Tom Handley celebrates 25 years at Exchange Chambers

June 30, 2017

Tom Handley, Director of Chambers at Exchange Chambers, is today celebrating 25 years at the Northern Powerhouse Set.

Tom began his career as a Senior Investigator at HMRC before moving to KPMG as a Tax Consultant.  He joined Exchange Chambers in 1992 as the Set’s first Practice Manager.

In 1992 Exchange Chambers had one office (Chambers) in Liverpool, around 25 members and turnover in the region of £4 million.

Today, Exchange Chambers has offices in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds, over 160 members and turnover in excess of £28 million.

With Tom Handley as Chambers Director, Exchange continues to expand and is on course to increase its membership to more than 200 barristers within the next three years.

Today, barristers and clerks were quick to praise their long-standing Director of Chambers.

Bill Braithwaite QC, Head of Exchange Chambers said:

“I’ve been in these Chambers for well over 40 years, so I’ve known Tom all the time he’s been here. I took silk the year he arrived, and he was enormously helpful to me in developing my practice – I couldn’t have done it without his support and encouragement, and his enthusiasm for business development.

“Over those years he has been pivotal in our growth and success – without him we couldn’t have done it.  Because of his skills, we are successful, secure, and poised to do even better in the future.  Onwards and upwards Tom.”

Said Nick Buckley, Senior Clerk in Manchester:

“Tom is a truly inspirational character. He is hugely respected by everyone in Chambers – barristers, clerks and professional support staff.”

In other congratulatory messages, Gerard Martin QC praised Tom for “playing a leading role in the success of Chambers,” while Will Waldron QC said there “is no superlative sufficient to describe what an outstanding Practice Manager and Chambers Director Tom is”.

Mark Cawson QC described Tom as the “ultimate make it happen sort of person”, David Mohyuddin QC thanked him for his “unstinting support and guidance” and Chris Tehrani QC paid tribute to “an outstanding Chambers Director”.

Simon Medland QC said he had “never met a better manager of in a set of Chambers”, while Amanda Yip QC was “grateful for the way he steered me through the challenges of juggling family commitments and flexible working”.

In further comments, John Jones QC praised Tom for “leading by example”, Louis Browne QC acknowledged his “infectious enthusiasm” and Ben Myers QC credited him with taking Exchange Chambers to “its pre-eminent position”.

Comments in full

“I’ve been in these Chambers for well over 40 years, so I’ve known Tom all the time he’s been here. I took silk the year he arrived, and he was enormously helpful to me in developing my practice – I couldn’t have done it without his support and encouragement, and his enthusiasm for business development.

Over those years he has been pivotal in our growth and success – without him we couldn’t have done it.

Above all, he has become one of my greatest friends. I know I can rely on him, and we have been through some difficult times together.

Because of his skills, we are successful, secure, and poised to do even better in the future.

Onwards and upwards Tom, and thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Bill Braithwaite QC

“There is no superlative sufficient to describe what an outstanding Practice Manager and Chambers Director Tom has been.  More importantly, he is warm, friendly, patient, under-stated, generous and loyal and I am proud to count him as a friend.  If he has a flaw, it is only in his choice of football team and even then, I can forgive him his allegiance to Man Utd!”

Will Waldron QC


“Although I have only really known Tom for 6 years, I can honestly say that in the 26 years that I have been at the Bar, I have never met a better manager in a set of Chambers.

He combines astonishing business and management skills with an unrivalled capacity for getting on with people in the most testing of times and achieving mightily whilst never seeking to make himself ‘the story’.

Exchange Chambers is a market-leading legal business and although this is partly on account of exceptional Heads of Chambers over the years (including, if I may say so, the current incumbent!) and some especially talented members, it is inconceivable to me that we would be in the shape we are (or anything close to it) if we hadn’t had Tom as our Director.”

Simon Medland QC


“Like many others, I owe a great deal to Tom. I was in pupillage when he joined Chambers and so have benefitted from his guidance and support throughout my career.  I am particularly grateful for the way he steered me through the challenges of juggling family commitments and flexible working.  Every professional woman should have a Tom in her life, not many do!”

Amanda Yip QC


“Tom Handley has been my Senior Clerk and Chambers Director since I joined Chambers 15 years ago upon taking Silk. During that time he has been both innovative and supportive and has developed strategies and contacts to move Chambers into different work areas. His desire for forward thinking and development is insatiable. Notwithstanding this he always makes every effort in every case and has remained people focused. He leads the Chambers administration and clerking teams by example and has with Bill Braithwaite QC and the Chambers Board transformed Exchange Chambers into what it is today and into what it has the potential to become.”

John Jones QC


“I first met Tom 18 years ago. This was the most important meeting of my professional life. His enthusiasm was infectious. Shortly afterwards, I joined Exchange and have never once looked back.”

Louis Browne QC


“I knew from the moment that I met Tom in 2001 that Exchange Chambers was the Chambers that I should join. Tom is the ultimate “make it happen” sort of person, and one cannot underestimate the huge part that he has played in our success as a Chambers. He is also one of the nicest guys in the World. Congratulations Tom for putting up with us for 25 years.”

Mark Cawson QC


“Tom Handley: the smoothest man ever to celebrate a Silver Jubilee! Thanks, Tom, for your unstinting support and guidance to me and the rest of us. Chambers wouldn’t have reached where it is today without you. Congratulations and enjoy the celebrations!”

David Mohyuddin QC


“All the very best on your 25th anniversary with Chambers, Tom.  I recall your warm mantra when I first met you – “Trust me, you will always earn more in Exchange Chambers!”

Anthony Ellerary QC


“One of the reasons I joined Exchange Chambers was Tom’s reputation as an outstanding Chambers Director. Having now been a member for three years, I can appreciate just why he is held in such high regard.”

Chris Tehrani QC


“People’s rooms fascinate me.  You can tell a lot about someone by their personal space, even when that space says very little.  Tom’s room says a lot.  When I had my first meeting in that room, the organisation, the balance, the focus were obvious, but what distracted me from the words of wisdom I was receiving were the photographs.  They revealed a huge delight in his family, of course, but also in Chambers.  To see them all is to know exactly what I mean!  I joined Chambers seven years ago and Tom’s wisdom, foresight and focus were what I had expected in someone who had played such a fundamental role in growing and directing a Chambers as extraordinarily successful as Exchange: but it was the commitment to, and the delight in, the people around him that struck me most.  I think that’s one of the reasons why Exchange is about the individuals, as much as the organisation. And it’s that enjoyment in the people, combined with his focus, balance and direction, that counts.”

Ben Myers QC


“I first met Tom in 2008 and he transformed my career. He has a set of skills in combination which is very rare to find. He listens and inspires, anticipates clients’ needs, is honest and focused and can be diplomatic or blunt, precisely as required. Everyone who meets him wants Tom on their team! And yet he manages this by making you feel like the important one. Thank you Tom!”

Nick Johnson QC


“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. Tom sold me a vision 10 years ago about Exchange Chambers and every target that we discussed all those years ago has been achieved. Tom is a truly inspirational character.”

Nick Buckley


“Tom has the special ability to bring out the best in people while at the same time helping them accomplish things they didn’t know they could.  He’s the complete business leader; a great communicator and results-oriented doer.  His drive and leadership of Chambers over the past 25 years has inspired others to succeed.  Tom is the Northern Powerhouse of Chambers Directors.”

Ian Spencer


“Tom has been a driving force behind Exchange Chambers for 25 years. The growth of Chambers over that period has been market leading and Tom has achieved that by being a trailblazer and a rainmaker. Not only that, but he has also managed to do it with a smile, enthusiasm and humility. He is a truly unique individual.”

Jonathan I’Anson


“John Kay was a great advocate: he managed to persuade a customs officer with a promising career ahead of him to abandon everything in order to become the practice manager of a set of barristers’ chambers. He also managed to persuade that set of chambers consisting as it did of fiercely independent individuals with their own strong views as to who should manage their professional affairs that Tom, despite his lack of direct previous experience of the Bar, in fact met all their criteria.

John Kay was also a great judge. He had prosecuted serious cases in which Tom had been the officer in charge. He had witnessed the determination to ensure that investigations were carried out thoroughly, efficiently and fairly. He had seen the ability to organise complex material, to consider and analyse problems from all angles, the personal work ethic and of course the effortless but unaffected charm. He realised that these qualities (amongst a great many others) were transferrable.

The timing was perfect. The Bar was changing. It was no longer good enough for a set of chambers to be thought well of for the work to come in, as if by osmosis. It was necessary to be much less distant and considerably more welcoming to Chambers’ professional clients and potential clients. It was also necessary to abandon diffidence and to actively seek new work which meant that Chambers had to market itself.

None of this seems remotely revolutionary now. But 25 years ago it was. It should be remembered that only 15 years or so before Tom became practice manager many barristers still wore striped trousers and black jackets; some, admittedly a small minority, still wore bowler hats. There were few women barristers and unthinking discrimination was commonplace.

In retrospect, it is difficult of think of anyone better suited to bring about this revolution and to bring it to such successful fruition than Tom to whom Chambers and its members past and present owe an enormous debt of gratitude.”

Chris Cornwall


“Tom is an exceptionally talented and charming man. He really cares about chambers and all of its staff and members. Somehow, he manages to have everyone’s best interests in mind and finds ways to build on and develop people’s strengths to give everyone the chance to reach their full potential. Tom IS Exchange Chambers. Personally, I’ve never met anyone else like him. You feel like you’re the only person he is looking after when he’s talking to you – how on earth he manages to look after so many people I don’t know! But he does. And he’s brilliant.”

Tina Landale


“Tom’s involvement in recruitment from pupils to QCs has been instrumental in the successful development of Chambers over the last 25 years.”

Simon Berkson


“It gives me great pleasure to congratulate Tom on 25 years of unrivalled success in helping to build Chambers into a multi-disciplinary powerhouse of excellence that is respected throughout the north.”

Henry Globe


“Tom has played an invaluable role both in the successful expansion of Exchange Chambers over the years, and in the successful development of individual barristers’ careers.  He has done it all with charm and good humour, and with a remarkable skill in solving the most intractable problems.”  

Tim Holroyde


“The contribution Tom made during my 10 years in chambers cannot be overestimated. I’m sure there are many, like me, who joined chambers in large part because of Tom’s forward-thinking and professional approach. He has driven Chambers forward with his skills as negotiator, facilitator, marketeer and diplomat, or simply providing timely words of advice. All done with good judgement and good humour. Tom’s hard work and the systems he has put in place have provided a platform for members of Chambers to achieve their career aspirations.”

Jonathan Cannon


“It is no secret that Tom has a unique combination of talents, for which he is rightly admired and respected, both within chambers and externally. He is also very likeable. I personally benefited greatly from his sage guidance – particularly in respect of practice development and management as a senior junior, and then in silk – and will always be extremely grateful to him for that. Warmest congratulations to him and Pauline on the completion of his first quarter century in chambers, and best wishes for the next!”

Brian Cummings


“Tom Handley is both highly intelligent and quick witted. The two do not necessarily always go together. He is diplomatic, charming, articulate and persuasive. He is perfectly equipped to cope with all the demands placed upon him. He could probably have had any number of successful careers in different areas of life and got to the top. Exchange Chambers are extremely fortunate that he chose to share the last 25 years with them. I shall always have fond memories of my time working with him and I know that I owe a great deal to his skill and experience.”

Charles Chruszcz


All comments were made in a personal capacity.