Barristers’ Working Lives: A second biennial survey of the Bar 2013

Robinson D, Williams M, Pike G |   | Bar Council and Bar Standards Board and Bar Council | May 2014

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The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, and the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the regulator of barristers in England and Wales, released this report, which reveals results from the second biennial survey of the Bar.

The report provides a snapshot of the Bar and of aspects of barristers' working lives over the two years from 2011 to 2013, with survey questions covering employment status, practice area, working hours, earnings, career aspirations, and views about the profession.

One of the key findings from the report is that the number of barristers whom clients can access directly, without having to go through a solicitor, will make up almost half of the entire Bar by the end of 2015.

One in five barristers (20 per cent) plan to complete the new Public Access training for the first time, which would translate into an increase of over 3,000 new Public Access barristers - in addition to around 4,400 barristers who will already be able to conduct Public Access work. Taken together, these figures indicate that by the end of 2015 nearly 7,500 barristers - almost 50 per cent of the entire Bar - will be trained to work with clients directly.

Another key issue identified in the report is the continuing reduction in the Bar's earnings from publicly-funded work. Of the self-employed barristers in criminal practice who responded to the survey, 67 per cent reported that their earnings had fallen between 2011 and 2013.

In addition to this statistic, 58 per cent stated that they were not satisfied and were either planning to change or considering their options, and 18 per cent stated that they intended to leave the profession and work elsewhere. Some 78 per cent of those barristers in criminal practice, and 77 per cent of those family barristers, who said that they were considering a change in employment status gave legal aid cuts as a reason for doing so.

The study also showed that one in seven barristers (14 per cent) plan to apply for authorisation to conduct litigation - the administrative tasks involved in taking a case to court, which are usually done by a solicitor.

Despite a reported increase in workloads, 39 per cent of barristers engaged in pro bono work, and 36 per cent of all barristers were involved in other charitable legal work.