Chambers boost pay as pupillage applications open

Hardwicke, 2 Temple Gardens, Littleton and Doughty Street all up their awards

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A host of leading chambers have announced that their baby barristers will get a pay rise as pupillage applications open today.

Commercial-slanted multi-specialist set Hardwicke has upped its award by a substantial £10,000 to £55,000, while human rights outfit Doughty Street Chambers takes its pupil remuneration from £35,000 to £40,000.

There is a smaller rise at 2 Temple Gardens, which specialises in commercial and civil work, from £67,500 to £70,000, moving it just below bar top-payer Atkin Chambers. Comprehensive chambers pay information can be found in the Legal Cheek Chambers Most List.

The pay inflation began back in September last year with the news that Littleton Chambers, whose primary expertise lies in employment and commercial law, had ramped up its pupillage award from £55,000 to £67,500.

All the chambers mentioned above are members of, or follow the same timetable as, the Pupillage Gateway, the centralised online application system which opened today and closes on 7 February at 11am.

The January start-date marks a departure from recent years, with the Gateway previously opening at the beginning of April. It has been moved forward so that wannabe barristers will know if they have secured pupillage before committing to the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which costs nearly £20,000 in London.

According to the Bar Council, pupillage numbers increased in 2015 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), rising to 437 from 397 the previous year. But they remain down on their most recent high of 514 in 2013.

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43 Comments

Anonymous

How much can they expect to earn as junior tenants at these sets? How much could a junior tenant expect to earn somewhere like Atkin? Or in a good chancery set? Can it be expected that pupillage award indicates potential earnings?

(3)(0)
Anonymous

Can’t answer that, but where I did my pupillage currently pays pupils £50k, and that was certainly more than first year tenants got.

(8)(0)
Anonymous

Could I ask which area of law this chambers specialised in?

(2)(0)
Anonymous

No idea about Doughty St, but first year tenants at 2TG & Hardwicke will almost certainly exceed their pupillage awards in year 1

(11)(4)
Barrister

I’m not sure that’s correct when expenses are taken into account

(11)(7)
Anonymous

LC take heed- could be useful to get in touch with some of your contacts at chambers about the above. Would be super useful, in addition to the (very) broad ranges given by Chambers Student.

(3)(0)
Anonymous

Wouldn’t even have to name specific chambers. Just “a top commercial set…” “a top traditional chancery set” “a top commercial chancery set” “a top employment set”

(3)(0)
Dave

A junior tenant at somewhere like Atkin would easily earn significantly more than £100k in their first full year of practice

(3)(0)
Anonymous

Salary figures given on sites like ROF and LC tend to be gross because of things that may affect net figures in different ways for different people, such as student loan, pension contributions, etc.

(1)(3)
Dave

That’s gross, but many sets have reduced chambers contributions for the first year of tenancy. A barrister at a set like Atkin would not be earning less than six figures net, after expenses but before tax.

(4)(0)
Junior Barrister

There is a loose correlation between pupillage awards and likely earnings. Different sets have different attitudes. Some good sets are somewhat old school in their thinking and believe that pupils should be glad to have a pupillage rather than expecting big bucks – it is a training period for the pupil, after all. Others are not top sets but are ambitious so they try to get the best pupils with extra-high awards, eg 2TG.

(4)(0)
Anonymous

I think it’s a sensible strategy from places like 2TG. In essence it’s a “gotta start somewhere” policy and I hope it pays off for them.

(3)(1)
Anonymous

I was once asked this question to an established barrister at a reputable set (where the pupillage award is at least 50k) : they told me that some chambers set pupillage awards to make them look like serious contenders against the likes of Brick Court/Blackstone/2 Temple Gardens etc, but that the earnings after pupillage will not necessarily be as high. It’s maybe a good idea to see which bands a set lies in for various areas of practice etc.

(1)(1)
Oh dear

Well it obviously worked on you if you think Brick Court and Blackstone are comparable to 2 Temple Gardens!

(11)(0)
Anonymous

Perhaps. Brick Court actually puts in the pupillage info that most new tenants start billing 100k v quickly

(1)(0)
The Bar Necessities

I would have thought most London barristers doing privately funded work would expect to bill more than £100k in by their second year. That’s less than £2,300/week if you allow for eight weeks holiday.

Work done is only one element of the equation. The other factors are:
1. Chambers levies.
2. Rent for your room in chambers. In temple, I understand this can be pretty high.
3. How quickly solicitors pay (or whether they make regular payments on account).

A chambers that charges rent by the square foot (and that’s not uncommon, certainly in the Temple) solicitors who are slow to pay can easily make the first couple of years an uncomfortable time, notwithstanding the fact that on a revenue basis, one is doing well

(3)(1)
Anonymous

If you are an aspiring barrister then this comment is important reading. You will certainly build up a “backlog” of tens of thousands of pounds in your second six/ the start of tenancy. It is important to budget for living expenses based upon “receipts” rather than “billings”.

That said, here will come a point, probably around a year in, where the latter begins to catch up with the former and you’ll start wondering what all the fuss was about!

(2)(0)
Anonymous

Again, reference to the Legal Cheek ‘most list’. Again no explanation as to how the Chambers on that list are selected. Come on Alex, sort it out!

(6)(3)
heartattack

Pupillage award includes paying the 18.5k BPTC fees, c.15k of living expenses during the BPTC year. Whilst pupils have scholarships, rarely do they cover the full cost of the course and so the average pupil is still looking at 3-5k of BPTC course fees not covered. So e.g. all in a generous 50k pupillage award is funding 2 years and your drawdown in the pupillage year will probably be about 30k which is about 38k or so had you been on a salary. You still undergo an opportunity cost in terms of not working for a year. 2 years of e.g. 25-30k would be better in the SR.

As above, first year tenants often don’t outearn the pupillage award. In or after first year, you also become liable for 15-20% chambers rent and other expenses, so a net 100k might well have 25k less in these tax deductible expenses, so a 75k pre-tax “salary”.

It is true that the magic circle sets and others – perhaps most of the Bar top 30 – as well as the tiny chancery sets will have lots of high earners. However, even at some of these sets, and for the majority outside earnings are a lot less rosy. PI or employment work isn’t well remunerated. You can quote the exceptions and the people who earn millions doing it, but most don’t.

City esp MC and US law firms offer a better package on remuneration. So they don’t hand out a 1 year award of 70k and market it as a first year salary, but that’s what the bar does either. It’s an award which covers two years. Law firms make you do a 6 month LPC which they pay for, they give you a 6-8k maintenance grant to do it, and then they offer you c45-50k salary for each year of your training contract. After that at US firms, the money more than doubles, indeed nearly triples. Apples and oranges of course, but just pointing it out.

(10)(2)
Anonymous

So do the quoted figures, e.g. Atkin Chambers £70k, include money for BPTC fees and year-long expenses for the BPTC (the ‘drawdown’)? Genuinely quite insightful

(3)(1)
Pantman

Chambers don’t pay BPTC fees, some allow a draw down during the BPTC year – my presumption on this is to help with living expanses. I don’t think I’ve seen a drawdown figure that is equal to the actual BPTC fee. The drawdown is part of the overall award, that they allow you to take early. If they say £70k, then the drawdown will come out of that.

(4)(0)
Anonymous

How do you think junior tenants in the traditional chancery sets do? As well as those in commercial sets?

(3)(0)
heartattack

It depends. On the set. The individual.

Let’s take Hardwicke. After the first year, you would expect a bare minimum of 100k. But you’d probably stay in the 120-150k bracket for the next 5 years and then they’ll plateau. Then you’ll have another jump at some point again in your career. Again, you have to discount rent etc. So whilst you might be on 150k net, post deductible expenses you might be on 110k. And there are QCs and good senior juniors at that set who are obviously on multiple times that which throws off the average earnings to 2-300k or whatever it is.

And there will be juniors of 5 years call at Fountain Court who pull 2-300k at 5 years call.

So at the very top commercial sets, you might expect to earn quite a bit more than you would, say in a city law firm. But elsewhere e.g. Hardwicke, 11KBW, 7BR, probably not. I would say that in the LR city solicitors probably do earn more. Outside of a coterie of barristers earning 2-3mill+, the vast majority of comm barristers plateau in the low six figures. Meanwhile partners in law firms earning the kinds of money they earn vastly outnumber those barristers making close to the same.

(6)(1)
Junior Barrister

Largely agree with your comment, except that:

1. I have friends in Hardwicke and 7BR who would strongly dispute your “bare minimum 100k in first year” theory.
2. I wouldn’t personally mention Hardwicke in the same breath as sets like 11kbw. Hardwicke is over-exposed on Legal Cheek due to its sponsorship of the site, it’s a pretty ordinary set.
3. There are more very rich partners than very rich barristers, yes, but surely that’s to be expected when there are 10 times as many solicitors?
4. My own experience is that I earn roughly what I would earn at a magic circle firm when expenses are taken into account. And that’s incredible to me, because I work nowhere near as hard as someone in a magic circle firm and really enjoy my job. All of my MC firm friends (8 of them) have left the MC for less pay and more life.

(9)(2)
heartattack

I have a contact at Hardwicke who said that to me a few years ago. Apparently they circulate – or used to circulate – earnings. Anyone pulling below 100k was regarded as someone who needed help. But I’m sure you’re right – there must at least be exceptions. I would expect much less for 7BR.

Re partners, I think the point I was trying to make is that earning potential on the whole is often better as a partner than a senior barrister. Again lots of exceptions to this. Salaried US partners are on 350-400k+ (I think?) and equity 1-2 mill+.

(12)(1)
Pantman

Top 50 pupillage awards here (though seems to have missed some recent upgrades):

http://www.indx.co.uk/pupilbase/?mode=stats&rtype=awards

The problem with these awards is that they are not all made on the same basis. Some are a straight award, and the pupil gets to keep additional funds by way of earnings in second six, others have approximately 50% award and the rest by way of guaranteed earnings, some even have a ‘clawback” element to the award. Other permutations exist, including guaranteeing income for up to two years of tenancy, or no chambers fees for some period, for example.

You have to wonder at the chambers who are offering the minimum (£12,000) where half of that is guaranteed income (they couldn’t rustle-up £12k for a straight award between themselves.

(3)(1)
Anonymous

If these are legal aid type chambers then I think it is acceptable, if not then I would question joining them also.

(1)(0)
Anonymous

On that list it say that Cornerstone have an award of £50k. On chambers’ site it says £35k “(which includes guaranteed minimum earnings of £15,000 in your second six months)”. I’m I being dumb or is this still £35k?

(1)(0)
Anonymous

If you look at the Pupillage Gateway listing it says:

“Each pupillage lasts for 12 months and there is an award of £50,000 for the year (a £35,000 basic award and guaranteed minimum earnings of £15,000 in your second six months).”

I’d suggest that Cornerstone’s web site has not been updated, given the history of Gateway listings (ie last year’s award was listed at £40k including £15k guaranteed earnings):

http://www.indx.co.uk/pupilbase/?mode=detail&id=636830303632

See the Gateway listing directly:

http://applications.pupillagegateway.com/vacancies/view/732

(0)(0)
KWM Associate

Barristers gettin’ all these big dolla raises and meanwhile fam I ain’t got no bog roll left to wipe my arse with.

This ain’t fair.

(12)(0)
Anonymous

Hardwicke’s award seems to be more like £55,000+ since they expect pupils to beat the guaranteed earnings level. Expect this could be considerably more for pupils doing commercial work

(7)(1)
Anonymous

The ‘most’ list isn’t comprehensive. It would be really helpful if it was.

(1)(0)
Anonymous

As a current MC trainee and someone who always aspired to become a barrister but essentially took the easy way out and applied for TCs, how common is a career change from solicitor to barrister at 3/4PQE?

City law, whilst enjoyable, isn’t how I envisage spending the rest of my life. Is the move to a reputable set likely, or should I focus more on inhouse/moving up North?

(1)(1)
Pantman

It is not uncommon for solicitors to become barristers, but it is usually with a bit more experience. I have seen some chambers say they will consider transferring solicitors, but those with less than seven year’s experience would be expected to complete a full pupillage (regardless of what the Bar Council stipulates).

If you look at this table (“Which BPTC course produces the most juniors”):

http://www.indx.co.uk/pupilbase/?mode=stats&rtype=bptcgdl

You’ll see that around 11.5% are ‘exempt’ from the BPTC, some of those ‘unknown’ will be exempt too. It’s probable that these are transferring solicitors, though it is worth mentioning that a good proportion may have come from other jurisdictions.

(0)(0)

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