31 January 2012


The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, and the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the regulator of barristers in England and Wales, have today released the results of Barristers' Working Lives, the first in a planned series of biennial surveys of the Bar.

The aims of the survey were to provide improved demographic data and information on the profile of the Bar, to gather data and insights into the working lives and employment experiences of barristers and to gain a better understanding of career aspirations, motivations and intentions to stay in or leave the profession.

The survey was sent to a sample of 8,000 barristers and received just under 3,000 responses, a response rate of 38%.

 Key findings include:

  • Most barristers (70 per cent) would still opt for the Bar if they could start their career again, and four out of five think that the Bar is a respected profession


  • Women represent an increasing number of practising barristers - 37 per cent of all respondents, and 57 per cent of those aged under 30 (the average age of barristers overall is 44)


  • Half of employed barristers are considering, or may consider, working in some form of alternative business structure. For self-employed barristers the proportion is even higher, at well over two-thirds


  • It appears that after 12 years in the profession, the number of women in practice declines. Attrition of women is much higher in the self-employed Bar than in the employed Bar and this appears to take place at around 20 years


  • The majority of the employed Bar work in the public sector: 29 per cent in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), 24 per cent in the Government Legal Service (GLS), and 15 per cent elsewhere, and


  • A quarter of self-employed barristers undertake no publicly funded work at all, while for 43 per cent, over half of their work is publicly funded (and therefore heavily affected by any changes in the availability of public funding). In criminal practice, the majority of barristers report that 90 per cent of their work is publicly funded.


Chairman of the Bar, Michael Todd QC, said:

"The Bar Council is committed to acting in the best interests of the profession which we are proud to represent. The publication ofBarristers' Working Liveshas helped to give us a clearer understanding of the current composition and needs of the Bar and will be extremely helpful to the development and formulation of the Bar Council's initiatives. The report also provided a useful opportunity for our members to provide feedback, and we see the results providing an opportunity for increased engagement and communication with our membership.

"The results of the survey show that the profession is more diverse now than ever, but that more can be done to support working parents, as we are doing through our campaign for a Bar Nursery for example. We can also see a keen interest from the profession in alternative business structures as a means of meeting the demands of the current legal services market, and the Bar Council will seek to support and facilitate these changes."

Chair of the Bar Standards Board, Baroness Ruth Deech, said:

"We have worked hard, along with the Bar Council, to gain a good all round picture of the profession we regulate. The Barristers' Working Lives survey has given us the opportunity to gather rich data which we can use to further understand the Bar and regulate accordingly. The results reinforce my belief that our new Equality and Diversity Rules are needed to ensure appropriate parental leave measures are in place, there is fair allocation of work within the self employed Bar and improvements to recruitment processes are made.

"The results also show that we have been right to consult on our proposals for Continuing Professional Development, the Aptitude Test for the Bar Professional Training Course and the introduction of Entity Regulation. However, we note that some barristers remain unclear about our role and remit and we are determined to change this through improved communication and engagement over the next two years. We hope that the introduction of our new website and forthcoming online process for practising certificate renewals will go some way to address this."