On the 5th November, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) published new analysis surrounding its data on barristers’ income by gender and ethnicity. The research demonstrates that female barristers are likely to earn less than male barristers and that those from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups are likely to earn less than White barristers. This analysis remained consistent when looking at the income of barristers practising within the same area of law, within the same parts of the country, and amongst those with similar seniority in terms of how long they have been practising.
The report shows that income differences are particularly marked when looking at gender and ethnicity together, with female barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds being the lowest earning group and white male barristers being the highest earning group.
The BSB has pointed out that they collect data on income as part of the annual process by which barristers renew their practising certificates. The report examines the gross income of barristers and is based entirely on figures from before the impact of the current pandemic. Around one-fifth of barristers are employed and for them by “income” the report refers to their gross income before tax and national insurance etc. For the four-fifths of barristers who are self-employed, their “income” is their total fee income (excluding VAT) before they pay the costs of their chambers, which is estimated typically to take between 20 and 40 per cent of their income.
BSB Director General, Mark Neale, said: “This report is based on figures relating to barristers’ incomes in 2018 so predates the current pandemic which has had a significant effect on many barristers’ incomes. It is not the levels of incomes that are our focus here, however, but the disparities between different groups. These disparities are marked and cannot be explained away by seniority, geography or area of law. The disparities underline why the Bar Standards Board will continue to prioritise its work on diversity and challenge the Bar to do more and better in combatting discrimination affecting the progression of women and of barristers from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds.”