New report reveals 34% pay gap between male and female barristers

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By William Holmes on


Pay disparity remains substantial despite narrowing slightly

A new report by the Bar Council has revealed that women earned 34% less than their male colleagues at the bar in 2021.

Although an improvement on the 2020 stats, which put the pay gap at 39%, Chair of the Bar Council Mark Fenhalls KC commented that “this year’s data analysis shows there remains a long way to go to close the earnings gap, particularly in the higher earning practice areas”.

The gender pay gap widened from 38% to 39% in Chancery (contentious) and 52% to 53% in personal injury. Immigration was the practice area where the pay gap had widened the most since 2020, jumping from 33% to 38%.

Commercial and financial services still has a very wide pay disparity of 51%, although this is an improvement on the 2020 figures which put the gap at 58%.

Source: Bar Council report on barrister earnings by sex and practice area

Employment saw the gap reduced from 16% to 6%, whilst female barristers earned 36% more than men for defamation work last year. Women still out-earn men in family (children) work, with the gap closing slightly from 3% in 2020 to 4% in 2021.

Criminal barristers saw a sharp 19% drop in gross fee income adjusted for inflation in 2021. The pay gap between men and women at the criminal bar reduced from 38% to 35%.

Source: Bar Council report on barrister earnings by sex and practice area

Fenhalls noted:

“Chambers can make a significant difference through ensuring fair distribution of work, including briefing practices, marketing opportunities, and support for new barristers and those returning to the bar.

“We can’t just wait for change. It’s up to all of us to recognise inequalities and take steps to tackle them.”

You can read the full report here.

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