‘Northern powerhouse’ Exchange Chambers has over 170 barristers, including 17 QCs, in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, making it one of the largest chambers in the country. It gets its hands on many of the big cases in the north. Recently Exchange barristers secured a multi-million-pound settlement for a Navy helicopter pilot with brain injuries and represented the Fire Officers’ Association at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
Exchange takes six pupils each year, the highest number of pupillages offered by a single set in England and Wales. One particularly attractive feature of this chambers is that it guarantees new tenants’ first two years of earnings up to £100,000 — reassuring for any rookie navigating this early, precarious part of their career. Pupils may like to note that business is booming for this set, which announced record turnover this year of £33.1 million — a rise of 7.5% on last year’s £30.8 million.
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 can expect to be on their feet almost every day in their second six. Exchange receives As for training and work in the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2019-20, with A*s for colleagues, work/life balance and facilities, apparently featuring “mood lighting, plush carpets, vast space—well, in the clerks’ room that is…”. Of the latter, another barrister adds: “We are so well looked after in every way… exceptional management, great IT team, really good systems”.
The work is “very stimulating”, “high quality” and broad based. Practice areas include commercial, business and property; employment, pensions and tax; family; criminal; alternative dispute resolution; local government and social housing; personal injury and clinical negligence; public law and court of protection; and regulatory and professional discipline. Many Exchange members are leading practitioners in their areas of expertise.
Colleagues are of the nice barrister type. “Without exception, colleagues are very helpful and I often seek an opinion in a general way from someone who I consider a good lawyer with a sensible perspective,” one tells us, summing up the collegiate vibe. “Gallows humour gets you through,” says one pupil.
While the focus is definitely work not play, as is only to be expected of pupillage, there is definitely a social side at Exchange. “We get on extremely well and enjoy social events,” says one pupil, “but people also have family, friends, interests outside of chambers.” Another adds: “Just the right mix between working hard and enjoying life.” Pupils can also join in with charitable ventures such as abseiling down the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral or completing the ‘Three Peaks Challenge’.
Exchange looks for “confident and enthusiastic” candidates with “clarity of thought and expression” and “a capacity for sustained hard work under pressure”. The chambers handles its own application process and is not a member of the Pupillage Gateway.