Barrister gender pay gap begins immediately after pupillage, report finds

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By Rhys Duncan on


19% earnings difference within two years

The gender pay gap between male and female barristers begins immediately after qualification, new research has shown.

The new analysis by the Bar Council suggests that the gap in earnings starts in the first year of practice, and cannot be explained by caring responsibilities, choice of practice area, or amount of legal aid funded work undertaken.

The New practitioner earnings differentials at the self-employed Bar report looks specifically at at barristers with zero to three years experience.

The data shows that women’s median earnings are 13% lower than men’s across the 0-3 PQE range. Those with less than one year PQE have a 5% difference, while those with two years PQE face a 19% gap.

The gap is, however, affected by practice area, with the smallest gap coming in family law (4%) and the largest in crime and personal injury/professional negligence (17%).

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The report makes a number of recommendations around how to monitor the gap, suggesting that sets actively manage practice and career development through analysing earning data, have policies in place to monitor led work, and undertake regular practice reviews.

Commenting on the findings, Sam Townend KC, chair of the Bar Council, said: “The earnings gap between men and women at the self-employed Bar is a structural problem that presents a collective challenge for the Bar. We need to reconsider the ways in which we speak about and address money, billing, work opportunities, work and personal choices.”

“The recommendations presented in the report are a starting point for discussion about how to consider redressing the balance, not so that everyone earns the same — which is neither possible nor desirable ––but so that everyone is supported in developing the practice they want,” Townend KC said.

He added: “The real solutions will need to come at a local level where barristers and chambers professionals meet to talk about the ways they wish to work. All the evidence we found suggests that positive practical and evidence-based conversations need to happen right from the start of a barrister’s career to support the development of a thriving practice.”


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For those who don’t have the will or the time to read the report, the reference to ‘caring responsibilities’ is a reference to looking after young children whilst in active practice. The report doesn’t even CONSIDER the impact of maternity leave.

To point out another problem, at one point the report acknowledges reports from clerks, who say women voluntarily tend to take on less work. However, rather than test and scrutinise this hypothesis to see whether it has legs, the report simply rejects it out of hand and says, “Where there is no objective evidence to support [these reports from practice managers], [their] perception may be having an impact on how men and women are clerked”.

I have tried my absolute best to be as ‘woke’ as possible. I really have. But when the Bar Council publishes research which fails to address even the most OBVIOUS of lines of inquiry, there is nothing to be done. It is embarrassing. Truly embarrassing.

Commercial junior

The other major problem with the Bar Council’s reporting on this is that it is easily picked apart. The upshot is that people don’t rely on it, as many simply don’t believe it is an objective study. So if there is a problem, it gets lost.

From personal experience female juniors I’ve worked with tend to take on slightly (only slightly) less work – often they value their personal life more.

They also tend to bill/quote less as they tend to think they should have done this in 5hrs rather than the 8hrs it took them. Now that is merely my non representative sample. It is also not true of all females/males I’ve worked with.

But without knowing total hours worked etc and being able to properly consider the different approves to work (on average of course) of the sexes, this data is meaningless but yet dangerous. It is dangerous as it presents oppression where none may exist, dissuading those who should be applying.

Australian barrister

A large study in Australia found female barristers received shorter hearings in less remunerative areas of practice, and in lower courts. Men recommend younger men, women try to be fair and recommend both. Many female clerks are misogynists, I actually had one tell me she was disappointed I wasn’t male, so she could date me! I said I’m straight, but even if I wasn’t u wouldn’t date you!


Would you have a link to the survey?

law law

My key takeaway , was just how ” little” those at the commercial and Chancery Bar grossed. I assumed , that those in Silk were pretty much guranteed, soon after appointment, billings north of a million, and that includes the journey men/ women.

Equally I was struck by on any metric as reported, that Criminal silks billed as much as they did, especially as the work is mostly publicly funded.

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