“No barriers to success at Exchange”

November 30, 2021

Having progressed to Solicitor at a Magic Circle law firm in London, Tom Longstaff transferred to the Bar in 2017 and become a full member of Exchange Chambers in late 2018.

In the latest in a series of articles by members of our commercial team, Tom talks about the differences between the Bar and private practice and says there are no barriers to success at Exchange.

Specialising in commercial and insolvency litigation, Tom has been instructed in a wide range of contractual and shareholder disputes, complex banking litigation and contentious insolvency matters since transferring to the Bar.

During a particularly busy last 12 months, he has also been instructed in a number of interesting interim applications, including one of the leading authorities on the threshold for obtaining injunctive relief against a public body (R. (on the application of the Governing Body of X) v Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills [2020] EWCA Civ 594); by the successful applicant, earlier this year, for an injunction in malicious falsehood and harassment proceedings (Fish v Barker [2021] EWHC 604 (QB)); and very recently,  in committal proceedings brought by the SRA which followed a failure by a Registered Foreign Lawyer to comply with an order for delivery up of client files (The Law Society of England and Wales v Pawlak [2021] EWHC 3076 (Ch)).

Tom’s career as a solicitor was on an upward trajectory as a Senior Associate at a Magic Circle law firm when he opted to transfer to the Bar.

Talking about his decision to join Exchange Chambers, Tom said:

“I wanted to be a member of a set of chambers that competes for the best quality work, and maintains high standards across different practice areas.

“Exchange is recognised as being an ambitious and forward thinking set with a number of high-quality practitioners in the areas in which I practice – many of whom have been involved in some of the most interesting and high-profile cases outside of London.”

Tom says the reality of life at the Bar has far exceeded his expectations.

“I have received a number of high-quality instructions since joining Exchange, and have been involved in a number of interesting cases both in the High Court and Court of Appeal,” he continues.

“I would say that my experience to date is ahead of where I would have expected it to be at this stage, which has been driven by clerks who understand the market, and are constantly creating new opportunities.

“Joining Exchange has also helped me to get involved in the UK’s expanding Group Litigation regime, including litigation which arises from the Emissions scandal, relates to financial mis-selling, and a short time after joining Chambers, I had the opportunity to work on the Fundão Dam litigation, which involved a period of time working in South-eastern Brazil.”

Tom believes the practice development support available at Exchange is second-to-none.

“From an organisational perspective, Exchange Chambers is extremely impressive,” he continues.

“It is run in a very similar manner to a law firm, with the resources to properly manage your practice and meet the needs and expectations of clients.

“Aside from the clerking team, Exchange has teams dedicated to a number of important functions, including Marketing, Seminars and Training, and IT, and this can make a substantial difference to your practice. It also meant that during the pandemic, Exchange was able to function as normal almost instantly.”

Having experienced life as a solicitor and barrister, Tom says there are pros and cons to the Bar and private practice.

“The key difference at the Bar is that you can take control of your own career at a fairly early stage,” he continues.

“At a set such as Exchange Chambers, it is possible to go as far as your own ability and hard work will take you, without any real barriers. Whilst this may also be said of private practice, to a degree, there is certainly less of an influence from others in terms of your speed of progression. It is just a matter of individual choice.

“In my opinion, it is a myth that lawyers in the North work less hard than lawyers who practice in London.

“It may have been true in previous years that lawyers at City firms would work longer hours than ‘regional’ lawyers, but I do not necessarily think that is the case any longer.

“The Bar can certainly provide flexibility, and if you want an improved work-life balance after having worked in the City, then Exchange, and the Bar generally, can probably provide that, but not necessarily so. If you show a desire to work hard, the clerks at Exchange Chambers will keep you very busy – perhaps even busier than many barristers and solicitors working in London. It is an example of an organisation comprised of individuals who all work differently and have different priorities.”