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

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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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11 Comments

Legal Officer With A 2.ii

There’s really no excuse for paying men and women differently in 2022.

I feel so sorry for female barristers. All that hard work, just to be paid less than a male barrister?

(8)(26)

Tumbles

They are not paid differently. Nothing in this report indicates that they are being paid differently.

(25)(1)

Bad stats show nothing

Here is a clue: kids. Lots of female barristers have kids and can afford either not to work at all or can afford to work less. There, most of the the mysterious gap explained and it tends to impact most among the more senior, higher paid end of the market. Blame the breeders, especially the ones that have the temerity to marry men who make substantial income. All gender pay gap data sets are meaningless as they do not take into account the voluntary withdrawal from the labour market among women with the economic choice to do so.

Has this been adjusted for years of post qualification experience? Of course not, I checked. Aside from the effect of the voluntary withdrawal impacting more senior members of the bar, there is also a residual effect of the very senior end of the Bar starting their careers at a time when there was more a case for institutional recruitment disparity based on gender, and that will tend to skew the figures too. That residual effect will disappear over time.

And finally, post covid there has been a substantial withdrawal across the labour market and particularly the self-employed market, with that withdrawal being far more prevalent among older workers and among women than men. So that would go a long away to explaining the very short term trend too.

This data set means nothing and proves nothing. Only research that shows barristers doing similar work ant similar levels of experience would provide the data that would be of any use. But the social justice brigade do not want that sort of data, as they know it would generate the headlines to push their agenda.

(34)(3)

Just Anonymous

So men, on average, earn more than women.

I agree that, in principle, this could happen because of discrimination.

It could also happen because men, on average, do more work than women (by working longer hours, for example).

What work, if any, has been done to rule out the second option as a plausible explanation?

(17)(2)

Anon

Unless you are comparing people doing same hours, same work, same practice area these statistics are meaningless.

They are used to suggest women doing the same hours, same work, same practice area are paid less. The statistics actually may suggest women are paid more for the same work when adjusted for working hours.

(19)(0)

Anonymous

Senior barristers paid more than less senior barristers shocka. Blatant sexism!

(5)(0)

Wigmore

Hang on. Has it not been mentioned that Barristers are also largely responsible for setting their own pay?

(0)(0)

Anon

from the actual report – “This doesn’t reflect seniority or working patterns so can’t be interpreted as showing that women and men in comparable situations are necessarily being paid differently.”

(1)(0)

But

But the PR rubbish sent by the Chair when the report was published says:

“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.

“Through the Bar Council’s modernising the Bar programme we are focused on evidence-based and practical actions to tackle inequalities at the Bar.

“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.”

They are acting as if there were structural inequalities that need addressing evidenced by the report, which is a disgrace.

(5)(0)

Anyone got any Veras?

Just a little point, but if you want to look at the report, you will find that the Bar Council website only gives the option of “Accept” on the cookie options. Naughty, naughty, very naughty.

(2)(0)

AW1983

Surely this has more to do with the fact that becoming a barrister used to be rife with sexism whilst now women are entering the profession in larger numbers than men?

In other words, lots of KCs who are men and lots of new barristers who are women. It seems rather foolish to not take this into account when analysing pay.

(0)(0)

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