing everything going on around me. It provided time to find my feet and understand how the process works and who is about to help.

Throughout my pupillage, I have 3 monthly reviews with my supervisor and the CEO of Exchange. The purpose of the review is to track my progress but also discuss anything I would like to experience before finishing pupillage.

I have been lucky enough to have a supervisor who is not only an amazing advocate but extremely approachable. I have felt supported the whole way through pupillage and I know that going forward I will always be able to call my supervisor, or anyone in Chambers, for support and advice.

What is your practice like now?

I am in my second six and since starting I have had a fantastic range of cases. I have been given such a range of cases to ensure I have had the full experience in anticipation of qualifying, I have even had my first jury trial. Despite being a pupil, I have been given the opportunity to see cases through from start to finish. Exchange are extremely supportive of my progress and provide me with many opportunities to expand my knowledge and practice.

Chambers encourage pupils to have a work/life balance and to develop friendships with co-pupils. I have been lucky enough to have two co-pupils also based in Liverpool Exchange Chambers. We often meet up throughout the week, both inside and outside of Chambers. This provides another support system made up of people who understand the pressures you may be facing. There is also a fantastic group of pupil barristers within the North who often meet up for drinks/food, providing further support.

What is the culture of chambers?

When looking from the outside, in, I remember thinking how corporate and professional I perceived Exchange to be. However, since completing my mini-pupillages and now my pupillage with Exchange, I realise it is so much more. The focus of Exchange is its people; the focus being on supporting each other. A barrister is predominantly thought to be an isolated role, the ability to work effectively alone being key. But Exchange understands that having a team around you makes you better. Everyone I have met from Exchange so far has been extremely supportive and encouraged me to contact them if I ever have a problem.

Throughout my time at Exchange, I have been encouraged to get involved in the numerous events put on and to meet as many people from the different cities as I can. It is extremely encouraging to have members of Exchange in Court that I can turn to if I have a last minute question.

Exchange Chambers are focused on giving back to the community, whether that be through charity events or providing work experience opportunities. I have thoroughly enjoyed attending charity events and assisting in providing work experience for students.

Top tips for those wanting to become a barrister/secure a pupillage at your chambers

Exchange Chambers is all about people, therefore being able to work with and communicate with a large cross-section of people is imperative. When applying, remember those reviewing your application/interviewing you, are looking not just for academic/legal excellence but for a real person that they could see themselves working with – so show the real you, not what you think they’re looking for.

Wanting to work on the Northern Bar is key, think about how you can evidence you wanting to not just work up North but to make a life here. A good way of evidencing this is to complete mini-pupillages and getting to see what life on the Northern Bar is like. Try and shadow a variety of barristers from the junior end, right through to the more senior end. This will give you lots of reference in your applications.

There is no “one type” of barrister. The Bar is expanding and becoming more representative of those we represent. It will take hard work, plenty of resilience and a little bit of luck but when you get there, it’s worth all the time and effort you put into it.



Applications are accepted on a rolling basis
Applications close 30/09/2024

Insider Scorecard

Quality of work
Work/life balance
Social life
Legal Tech

Insider Scorecard grades range from A* to C and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2023-24 completed by barristers at the set.

Key Info

Juniors 183
KCs 23
Pupillages 8
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 2/5

*Figure is for the five most junior members of chambers; does not include postgraduate studies.


Pupillage award £30,000
Bar course drawdown £2,500


Female juniors 36%
Female KCs 13%
BME juniors 5%
BME KCs 13%