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Minimum pay for pupil barristers up £94 in London and £279 elsewhere

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Very modest uplifts didn’t go down well on Twitter

Minimum pupillage awards across England and Wales are set to rise again following an annual review, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) confirmed.

Chambers in London will have to pay pupils at least £18,960 in London, while those elsewhere will receive a minimum of £16,601. The rises, effective from 1 January 2020, equate to an extra £94 and £279 a year, respectively. The previous rates were £18,866 and £16,322.

The award is set with regard to the Living Wage Foundation’s hourly rate recommendations, which are announced in November each year. This currently sits at £10.85 an hour in London and £9.50 for the rest of the UK.

The modest uplifts didn’t go down well with lawyers on social media, with criminal barrister and author The Secret Barrister tweeting:

“For a (conservative) estimate of 50 hours a week, this works out at a princely £6.39 / £7.29 an hour. Minimum wage is £8.72. The bar must do better.”

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“I don’t think that these are figures to be celebrated,” Carmelite Chambers barrister James Lloyd said. “We simply are not doing enough to break down barriers to entry of the profession.”

Stephen Davies, a criminal solicitor at Tuckers, described the rises as “absolutely scandalous” before adding, “I’m afraid I do not support this whatsoever and I query how this can possibly be justified?”

The BSB announced back in 2018 that pupillage awards would be set in line with the salaries recommended each year by the Living Wage Foundation. Prior to the commitment, the minimum chambers could pay their pupils was £12,000.

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41 Comments

Poor Irish Barrister

Mfw the brits are triggered over an increase in minimum pay, we get paid literally nothing over here, except maybe a few hundred quid at Christmas as a thank you.

Tho no

A few hundred quid?

I thought you were on the Euro now?

Jeremy Burnett Rae

Seriously, WHO gives you your few hundred? If you can afford to live on air, why do they do it?
If you are doing something useful for your pupilmaster, no doubt you will be getting briefs within six months: after 21 years of training and four as an adult student it is seems not much longer to wait? But personally I think pupils should get training awards on the exam results.

Bob

Why are pupils paid anything at all? They should get used to being independent, as barristers are supposed to be, and still are in New South Wales.

Anon

To name just a few; (1) the support they provide their pupil supervisor; and (2) If they werent paid anything, only those with the means to support themselves could enter the profession.

Bob

I have had more than half a dozen pupils. I enjoy the relationship but I am
doing things for them not vice versa. It is hardly oppressive to expect a capable professional to be able to save enough to support themselves for a few months. The Bar of England and Wales has gone down the tubes: permitting employed barristers, paying pupils and too much state funding, especially in crime. Captive and bureaucratic rather than free and independent.

Question

What area of law do you specialise in, Bob?

Bob

I have a broad practice in crime and common law with quite a lot of Court of Appeal work

An actual barrister

You do not sound like a barrister to me, certainly not a very well-informed and intelligent one.

Saved up money from what exactly? This may well be their first job out of studying and they no longer all have rich parents backing them.

Too much state funding? Criminal barristers get paid very little in many cases.

They are still doing a job for you. By all means complain their pupillage money is too high. But claiming they should do it for free is ridiculous.

Bob

In what sense are they doing a job for me you abusive non-entity? In what sense is their failure to provide for themself the problem of their chambers or their pupil master? I had no support from my parents and do not come from a well off background. You are clearly entirely mentally captive to an employment model of the bar and a bureaucratic one. My point about legal aid was not that rates are too low but that too many people are legally aided. I never seek not refuse legally aided work. I will not make myself dependant upon it.

Ben

Bob, the NSW Bar is not the real thing. There is a reason why you are a criminal/common law hack in Australia and not at the English Bar, doing proper work. Leave the debate to those who can credibly contribute to it.

Bob

I see – I prefer to work with Australians who wash far more than English people. Not sure on what basis you suppose I am a hack. I am quite happy with my practice and I am the leading junior in two of may narrow areas of practice. From my perspective it seems very much the case that the Bar of England and Wales is no longer the real thing. Employed barristers. Salaries (dressed up however you like) for pupils. A criminal bar earning a pittance because they allowed themselves to become entirely beholden to state funding. I am happy to stay here thank you very much.

Ben

Bob, I am glad you are happy with being mediocre. Everyone finds their level. Now leave this debate to the grown-ups.

ALawyer

The Australian Bar operates from a completely different model and so far as I can tell every mam and his dog can qualify fully in Australia. The amount of people I see coming over here who are “qualified” in Australia, yet have nowhere near the knowledge or experience of most paralegals here.

Alan

I applied for an Australian visa.

They asked “Do you have a criminal record?”

I said “I didn’t know you still needed one.”

(I’ll get my coat)

Bob

There is no Australian Bar. The profession is state based, and quite different from State to State. I will refrain from comment on the UK qualified barristers I have encountered here in Sydney.

ALawyer

There is no U.K. bar it varies from country to country (see how easy it is to be a pedant). Regardless of which state in Australia all of them have lapse requirements for qualification when compared to any part of the U.K.
As for Barristers from over here practising in Australia, I couldn’t comment but chances are anyone who has spent any time over here is better than Australian qualified lawyers who just stay in Australia which is why half the country seems to come over here to get experience.

Anon

Hi Bob. This is ridiculous. It would make an already inaccessible profession almost completely exclusive to those from wealthy backgrounds. How else is someone working 55 hours a week supposed to pay for travel, food, rent etc? What a crazy thing to say. Not everyone has family support

Jeremy Burnett Rae

Really, it’s a non-brainer.
Pupils are paid because they work, and often between 6pm and midnight, hopefully usefully:
and as well as obviously needing board and lodging, they must spend £1000 on suits, wig and gowns, travelling and subsistence expenses, professional development, and all the usual overheads in some form or other.

If they still had to moonlight, (as my generation had to be waiters, journos, teachers, mistresses, etc,)
* pupils would not get a fair chance to learn or try out our profession, which is what pupillage is for;
* HM courts and their clients would get half-knackered, half-starved barristers who couldn’t afford a clean suit and shirt, and would lack any professional independence from the trainee solicitors on a salary, or the thieves and others we represent.
* “British justice” would leave even more litigants unrepresented.

Despite a few class-blind scholarships, bursaries and loans, we still discriminate against a lot of good students and barristers who cannot afford pupillage or to stay at the Bar (often middleclass, because of all the politically correct benefits, grants and loans to the working class)

Anonymous

Social mobility is irrelevant to the BSB. Sex and race are all that matter. Good times to be from a wealthy background and tick those lovely boxes. Good times.

Loving Life

That’s nowhere near enough for all the wine, ‘confidence-boosting international retreats’ and psychotherapy you’ll need once you get tenancy.

Rubyshoes

More outrage should be given to the fact there are far fewer pupillages being offered. That will stop progression much more than pay rates.

Anon

Why?

All that means is you’ll have more disappointed people who don’t get tenancy.

Rubyshoes

If there aren’t any pupils coming through the system it stops the need for tenancy in the first place. No progression (let alone social progression) in the system.

Kirkland NQ

Wow. Imagine being a lawyer and not even being able to afford to fly your super car to your summer home on the Côte d’Azur.

Tenant

I appreciate the figure is crap for 1st 6, but doesn’t everyone earn considerably more in 2nd 6 than the pupillage award, which (for 2nd 6) is simply a guaranteed minimum?

So on SB’s figure of working 50 hours/week, if the pupil was actually doing 50 hours per week in 2nd 6, they would be making quite a substantial sum?

Anon

And they would not be paying tax on it for ages either.

Anon

Not sure why you were downvoted. I was just recently called to the Bar of England and Wales.

I received 22K award and 22K guaranteed salary. In my second sixth I made considerably more than 22k.

I come from a council estate in Yorkshire. I never saved a penny, I made the most of ULAW and Middle Temples advocacy scholarships and effectively had my BPC paid for.

I did unpaid work the year before juggling Tesco on the weekends for rent and food.

This is a non-issue. If you are good enough for practice there are plenty of funding opportunities available and once in practice the minimum second sixth salary is irrelevant.

Anonymous

False extrapolation writ large.

Alan Robertshaw

It used to be the case the pupils had to pay 100 Guineas to undertake pupillage. My old pupil master thought that was great tradition. We had to differ on that one.

I was lucky in that, although there was no pupillage finding back then, I was able to pick up some ‘noting briefs’ in my first six. That was one of the exceptions allowing pupils to receive renumeration. I was also pretty busy in my second six. I started out in crime, so it wasn’t the best paid work; but there was plenty of it so it balanced out. Even doing a few overnighters on Saturday mornings paid for the weekend.

But there is a serious point to this. Lack of funding can be a real impediment to people; especially from non-traditional backgrounds. I was lucky in that I did law school in the days when there were still grants, and I got a scholarship for Bar School. That took the edge off things a bit. But for people already facing massive student loan debts funding is yet another deterrent.

The Bar model is unusual in that chambers are incorporated associations, so they’re not ’employers’ as such. But if we don’t find a way of supporting people at the start of their careers then there is a risk that the Bar ends up only being available to people with access to private income. And I can think of few areas in life where it’s more important that the participants look like the people they serve than the justice system.

Desperate for a Pupillage

I’d happily pay £105 for a pupillage.

Any old buffer of a pupil master want to sign me up?

His Grace The Hon. Rev. Dr. Sir Alan Blacker, the Lord Harley of Council Chamber Pot, QC, MP, MT, McKenzie Friend Extraordinaire, Waffle Maker by Appointment to the Dutchy of Oldham, Patron of the Charity “Blacker Lives Matter” (Dec’d).

I recently qualified as a Pupil Dominator.

This is one level up from a Pupil Master.

I will accept your offer of 100Gns (£105 for the under educated, for a Guinea is a pound and a shilling, or £1.05 since decimalisation in 1971).

Duties include emptying my commode, listening to me talk about how very educated I am, polishing my trains and countersigning benefit application forms.

You will be required to register as my “Carer” but this is a mere formality.

Previous experience in the mental health sector is desirable.

Jonathan

One of the few intelligent responses. The issue is not whether pupils deserve a minimum living wage- they don’t; they are not generating income, but actually receiving free tuition. The issue is whether not providing one has a significant negative impact on the diversity backgrounds of our profession, which perhaps it does. But in my experience the pool seeking pupillage is still very broad. The real problem is the inability to make a proper living in the first ten years, if your practice is publicly funded work. That is not addressed at all by this; the problem is chronic long term underfunding, of the Criminal Justice System in particular.
Btw,I dont take kindly to posturing from Tuckers solicitors. Trainee solicitors are fee generators from the off, so entirely different. The solicitors training them are simply repaying a part of their billable profits from training. And Tuckers regularly take advantage of aspirant lawyers by offering short term unpaid “internships” which they bill out to clients. So fewer homilies from them please.

Lord Big Al etc etc

Why, thank you, I’m glad someone recognises my brilliance at last!

Stephen Ward

Just to be clear as the heading is incorrect in this article. Pupillage is a voluntary process, no chambers is required to provide pupillage by our regulator. Everyone provides their time and resources on a voluntary basis to support the young bar. The funding is provided by self employed Barristers in independent practice by way of an award. There is no employment status to the grant and the pupil pays no tax. After 6 months, the pupil can begin earning income and becomes self employed and pays tax in the normal way.

Lord Kentucky

When I was a 1st sixer I was thrashed twelve times a day and smacked with a bottle as a treat. Kids don’t know they’re born.

Master Bate

That’s nothing.

When I was a pupil, if I lost a case I would be thrashed with a barbed wire whip until I pooed myself.

Tom the Cabin Boy

But fun stuff aside, were you suitably punished for losing too?

Horace Pumphole

That’s nothing.

If we do much as breathed out of rhythm our pupil master would actually kill us and then bring us back to life with his electro-stimulation device then make us thank him for being permitted to live for a further 24 hours.

Concerned

This is not funny.

I once knew a young female pupil who really did wet herself during a shouty dressing down from a vicious bully of a pupil supervisor.

She left the Bar as a result of her experiences.

We should be calling out bullying behaviour at the Bar, not parodying it.

HHJ Bullyboy QC

She clearly wasn’t cut out for the Bar if she couldn’t take a telling off without being rendered incontinent.

This is the Bar, not the Civil Service!

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