Location, quality of work and the people: Why I chose Exchange

November 6, 2020

By Harriet Lavin

Junior criminal tenant Harriet Lavin reflects on her experience of pupillage and why she chose Exchange over other sets.

Deciding where you want to live and who you want to work for isn’t easy. The first big decision I had to make was where I wanted to live. I am from Manchester but studied at university in London and so I had a connection to both places. After work experience on both circuits I realised a few very important things. Firstly, it is very common to undertake a pupillage in London and not be successful in obtaining tenancy. This is not the case in the Northern Circuit, where chambers generally take on pupils with the aim to keep them on as tenants. This is certainly true at Exchange, where I was told the whole aim of pupillage is to ensure I am confident and ready to be a tenant. This is the case for all the pupils Exchange takes on and so it’s nice to be at a place where you do not feel like you are in constant competition with one another for limited opportunities for tenancy.

Secondly, the quality and variety of your work generally improves at a faster rate in the Northern Circuit. Someone described it as being a bigger fish in a smaller pond. At Exchange, from the start of my second six I have frequently been in the Crown Court. With it being a smaller pond, you also get to know other members of circuit much quicker.

Taking into account those two key factors I decided that Manchester would be the environment most suited for me to begin my career as a barrister. I then had to consider which chambers I wanted to go to.

Possibly the most important factor for me was that I wanted to go to a chambers with high quality advocates and work. This is invaluable from the very moment you are assigned a supervisor. You spend your pupillage absorbing their professional life and helping with the work that they do.  It is therefore incredibly rewarding to be learning from well-respected advocates who are great at their job. My supervisor was Chloe Fordham and within my first six I was able to see a six week multi-handed drugs conspiracy, a rape, a murder and much more. She is someone who I still turn to for advice and support on a regular basis despite completing pupillage.

Which leads me on to another and arguably the most important reason about why Exchange is attractive: whilst the members at Exchange are generally well-respected, they are also welcoming, approachable, and supportive. This is hugely important, especially in the early years of practice, because you rely heavily on the guidance and advice of the people around you. I think you are in an environment where you feel you can ask questions and be supported through what can be a challenging time. If members of chambers are not approachable then this will make life much harder than it needs to be.

This article has been published in accordance with our pupillage recruitment process.

For more information on how to apply and key dates for the 2022 application process, please click here.

In the following months we will be holding multiple events for those interested in pursuing a career at the Bar, please find them here.