Jul 11, 2017

Written By Jos Weale, Managing Editor, AllAboutLaw.co.uk

Self-employed vs. employed barristers

Jul 11, 2017

Written By Jos Weale, Managing Editor, AllAboutLaw.co.uk

As you get ever closer to that Holy Grail of qualification as a barrister, you’re going to have to decide whether you’d like to take on self-employed or employed practice. So what’s the difference? Let’s bring on the heavy weights…  

Self-employed barristers...

The vast majority of the 15,000 practising barristers in England and Wales are self-employed and act as ‘independent practitioners’ (around 80% according to the Bar Council).

They are, essentially, their own business: they don’t get a salary, and so when it comes to the way they get paid there really isn’t much difference to a freelance or contract worker in any other industry (though you won’t find many other freelancers around whose work dress code is robes and a wig!). Their income is down to what they take from the individual cases they work on.

Practising self-employed barristers must also pay for residence at chambers. An office base, and essentially the epicentre of daily working life for its barristers, chambers provide their ‘tenants’ with access to their facilities and administrative support. This is vital for independent practice, as clerks will book and, in some cases, even source work for the barrister. As fellow tenants, barristers based at the same chambers can also provide a professional network for each other.

When it comes to business, things might not always be chummy: they work on their own cases, which could even mean barristers of the same chambers will each represent opposing clients in some cases. Awkward!

So what are the ups and downs of being a self-employed barrister?

Self-employed barrister pros:

Self-employed barrister cons: 

Employed barristers...

Barristers can also work in an employed capacity working for a sole organisation. They receive a salary from the organisation that employs them and, unlike self-employed barristers, are generally instructed to take on cases. According to the Bar Council, around 20% of practising barristers are employed, all working in a range of public and private sector organisations.

Where could I work as an employed barrister?

You could find yourself working in anything from governmental departments to institutions and charitable organisations:

Employed barrister pros:

Employed barrister cons:

For more information on practising as a barrister you can visit the Bar Council’s website: www.barcouncil.org.uk