14 October 2019

BSB and Bar Council release Barristers' Working Lives Survey results

18 June 2014

The Bar Standards Board (BSB), the regulator of barristers in England and Wales, and the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, today released the report Barristers' Working Lives, 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. Out 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.

Chair of the BSB, Baroness Ruth Deech QC (Hon) said: "An increase of this scale in the number of barristers people can access directly is good news for consumers as it would increase consumer choice and potentially bring their costs down. Allowing these barristers then to conduct litigation will help take the administrative burden off members of the public - who may lack the time and expertise to do this."

Baroness Deech continued: "We are grateful to all those who took part in this, our second biennial survey of the Bar. Yet again, this important research provides invaluable insights into the profession and the detailed data captured here will be extremely useful in informing our work in the future."

Nicholas Lavender QC, Chairman of the Bar, said: "It is pleasing to see a large proportion of barristers generously giving their time for pro-bono and other charitable legal work. This is a testament to the social conscience of the profession, particularly when taking into account the economic pressures many sections of the Bar currently face.

"As some parts of the profession continue to go from strength to strength, other parts of the Bar, and in particular the publicly-funded Bar, have fared less well, with falling fee rates for all and for many less work than before. This issue significantly impacts the barristers' experience in the profession and their willingness to recommend the Bar as a career.

"As a result of the Government's cuts to legal aid, we should be concerned about what this means for the future of the profession, of the criminal, family and civil justice systems and of the public they serve.

"We intend to use the findings from the report to inform debate and guide the formulation of policy to support the long-term sustainability of the profession and the interests of the clients we serve."

The report is available here.


Notes to editors

The report: Barristers' Working Lives - a second biennial survey of the Bar
The report was produced by Dilys Robinson and Matthew Williams for the Institute for Employment Studies, and Geoff Pike for Employment Research Ltd.

Around half of practising barristers were asked to participate, and almost 3,300 did so, representing a response rate of 44%.

To access the report, click here: https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/media/1597662/biennial_survey_report_2013.pdf

Public Access
There were at the time of writing around 5,285 Public Access barristers in the UK. These can be accessed by a client without them going through a solicitor. 

In 2013, the BSB, removed prohibitions on Public Access barristers taking on clients who were eligible for legal aid (but had chosen not to use it because going direct to a Public Access barrister was more appropriate for their needs) - increasing the availability of Public Access barristers to consumers.

The BSB also lifted restrictions on barristers with fewer than three years' practising experience from undertaking Public Access work - allowing consumers to tap into the rich resource of energy and ability such barristers offer and to help keep their costs down.

To undertake Public Access work, any barrister with fewer than three years practising experience must have completed the necessary training and assessments, and also:

  • Seek feedback from their Public Access clients on the service provided; and 
  • Maintain a log of Public Access cases they have dealt with and make this log available, on request, for the BSB to review.


The new BSB Handbook and revised Code of Conduct for barristers came into force on 6 January 2014. Amid the changes that came into effect was an end to the prohibition on self-employed barristers conducting litigation. 

Self-employed barristers can apply for an extension to their practising certificate so as to be able to conduct litigation, but this will be subject to their general duty only to undertake activities that are within their professional competence.

Barristers were able to apply to the BSB for authorisation to conduct litigation from 22 January 2014.

About the BSB
The BSB's mission is to regulate the Bar so as to promote high standards of practice and safeguard clients and the public interest.

Contact: the Bar Standards Board Press Office on 0207 6111 452.

About the Bar Council
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.

Contact: the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.