Employed barristers point to financial security & work/life balance as reasons for going in-house

3 November 2016

New research from the Bar Council, the representative body for all barristers in England & Wales, on employed barristers' experiences shows that financial security, a good work/life balance, pension and an interesting and diverse range of work are key factors in choosing to work in-house.

The report, Snapshot Report: The Experience of Employed Barristers at the Bar, also revealed that the average salary of those at the employed Bar was estimated to be £69,466. Sixteen percent of respondents were paid a gross salary in excess of £100,000 a year. Six percent of respondents received a gross salary in excess of £150,000. Of those on a gross salary over £150,000, 50 per cent worked in-house at a company. 

Chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, said: "This report helps us to focus on what attracts people to the employed Bar. Barristers play a critical and valuable role inside public bodies, companies, charities and other organisations. The skills and values they bring as barristers can be invaluable to employers.  This survey shows that the work of the employed Bar  is just as important as that of the self-employed Bar. 

"In addition, the report has helped the Bar Council to identify the respective benefits of employed and self-employed practice as career options for barristers and to design policies which could be attractive to both parts of the profession."   

A lack of encouragement by employers, and others, of those barristers employed in-house, whether in the public or private sector, has deterred many from seeking Silk or applying to join the judiciary. Although 68 per cent were satisfied with the opportunities for career progression, just 17 per cent of those surveyed had considered applying for Silk. Of those who had considered applying, only 18 per cent had actually applied, and only 4 per cent of respondents were actively encouraged to do so. Eight percent of respondents were actively encouraged to apply for a judicial appointment. Those in Government service felt particularly constrained as to the opportunity for progression into the judiciary. 

The Bar Council commissioned this report to identify steps which could be taken by the representative body to ensure the employed Bar feels part of the 'one Bar' philosophy. The report has highlighted a number of opportunities for the Bar Council in this regard. 

Michael Jennings, Chairman of the Bar Council's Employed Barristers' Committee, said: "The in-house route for barristers is an increasingly attractive career option for many. However, the report shows there is more to be done in law schools, the Inns and elsewhere to inform tomorrow's Bar of the benefits of joining the employed Bar. Equally, seeking Silk or looking to take a career step into the judiciary should not be seen as something which is out of the ordinary for the employed barrister. The employed Bar is a particularly diverse workforce with high numbers of female and BAME members; that, combined with the skills and experience which they bring, means opportunities to take Silk or join the bench should be increased and employed barristers encouraged to apply.  Career progression should not be limited to in-house opportunities.   

"It is not only the Bar Council which can help to raise the visibility of the employed Bar's value. The whole Bar and the wider legal sector needs a culture shift away from seeing employed barristers as somehow not barristers in the traditional sense. There are 2,871 employed barristers in England & Wales, that's 18 per cent of all barristers, and they make an important contribution to society, the economy and the life of the bar." 

The survey of 300 employed barristers revealed a range of reasons why they opted for the employed Bar, including: 

  • Security of employment

  • Regular salary

  • Pension

  • Work/Life balance

  • Flexible and regular hours

  • A less stressful environment

  • A collegiate atmosphere

  • Diverse and interesting work

  • Annual leave

  • Private health insurance

  • Maternity pay

  • Concerns about future practice at the self-employed Bar, and

  • The ability to work as part of a team.

The full report can be read here


Notes to Editors

  1. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.

  2. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes: 

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board