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House of Commons barista paid more than average legal aid barrister

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Civil service role comes with a salary of £23,290 plus benefits

The government is looking to recruit a barista on a salary and benefits package that will leave many legal aid lawyers mulling a career switch.

Taking to Twitter yesterday evening, anonymous blogging heavyweight The Secret Barrister (SB) retweeted a job ad seeking a full-time ‘Head Barista’ for the House of Commons. According to the job listing, the central London post comes with a salary of £23,290 and benefits including a civil service pension, 30 days annual leave and a childcare voucher scheme.

While many Londoners would struggle to make ends meet on a salary of £23,290, particularly those with families, SB was quick to claim “this total package is more than the average income of a junior legal aid barrister”.

With several social media-goers questioning whether he (or she) was having a pop at skilled baristas, SB added:

“For the avoidance of doubt, that’s not to suggest that the barista is overpaid. It’s still a dreadfully low wage for central London. But it’s to put into perspective how poorly we treat publicly-funded lawyers who bear life-changing responsibilities every day.”

The 2019 Legal Cheek Chambers Most List

According to SB’s blog, the median take-home income of a criminal barrister for 2012-2013 was around £27,000. However, as SB pointed out to at least one non-lawyer who questioned the barista-barrister comparison, legal aid fees have decreased significantly since then and, as a result, barristers’ earnings.

Last year, barristers across England and Wales refused to take on new publicly-funded cases in protest against government cuts to legal aid, namely changes to the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS). Around 100 chambers eventually joined the quasi-strike action. In response to the action, the government proposed an extra £15 million in justice investment. Members of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) voted narrowly in favour of the deal — 52% (yes), 48% (no).

Publicly funded work aside, and over at the commercial bar, the picture couldn’t be more different. Legal Cheek‘s Chambers Most List 2019 shows that pupils at the very top sets can receive awards northwards of £70,000 and go on to earn six and even seven figure sums.

Unfortunately, for those interested in applying for the barista role, the listing has since expired.

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19 Comments

Loljkm8

Because if I’d spent a minimum of 4 years studying, one year in pupillage and scraping together my practice I would DEFINITELY contemplate a career change to work as a barista because it “paid more”.

Anyway, which one of you ordered the skinny coconut milk latte, extra hot, with a shot of hazelnut?

(23)(3)

Anonymous

At least you can start a twitter account with a handle “Secret Barista”

(19)(1)

A barista

You wish you were me, skidmark

(1)(5)

Anonymous

I don’t think that was the point of the article

(1)(1)

Anonymous

It doesn’t “pay more” in quotation marks, it does in fact pay more.

Which might allow you to stop dumpster diving for food in the skip behind your mum’s shit-stained basement

(4)(2)

Anonymous

That isn’t the point though, is it?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

The real money in coffee is here:

https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2019/46.html

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Anyone looking to switch from legal aid work can complete an unpaid coffee internship for coffee related experience before starting at £11k as a para-ista for a few years too, obviously

(14)(0)

Chippy from Tunbridge Wells

I definitely have sympathy with junior legal aid lawyers. But, isn’t this a slightly unfair comparison?

The Head Barista role is, presumably, at the higher end of what a barista could feasibly look to be paid, even if they stayed in the career for their full working life. By comparison, a junior legal aid barrister is clearly at the very start of their career at the bar and at least has the hope that their pay will increase, as their seniority increases.

Do I think junior legal aid barristers are woefully underpaid? Yes. Do I think it’s fair to compare their salary to a “Head Barista” position? No.

(Does anyone care what I think? No)

(27)(1)

Anonymous

Junior ≠ inexperienced

Junior = not a silk

(see also, “Junior Doctor”)

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Linklattes?

(18)(0)

Anonymous

It’s also a lot more then the LC staff get paid

(6)(0)

Taylor Wessing Street Barista

Those damn Americano firms are renowned for paying their staff more!

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Brothers! Sisters! We need socialism!

A windfall tax on City greed and London property!

Impose 70% income tax on all incomes higher than £50k!!

Younger earners should pay more! Young folks in their twenties don’t need £75k!!

Raise the wages of NHS nurses and teachers and legal aid lawyers!

PRIME MINISTER JEREMY CORBYN 2019!

FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW!!!!

(3)(8)

Anonymous

S O D

O F F

(8)(1)

Bob Jones

Yawn

(0)(1)

Anonymous

What are the odds they don’t even do decent coffee? Pretty high I guess.

Let’s face it, it’s almost certainly going to be at the Starbucks/Cafe Nero/Pret end of the coffee spectrum. You aren’t going to get quality beans expertly prepared.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

One neg rather is a philistine who doesn’t know good coffee.

(1)(0)

Bandito

The perceived prestige of the legal profession definitely acts as a suppressor of salaries outside of the top tier City firms and chambers and the sentiment of some of the comments here would seem to support that view (i.e that at least being a barrister is better that being a barista, justifying the barrister being paid less). This week Adam Kemeny was struck off for evading rail fares and the SRA was of the view that his £38,000 salary was more than enough to cover the cost of his daily trip and he wasn’t under “great financial hardship”, as he had argued.

Without BOMAD, which many junior lawyers in the City rely on to subsidize their lifestyles (many of my colleagues admit to being trust fund kids – I’m not one of them unfortunately), I would posit that £38,000 does not equate to a comfortable adult existence, at least in London.

By “adult”, I mean not reliant upon subsidies from parents or flat sharing with several people (though I appreciate that’s a slightly arbitrary definition and I’m not suggesting that defines adulthood or being “grown up”). I actually pay my childrens’ nanny as much as Adam was earning before being unceremoniously dropped by his employer. She is great and very bright and at 23, doing much better than Adam. Similarly, so are London’s tube drivers and plumbers and other unglamorous or less prestigious professions.

The obvious rebuttal to this is the potential upside of law. However, with an average take home of £28,000 after tax and chambers rent for a legal aid barrister, I would query how significant the potential upside is for many Solicitors and Barristers outside of the top tier.

I am fortunate inasmuch as things worked out for me and, though I didn’t take law very seriously, got mediocre grades, went to a non-Russell Group university and only studied Law because it seemed like a solid choice, I still found my way into a large international firm.

I had started a business while at university where I worked evenings (not as a gigolo) that was at least paying my bills and I was taking home more than a City paralegal by the time I graduated, take on unpaid internships and self-fund my LPC. As such, I had the relative luxury of taking my time and not having to resort to applying to high street firms or similar outfits paying the minimum possible to desperate graduates.

Things worked out for me eventually and I do think that I am better off in law all things considered and don’t regret the choice, but careers officers owe a duty to future law students to educate them that for every top silk or US firm partner, there is a struggling mass of comparatively underpaid lawyers who could make more money running around after my children. Any takers? They only bite occasionally…

(6)(1)

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