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White male barristers out-earn female and BAME colleagues

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Even with the same level of experience and areas of law, research finds

White male barristers are likely to earn more than their female and black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues, according to new research published by the Bar Standards Board.

The regulator says this income gap continues to be true, even when looking at barristers operating in the same areas of the law, within the same parts of the country, and among those with similar levels of experience.

The findings show the difference in earnings between barristers are particularly noticeable when looking at gender and ethnicity together, with female BAME barristers being the lowest earning group and white male barristers being the highest.

By way of example, the BSB found that 18.1% of BAME female barristers had a gross income of £30,000 or less. This compared to just 8.6% of white male barristers. Further up the earnings scale, 14.7% of white male barristers received a gross income of between £240,000 and £500,000 compared to just 3.5% of BAME female barristers.

The regulator — which collects the income data as part of the annual process by which barristers renew their practising certificates — stressed the figures are based entirely on earnings from prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Legal Cheek reported earlier this year that many barristers were experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19.

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The BSB added that around one fifth of barristers are employed, and for them income refers to their gross earnings before tax and national insurance, while for the four fifths of barristers who are self-employed, their income refers to total fee income (excluding VAT) before they pay chambers expenses and overheads, which is estimated to typically take between 20% to 40% of their income.

BSB director general, Mark Neale, said: “These disparities are marked and cannot be explained away by seniority, geography or area of law. The disparities underline why the Bar Standards Board will continue to prioritise its work on diversity and challenge the bar to do more and better in combatting discrimination affecting the progression of women and of barristers from BAME backgrounds.”

Read the report in full:

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