It was recently reported that 125 barristers earned in excess of £1m p.a. and another 200 barristers earned over £500,000. There are approximately 16,000 practising barristers in England & Wale. 125 represents fewer than 1% of the total.
Every year, practising barristers must declare their total income to the Bar Council. A practising certificate fee is payable depending on your declared income for the previous year.
In November 2016, the Bar Council published a consultation regarding practising certificate fees. The consultation revealed how many (of 15,800) barristers are in each practising certficate category:
Approximately one-third of all practising barristers (31.7%) earn less than £60,000 p.a.
Approximately half of all practising barristers (51%) earn less than £90,000 p.a.
Approximately one-quarter of all practising barristers (27.2%) earn more than £150,000 p.a.
The aforementioned fees are subject to income tax and national insurance. Barristers in independent practice must also pay for travel, chambers fees, pension contributions, computer equipment, various mandatory subscriptions, and other unrecoverable expenses.
The Crown Prosecution Service is arguably the United Kingdom’s ‘largest law firm.’ Judging from their recruitment advertisements, the CPS employs a significant number of practising barristers who are in income bands 2 and 3.
Approximately one-quarter of all barristers hold themselves out as practising criminal law; the vast majority of whom are totally reliant upon Legal Aid. Legal aid cases are underfunded by the government and as a consequence, most criminal barristers are likely to be in income bands 1-3. Newly qualified criminal barristers will almost certainly be in income band 1.