Research: Average barrister earnings equate to £60,000 salary

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By Thomas Connelly on

Bar Council claims overheads account for ‘half of a barrister’s turnover’


Bar Council research has claimed that a barrister practising in England and Wales will trouser earnings equivalent to a salary of £60,000.

Using data collated during the practising certificate renewal process, the Bar Council has stated that 22% of barristers earn between £90,000 and £150,000.

Highlighting a vast earnings gap within the profession, the stats — released earlier this week — show that while 16% of barristers (roughly 2,500) earn over £240,000, 13% of the profession (around 2,000) have to make do with £30,000 or less.

But this isn’t the full picture. These earnings estimates do not factor in that key overheads need to be deducted. A spokesperson for the Bar Council told Legal Cheek:

Such expenses include the costs of staff, office space, travel, insurance, pension and sick pay, which together account for about half of a barrister’s turnover.

With this in mind, the earnings figures given by the Bar Council — which represents barrister across England and Wales — dramatically reduce.

Those who at first glance appear to be taking home around £240,000 per annum are actually earning £120,000. And perhaps more worryingly, a member of the bar receiving £30,000 in fees a year is pocketing just £15,000 after expenses are deducted. Based on the Bar Council’s methodology, the average barrister is earning a salary equivalent to £60,000.

Whichever figure you take, the earnings gap is stark. According to Legal Cheek’s Chambers’ Most List commercial specialists such as Atkin Chambers, 2 Temple Gardens and 4 Pump Court all offer their pupils an award of around £70,000. Commanding large fees from clients (usually businesses), it’s not uncommon for pupils, once qualified, to see their earnings rocket.

The same cannot be said for those trying to forge a career at the publicly funded bar. Pupils at criminal sets can take home as little as £12,000 in their first year of training. Salaries do rise post-qualification, but as many criminal barristers will confirm, not by much.

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