Income at the Bar can vary widely depending on your area of practice, whether you do privately paying or publicly funded work and whether you are employed or self-employed.
In general terms Bar Council and BMIF records for 2014/2015 show the earnings of self-employed barristers to be lower than those for the employed Bar during the first 3 years of practice, but to rise sharply thereafter, to double those of the employed Bar by 7 years’ call. These figures are not, of course, directly comparable, because the self-employed barrister will need to pay chambers’ fees and other expenses, and will not benefit from an employer’s provision of sick pay, paid annual leave, pension, private medical insurance, and so on. Earnings for both employed and self-employed barristers tend to show a steady, and similar, upward progression in the years following.
In money terms, the earnings of both employed and self-employed barristers appear to be around £40,000 by 3-4 years’ call.
Despite the very considerable difficulties facing some members of the junior Bar, in particular those whose main income derives from publicly funded work, the number of barristers continues to rise, and considerably more have experienced an increase or no change in their income in the past year than have experienced a reduction. Three quarters of all barristers showed stable or increased earnings in 2015, over 2014.
An important note to remember is that payments to barristers are invariably delayed, and can be delayed by several months. You may therefore have incredibly impressive ‘work done’ figures which do not automatically translate into payments received. (For aged debt and fee chasing see Outstanding Fees). The figures above have been calculated on the basis of money earned, not payments received.