how much do barristers earn?

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Crazy Jamie
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#1
Report Thread starter 8 years ago
#1
The misconception of believing that barristers have 'starting salaries' is something that you need to correct first, because it will then help you to understand why this is a difficult question that has no helpful answer. Barristers in chambers do not have salaries; they are self employed. That means that they get paid for the work that they do, and if they are not working (for example, if they are on holiday) they do not get paid. So it is not the case that you will pick up a set monthly amount as a barrister. The amount you get in any given month is simply the amount from the cheques that have come in in relation to work that you have done previously. If a barrister earns £60,000 in a year (for example), that doesn't mean that they will receive £5,000 a month. One month they may get £2,000 and the next month £8,000.

Average earnings vary wildly depending on the area of law that a barrister practises in. A commercial barrister in London can expect to earn a six figure sum from a very early stage of their career, if not immediately. Some criminal barristers would be lucky to get up to £30,000 in their first few years. The fact of the matter is that different work in different areas of law pays differently, so the answer to your question really does depend on which area of law you find yourself in, and makes the overall 'average earnings' figure absolutely useless. There is no point in you taking any sort of notice of an average figure that takes into account high earning commercial practitioners if you are going to be doing publicly funded work.

That is also the reason why your question as to what a barrister can expect to earn in 5 to 10 years time is impossible to answer; barristers are self employed. How any individual barrister's career develops in 5 or 10 years depends very much on the performance of that individual barrister and the rapport that they build with solicitors/clients, as well as the direction that their individual career goes in. For example, a barrister that strives to carve out a civil practice in a mixed set may put successfully bring in work through their efforts and see their earnings increase at a significantly greater rate than their peers who are content to stay with mixed practices. Like most self employed positions the way your career develops as a barrister is very much down to how you do personally in your day to day professional life as well as the Chambers that you are a part of.
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barristertobe91
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#2
Report 8 years ago
#2
If you were to look at figures for the employed bar (eg Government Legal Services- GLS or Crown Prosecution Service- CPS) it would be far easier to quote you a blanket figure but with the self employed bar (most barristers) it is impossible to say as one year a barrister could earn a certain amount, the next year that figure could be cut by a third etc- its very "up and down." Add to that the difference in earnings of barristers in London compared to those in the regions; Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield etc and it's made even more difficult. Further, differences in earnings in practice areas make it even harder to respond to this questions as a barrister in chancery law in London will earn far more than a family law barrister in Manchester. (Although it is relative, with living expenses in London being far more expensive.)

However, the foolish response by the person above me in this post, that barristers earn a lot- is misguided. Yes, some do. QCs in lucrative areas such as Tax law can earn HUGE amounts of money but the junior end/Newly Qualified barristers in say, criminal law, will barely earn enough to live. Something which is worsened by the inevitable debt gained from university, BPTC and pupillage years. In fact, the Bar has long been viewed as a profession for the already wealthy- although this is a perception that is lessening in 2013- the fact barristers can earn pittance does remain. I know of a tenant in Manchester working in criminal law, who, after 4 years, sacked it in and became a teacher because he wasn't earning enough to live. So don't be fooled by the glamorous barrister dramas you see on TV.
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rhapsodyinblue
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#3
Report 8 years ago
#3
Hello, you may find the following links of interest:

http://www.chambersstudent.co.uk/Art...Newsletter/320

http://www.thelawyer.com/pictures/we...0_chambers.jpg
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Official .d
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#4
Report 7 years ago
#4
Firstly "Crazy Jamie" are you are barrister? Take it from your answer you not one and considering that you are not and take this from me who is a qualified barrister that you have no understanding of salaries within the law career because any qualified barrister earns a lump sum of money when they start out for example I was taking in a year £50,000 and I was not in a very good area to be taking up law on the contrary I was Probaly in the worse area possible but I was making 50k a year 5 years on from that I am very proud to say I'm taking up to a 100k and im still in a not a very good area to start a law Career even though I'm on so much money and people who have been working up to 10 years as a qualified barrister in my area perhaps in your terms not a successful law career area are taking at least 1million pound therefore if your not a barrister "Crazy Jamie" then how on earth do you know there salaries and how the law industry works therefore stop making false accusations
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Nigel85
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#5
Report 7 years ago
#5
Crazy Jamie has it about right in my experience. I am a civil barrister in London.

In good civil / commercial / chancery sets you are charged out usually either at an hourly rate or on a brief fee for a trial. You can probably reckon on billing 5 - 6 hours a day if you work solid but not crazy hours (NB you inevitably lose 2 or 3 hours a day to admin / marketing / general emails or phone calls that you don't always charge for!). However some people obviously work a lot harder than this if the work is there, and will easily bill 10 hours a day preparing for a trial. Brief fees for trials can also be quite high.

In your first year, your hourly rate might be anything from about £40 - £100+ depending on the set, the work and the clients. If you bill, say, 25 - 30 hours a week then in theory this gives you weekly billing of between £1,200 to £3,000 (ie Annually around £60k to £150k p.a.). However, you need to deduct around 20% for chambers expenses and further costs for insurance etc. You will probably also take holidays! There is also aged debt to take into account (ie clients who don't pay up!) and a certain amount of work will probably be written off or reduced.

Your hourly rate should go steadily up depending on the set, your experience, your clients, quality of work etc. At 5 years call you might be billing £75 - £200 per hour, possibly more. That may double again at 10 years call. However, there is no hard and fast rule and barristers of the same call in the same set of Chambers can be earning vastly different sums.

Criminal and civil aid family barristers however can be a very different story. From what I have been told I think you would be doing very well to take home £30k in London as a criminal barrister in your first year.

All of these figures are also of course pre-tax and NI..

While these might sound like potentially large sums, the uncertainty of the work and when clients will pay means that even very senior and apparently successful barristers often worry about money at various points. If you go through a quiet period then you don't get paid much at all, and you still have Chambers rent and expenses to pay.
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Kessler`
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#6
Report 7 years ago
#6
Crazy Jamie and Nigel85 are, as usual, spot on.

FAOD, Crazy Jamie certainly is a practising barrister. As am I. The difference in sums earned can vary hugely: it is dependent on set, type of work, clerking ability and experience. I cannot emphasise enough, for the wannabes and those starting out, that pure crime as a junior is a very very bad idea. Even in a recognised criminal set, with a great reputation, you will be worked hard for very little reward. If you're desperate to do criminal work, then subsidise it exploring areas such as civil, employment and family.

By way of example, my pupillage award was £20k, comprising £10k first six and guaranteed earnings second six. I'm a common lawyer (with aspirations) but even so our chambers monitoring software (Lex) shows that my income has risen fairly steeply since then. At the cost of some early grey hairs and my sanity, I confess.

One final thing, the hard work/pay balance can often be crazy. As a second sixer/early tenant for example, you might earn £250 for doing an infant settlement (10 minutes in court, maybe 20 minutes prep or so, plus travel) which is nice. The next day, you might have to prepare a small claims trial from scratch - work through most of the night trying to understand why the hell Joe Bloggs the Builder was using IX grade concrete instead of X grade and what he should have been doing to protect the site against damp - then travel to a county court in the middle of nowhere to feel foolish in front of a miserable judge, write a lengthy attendance note for a grumpy solicitor and earn the same sum (if they pay you). Swings and roundabouts, as they say.
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Kessler`
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#7
Report 7 years ago
#7
Oh and I suspect official D has been smoking something.
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Crazy Jamie
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#8
Report Thread starter 7 years ago
#8
(Original post by Official .d)
Firstly "Crazy Jamie" are you are barrister?
As Kessler has already confirmed, I am a practising barrister. Forgive me if I don't feel the need to respond to the other points in your post. As trolling attempts go it was pretty poor; you're not going to convince anyone that you're a practising barrister by throwing out a block of text with no full stops in it.

I'm sure Nigel and Kessler's subsequent replies are sufficient to set the record straight, if indeed that was needed. The only thing that I would add is that I wrote my original reply over 18 months ago. The general information regarding the nature of a self employed practice, and Nigel's information regarding expenses and tax and such are all accurate, but the situation with regards to legal aid work has indeed become more challenging. To be fair most members on here who express an interest in working in those areas are routinely warned of the difficulties, so it's not exactly a secret. Still, it is worth repeating that those who are attracted by criminal or family law absolutely must do their research before committing time and resources to chasing that career path. There are still those who will want to do it, but for many it will no longer be the viable career path that it once was.
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feasel
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#9
Report 7 years ago
#9
I too am a barrister, one of those commercial chancery types that have been mentioned (so naturally, I am typing this on a keyboard made of solid gold and wearing a suit made of unicorn hair*). I agree entirely with Crazy Jamie and Nigel85's posts. Averages are meaningless because there are far too many variables. I would add 3 points:

1. There is a significant variation of earnings between barristers of about my call (7) within my own chambers. We all do similar enough work, but we all have different views on money generally, life commitments, networking, etc. There are even bigger variations across the whole Bar. You might as well try to average a cloud.
2. Take home is a function of 3 broad factors: receipts, expenses and tax. Receipts don't necessarily follow the amount of work you do. Expenses might not have any relation to how much money you receive. Many chambers calculate members' expenses by reference to past receipts. If you have an unusually brilliant year, your expenses will spike for a few years after, even though your receipts go back to normal. Tax can be a killer once you move off the cash basis (i.e. working out your profit from the money you actually receive) to the accruals basis** (paying tax on your billing, whether you receive the money or not). Paying tax and NI at 42%/47% on money you haven't received can seriously cut your take-home.
3. There is a significant survivorship bias. There is considerable attrition at the Bar. A lot of people leave. They aren't usually taking home the big bucks. There are some general milestones: e.g. failure to get pupillage; failure to get tenancy; financial exhaustion within the first 3 years; financial exhaustion after moving onto the accruals basis**; failure to make silk if you care about that kind of thing. There is also a more general risk that you'll wake up one morning, sick of the sight of train stations and aged debt lists, and realise that it isn't worth the effort. Many people bail out for proper jobs. Asking "what will I earn in 5-10 years" isn't possible to answer because you can't price that risk. How much an individual will stomach and what they'll bail out for are completely unique.


* Each of these assertions is more credible than Official .d's post.
** Until a couple of years ago, baby barristers has a specific exemption giving 7 tax years on the cash basis if they wanted it, regardless of their receipts. Now they fall within the general cash accounting basis available to all self-employed people, which has limits on the receipts you can make in a single year.
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Bill Y.
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#10
Report 6 years ago
#10
(Original post by Nigel85)
Crazy Jamie has it about right in my experience. I am a civil barrister in London.

In good civil / commercial / chancery sets you are charged out usually either at an hourly rate or on a brief fee for a trial. You can probably reckon on billing 5 - 6 hours a day if you work solid but not crazy hours (NB you inevitably lose 2 or 3 hours a day to admin / marketing / general emails or phone calls that you don't always charge for!). However some people obviously work a lot harder than this if the work is there, and will easily bill 10 hours a day preparing for a trial. Brief fees for trials can also be quite high.

In your first year, your hourly rate might be anything from about £40 - £100+ depending on the set, the work and the clients. If you bill, say, 25 - 30 hours a week then in theory this gives you weekly billing of between £1,200 to £3,000 (ie Annually around £60k to £150k p.a.). However, you need to deduct around 20% for chambers expenses and further costs for insurance etc. You will probably also take holidays! There is also aged debt to take into account (ie clients who don't pay up!) and a certain amount of work will probably be written off or reduced.

Your hourly rate should go steadily up depending on the set, your experience, your clients, quality of work etc. At 5 years call you might be billing £75 - £200 per hour, possibly more. That may double again at 10 years call. However, there is no hard and fast rule and barristers of the same call in the same set of Chambers can be earning vastly different sums.

Criminal and civil aid family barristers however can be a very different story. From what I have been told I think you would be doing very well to take home £30k in London as a criminal barrister in your first year.

All of these figures are also of course pre-tax and NI..

While these might sound like potentially large sums, the uncertainty of the work and when clients will pay means that even very senior and apparently successful barristers often worry about money at various points. If you go through a quiet period then you don't get paid much at all, and you still have Chambers rent and expenses to pay.
So is £190 per hour for a family lawyer (divorce) over the top? Should I have been employing a barrister??
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Bill Y.
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#11
Report 6 years ago
#11
And presumably barristers don't need the ability to communicate in Englis with a basic understanding of the language judged by your comment - Probaly in the worse area possible but I was making 50k a year 5 years on from that I am very proud to say I'm taking up to a 100k and im still in a not a very good area to start a law Career even though I'm on so much money and people who have been working up to 10 years as a qualified barrister in my area perhaps in your terms not a successful law career area are taking at least 1million pound therefore if your not a barrister "Crazy Jamie" then how on earth do you know there salaries and how the law industry works therefore stop making false
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username738914
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#12
Report 6 years ago
#12
(Original post by J-SP)
You are a barrister, with written communication that bad? Surely not?!


Posted from TSR Mobile
LOOL, this ^

Posted from TSR Mobile
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Bambi233
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#13
Report 3 years ago
#13
(Original post by Official .d)
Firstly "Crazy Jamie" are you are barrister? Take it from your answer you not one and considering that you are not and take this from me who is a qualified barrister that you have no understanding of salaries within the law career because any qualified barrister earns a lump sum of money when they start out for example I was taking in a year £50,000 and I was not in a very good area to be taking up law on the contrary I was Probaly in the worse area possible but I was making 50k a year 5 years on from that I am very proud to say I'm taking up to a 100k and im still in a not a very good area to start a law Career even though I'm on so much money and people who have been working up to 10 years as a qualified barrister in my area perhaps in your terms not a successful law career area are taking at least 1million pound therefore if your not a barrister "Crazy Jamie" then how on earth do you know there salaries and how the law industry works therefore stop making false accusations
You still a barrister now?
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Zstarlight18
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#14
Report 10 months ago
#14
Crazy Jamie Hi! I have a first in my degree from a top 30 non-russel group university, 10 As/A* in my GCSEs, VC in BPTC. However, unfortunately I received a CCC in my A-levels due to an illness. Would you say this would impact my application? As scoring is different for every matrix how much would you score me on the academic criteria if I were a hypothetical applicant at your chamber? Thank you 💜
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