I earned £7k more as a barista, says criminal barrister

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By Thomas Connelly on


Garden Court North’s Rosalind Burgin makes depressing pay comparison as full-blown strike action looms

As criminal barristers prepare to go on an indefinite, uninterrupted strike next month, one has revealed how they earned more working as a barista.

Garden Court North Chambers’ Rosalind Burgin, 28, says she earned around £10,000 in her first year working as a junior. This, she claims, is some £7,000 less than she did grinding beans and frothing milk down her local café.

While accepting first year earnings tend to be on the low side, Manchester-based Burgin says criminal barristers “still need to be able to live”.

The lawyer’s comments come just days after criminal barristers across England and Wales voted overwhelmingly in favour of uninterrupted strike action in protest over government set fees for legal aid work. This is major escalation of the current programme of alternating weeks of strike action implemented in late June.

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“I love working in criminal defence, and it’s heart-breaking that we have to do this, but there are no options left now,” Burgin told the Independent. “It’s not just about the pay, the work is really unsecure as well.”

Burgin, who was called to the bar in 2019, continued:

“At least working at a coffee shop you knew what you were getting and it was secure. I knew I would get paid for 10 hours work, whereas now I don’t know how much I’ll get for 10 hours.”

The government has offered a 15% uplift in fees from the end of September, which it says will see the typical criminal barrister earn around £7,000 more a year. But the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) says this is insufficient and is asking for a 25% rise in legal aid fees, following years of swingeing cuts.

Burgin isn’t the first barrister to draw comparisons in the pay department.

In 2019, Chris Henley QC, then chair of the CBA, suggested some criminal barristers may be financial better off if they turned their hand to flipping burgers in McDonald’s.

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