Barristers work in the UK legal system, representing clients in court cases. They may specialise in different practice areas of legal work, including criminal, family, chancery, commercial, public and civil law. Barristers can work as employees, or on a self-employed basis. Average salary for both employed and self-employed barristers varies with length of experience, area of practice, size of their chambers and location.
According to the graduate recruitment website Prospects, typical annual salaries for a self-employed barrister range from £25,000 to £300,000. Self-employed barristers with more than 10 years’ experience can earn salaries between £65,000 and £1,000,000 per year. The majority of barristers in the UK are self-employed; in 2010, 12,000 barristers were self-employed and 3,000 were employees. Self-employed barristers must pay the cost of their chambers, professional insurance, staff and essential equipment from their fees, reducing their total income by approximately 25 per cent, according to the Bar Council.
Income from self-employment varies with the barrister’s area of practice. Figures from the Bar Council indicate typical annual salaries for barristers in their first and fifth years of practice. First year salary for chancery and commercial practices ranges from £40,000 to £90,000, rising to a range of £70,000 to £200,000 in year five. In criminal law, starting salaries range from £10,000 to £30,000 with an increase to £40,000 to £90,000 in the fifth year. Barristers practicing family law start on a range of £20,000 to £40,000 rising to a scale of £40,000 to £90,000 in the fifth year.
Employed barristers in the UK work for a number of different types of employers including firms of solicitors, legal departments of businesses, the Crown Prosecution Service and public sector organisations. The Bar Council provides examples of typical annual salary ranges for each of those sectors. First year salaries for barristers employed by solicitors range from £25,000 to £70,000 rising to £40,000 to £130,000 in the fifth year. Barristers in business can earn £35,000 to £70,000 in their first year, rising to £60,000 to £100,000 in the fifth year. Barristers working for the Crown Prosecution Service or public sector organisations start on a scale of £25,000 to £50,000 rising to a fifth year salary range of £35,000 to £60,000.
Typical salaries for barristers vary by region according to the website My Salary. Barristers in the East of England were the highest earners with a typical annual salary of £80,000, followed by those in Wales who earned an average of £60,000 per year. London barristers earned £56,423 with barristers in the South East earning £50,594 per year.
Figures from the National Archives indicate the income of some of the highest earners in the profession. In 2005 to 2006, the highest paid criminal law barrister earned £1,116,000 with five other barristers earning over £800,000 per year. In the community legal service, earners were lower for the same period. The highest earning barrister had a salary of £493,000, with three others earning over £400,000.