Tag: barrister

How much does a barrister earn?

Barristers are self-employed and are paid by their clients (usually law firms) for each case that they work on.  

The exception to this is pupils, who are paid a ‘pupillage award’ by  chambers during their training year. 

Pupils 

Pupillage awards can vary greatly depending on the location and specialism of the set. 

Pupils in top commercial sets can expect to receive up to £75,000 in their pupillage year, whereas at family and criminal sets, pupillage awards start from around £30,000. 

From 1 January 2023, the minimum pupillage award will be £20,703 for 12-month pupillages in London and £18,884 per annum for pupillages outside London. 

Qualified barristers 

It’s widely known that being a barrister can be a lucrative career path. In reality though, the amount that barristers earn depends on their level of seniority and in which area of law they practise.  

In 2020, according to the Bar Standards Board, 2% of barristers earned £1m and above, whilst 11.88% earned less than £30,000.  

The largest proportion of those surveyed (22.26%) were earning between £90,000 and £150,000. 

It’s worth noting that these are gross figures and are exclusive of chambers’ fees, clerks’ fees, insurance, travel costs, tax and more. 

What is the difference between a solicitor and a barrister?

If you’ve been researching the legal industry you’ve probably come across the terms barrister and solicitor countless times. You might be wondering what they mean and how they differ from each other in terms of role and responsibilities. 

In very simple terms, the difference between the two is that a barrister stands up and represents clients in court while a solicitor prepares legal documents and mostly works in an office setting. Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. 

Solicitors 

Most of the time, when people need legal advice, they’ll go and see a solicitor first. Then, if the case or matter needs to go to court, the solicitor will instruct a barrister. If the case deals with a specialist area of law, a solicitor might also ask a barrister to write an ‘opinion’ or a piece of legal advice on the subject.  

Solicitors who work in contentious practice areas, such as litigation, family or employment will do much of the preparatory work, including drafting documents and submitting them to the court, ahead of a hearing.  

Sometimes, litigation solicitors will stand up in court and represent their clients themselves – this is called advocacy. More frequently though, they will instruct a barrister who specialises in a particular area of law to do this on their behalf. 

Many solicitors, particularly those in corporate or City law firms, don’t do any contentious work at all and will never go near a court room. This is common in transactional practice areas such as finance or corporate. A property solicitor specialising in conveyancing (the process of buying and selling houses) is also very unlikely ever to go to court. 

Solicitors are typically employed by a law firm (private practice) or company (in-house) and will receive a monthly salary. Solicitors who have climbed up the ranks of a law firm to become an equity partner will also share in the profits of the firm. 

The career path of a solicitor is roughly as follows: 

Private practice: trainee solicitor – solicitor/associate – senior/managing associate – salary partner – equity partner. 

In-house: trainee solicitor – (junior) legal counsel – senior legal counsel – general counsel. 

Barristers 

Barristers are typically instructed by solicitors to represent a client in court. The solicitor will provide the barrister with details of the case, which the barrister will then study and analyse before presenting their argument in court. 

You may have seen that barristers sometimes wear wigs and gowns in court. This was historically an easy way to distinguish between the different types of lawyer in the court setting. As of 2007, wearing a wig is no longer a requirement in family and civil court proceedings, although some barristers continue to do so.  Barristers in the criminal court still wear wigs. 

Barristers are typically self-employed and work in a chambers or set alongside a number of other barristers. They are responsible, with the help of their clerks, for finding their own work, and each case or matter will be paid for separately.  

Some very experienced barristers will eventually become King’s Counsel (KC). This is a title which can usually only be obtained once a barrister has at least 10-15 years’ experience. KCs are informally referred to as ‘silks’ because of the silk gowns they wear. A KC takes precedence over other barristers in a court setting. 

Training 

The routes to becoming a solicitor or a barrister are different too. 

A solicitor will need to do an undergraduate degree in law or a non-law subject, followed by the Solicitors Qualifying Examination and then a training contract or period of recognised training. 

A barrister will need to undertake a Bar training course after completing their undergraduate degree. Non-law graduates who want to be barristers will also need to do the Graduate Diploma in Law. 

What is a pupillage?

What is a pupillage? 

Pupillage is the last step of training before qualifying as a barrister. Pupillage starts after you have completed your barrister training course. 

Pupillage lasts 12 months and is split up into two six-month stints, known as ‘first six’ and ‘second six’. Occasionally, pupils also undertake a ‘third six’ before qualification.  

Pupillage is usually undertaken at barristers’ chambers. 

You will be assigned a pupil supervisor for the duration of your pupillage. At some barristers’ chambers you will have several supervisors and you will rotate around them, gaining exposure to different areas of law.

At the end of the 12 months, you will hopefully be offered tenancy at the chambers and be called to the bar. 

 

Breakdown 

The first six is ‘non-practising’ and will typically see you spend six months shadowing a more senior barrister. You will likely accompany your supervisor to court, assist them with research tasks and have a go at drafting documents and court submissions. 

During your second six, you may start to take on your own cases under supervision. The amount of work you will be allowed to take on will depend on your set.  

At large commercial sets the cases may be too complex and high-profile for you to manage yourself, so you will continue to assist your supervisor. But at smaller and more specialist sets, you could be allocated your own small caseload. 

If you are not offered tenancy after your second six, or you decide to change practice areas or chambers, it is sometimes possible to undertake a third six (at a different set). 

When to apply 

Before you can start your pupillage you will need to have completed an undergraduate degree (law or non-law) followed by a Bar training course. The old Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) has been replaced by a number of new courses, the names of which vary according to the providers. 

Non-law graduates will also have to undertake the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) before embarking on a Bar course. 

Law undergraduates should apply for pupillage in the final year of their studies, whilst non-law undergraduates should apply for pupillage during the GDL.  

The Pupillage Gateway is the main recruitment portal for the Bar. The gateway will be open for prospective pupils to browse vacancies from 28 November 2022. Applications open on 4 January 2023 and close on 8 February 2023.

Competition for pupillage is fierce, so if you do not obtain one at this stage, you can of course continue applying after you’ve finished your legal education.

Pay 

You are in training during your pupillage (hence the job title ‘pupil’), but you will still be paid.  

Your pay will come in the form of a pupillage award, and the amount will vary depending on the type and size of chambers at which you are working. Check a set’s website for details of the exact amount of their pupillage award. 

As of January 2022 the rate for the minimum pupillage award is £19,144 for a 12-month pupillage in London and £17,152 outside London.