"...And I had to pay for the Post-it notes."

Female barristers are paid around 34% less than their male peers, a report from the Bar Council has revealed.

Female barristers earned an average of around £57,000 per annum in 2021, compared to the average salary of £86,000 for male barristers.

The gender pay gap has narrowed from 2020, when it stood at 39%, but Bar Council chairman, Mark Fenhalls KC said, "there remains a long way to go to close the earnings gap, particularly in the higher-earning practice areas."

The discrepancy was particularly notable in some areas, even where the gap has narrowed over the last couple of years: women barristers earned 51% less than their male peers in 2021 for commercial and financial services work (a marginal improvement from 57% in 2020); and for criminal work the gap was 35% in 2021 (compared with 38% in 2020).

The pay gap improved the most in employment law, as women earned 6% less than men in 2021 (compared with 16% in 2020). But it widened the most for immigration work - from a gap of 33% in 2020 to 38% in 2021.

Areas such as personal injury work showed little signs of improving: 53% in 2021 (comparable with 52% from 2020).

There were some areas where female barristers earned more than their male counterparts. For defamation work, women barristers earned around 36% more on average than men in 2021. And for family law, women who specialised in children's issues, earned 3% more than men , although men out-earned women by 43% for other family work. 

The pay gap is more significant at the Bar than at commercial law firms, where women earn about 25% less than men. The average across British businesses overall is around 15%.

Fenhalls urged barrister chambers to ensure a "fair distribution of work, including briefing practices, marketing opportunities, and support for new barristers and those returning to the bar".

He also said a programme being introduced called "Modernising the Bar" (which may sound like a misnomer to some) was focused on "evidence-based and practical actions" to tackle inequalities.

Tip Off ROF


Is this legal cheek? 28 October 22 08:08

Oh look, an uncritical repetition of woke talking points. Using the term "gender pay gap" is moronic enough, applying it to a predominantly self employed profession where access to opportunities is primarily based on experience and past performance, is simply cretinous.

Heh 28 October 22 08:23

They're self employed.

My shop has unwritten but obligatory rules on instruction quotas to male/ female Counsel. We are VERY proud that 100% Counsel has been female ytd <cheers in woke>

Chambers can't be expected to ask solicitors to hold off with a brief fee because Ms Statistic is unavailable for another month. 

Optimus SubPrime TransFormer 28 October 22 08:54

"paid" - they are self employed, so its more accurate to say "earned" as that more accurately reflects the position rather than implies some sort of discrimination from their employers.

Or perhaps instructing solicitors regularly negotiate with clerks along the lines of "yes he has a cock so I shall uplift his fee by 30%" 

She/Shim/Shiz 28 October 22 09:06


Did you just presume pronouns? Ladies can have Willie's too you know. 

Dolce dolce 28 October 22 09:10

Nothing to do with gender.  Your value is determined by the market which is linked to the quality of your work and connections. 

In my space I’d happily brief any female counsels but there are just so few of them around.

Anonymous 28 October 22 11:12

Women get pregnant. The average figures run by this organisations often even include them earning nothing for two years and some wealthy chambers arrange maternity pay. 

Getting pregnant is also a barrier of entry to a role which is self-employed for women. Ultimately the structure of a law firm with proper maternity pay is a better fit for most women when it comes to children. 

Many women don’t return following pregnancy or simply work less. The bar is hectic and unpredictable. It is not a job which aligns very easily with raising babies.

Women who choose to their babies themselves are therefore indirectly castigated by summaries like this. The study says women are paid less, and the immediate aspersion by those involved in any such study is also “discrimination” as at least a factor. So people read this and try to get more women in and discriminate against men. Then the women realise that while the job is high-profile and “prestigious”, the work is actually bananas. They’re unhappy like most of their male colleagues and then get out and have kids, which often does make them happy.

One reason why men do “prestigious” or well-paid jobs is because they want to impress women. They want to show they have resources and social status. Because human beings are animals, animals want to replicate, and females in most animals don’t want to die with child of starvation. 

BBC 28 October 22 12:14

@Anonymous 28 October 22 11:12

Spot on. Whether private practice or at the bar the job requires absolute focus and dedication if you want to succeed. Generally speaking, men tend to be more dedicated in comparison to their female counterparts because it is still acceptable (albeit archaic) to many households for men to shift their family duties to their wives, and therefore rise quickly. The pay gap is, sadly, a product of that. 

Proboner. 28 October 22 13:06

Isn't this also related to the fact that historic imbalances in the male/female ratio of barristers (in favour of male) have not yet worked their way through, meaning that older and more experienced barristers are more likely to be men and because of their relative greater seniority and levels of experience they are likely to earn more?

I would be interested to see how big the pay gap is in, say, the under-35s. I would not expect it to be as great.

Stop trying to imply women are somehow “better” pls 28 October 22 15:20

@1:59: why? All things being equal, there’s no reason why a male barrister or female barrister would be earning more outside of working longer. All of the evidence from all of the studies over a number of decades is that men outwork women.

See, for example:

Why do work patterns differ between men and women GPs?

Fiona French et al. J Health Organ Manag.2006.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore gender differences in contractual commitments, job satisfaction and spouses' occupation among GP principals in NHS Scotland.

Design/methodology/approach: This paper is based on data provided by a self-completion, postal questionnaire survey. The response rate was 50 per cent.

Findings: Males worked more hours than females and were more likely to work out-of-hours. Females reported greater job satisfaction but only when they worked fewer hours. Females earned less than males but there were no gender differences in total household income. Both genders planned to retire at 59 years. More males would delay retirement if they could work part-time. More females than males were in dual-doctor households. Male respondents in dual-doctor households were more likely to have modified their working hours or career aspirations than males in other households.

Practical implications: The number of hours worked by GPs is in part determined by the occupation/earning power of their spouse. The number of women GPs is increasing and they are likely to continue to choose to work fewer hours than their male counterparts have done in the past.

Anonymous 28 October 22 15:40

Re criminal work.

Given the overwhelming majority of work is publicly funded - either CPS prosecution work or Legal Aid - no one is deciding to "pay" women less: it is the same rate regardless. If women at the criminal Bar earn, on average, a third less than men, they must be doing less work or less well paid work. It may be that some either chose or need to take off every school holiday to take care of their children, which is, say 12 weeks a year? (That may be a problem of poor child care provision or archaic gender roles). The best paid work tends to go to the most senior (older) members of the Bar. They currently come from a generation where there were fewer women at the Bar. So significantly more senior barristers in crime are men. This will correct itself as the large number of high quality women barristers become senior. 

Anonymous 28 October 22 15:45

The question in my mind is this: Are women earning less because they are being paid a lower amount for the same work or is it because male barristers tend to receive more, or higher-paying, briefs? I suspect the latter, and if I'm right, there's nothing the bar can do about that.

How are chambers supposed to ensure a fairer distribution of work? If I send a chambers brief, then the clerks can allocate it to whomever they like because I obviously don't care.

But, if I, after consultation with my client, sent a brief marked for Mr Barrister A, and the clerks came back to me and said: 'sorry old chap, Mr A is free, but in the name of diversity, we're going to have to insist you instruct Ms Barrister B,' then I'd ask the clerks to return the brief and I'd go elsewhere.

Anonymous 28 October 22 16:05


It’s the same rate per hour.

Law firms approach chambers and ask for barrister, clerks find one which is available. With juniors, there’s no much in the way of vetting for the role, some firms say we have certain diversity requirements and we’d do well with a female, but if a female isn’t available they need someone to do the job. So the world isn’t against female barristers from the outside instructing firms, it’s entirely the opposite. 

For big ticket work, law firms are looking for certain big name KCs, and have a small list. Often just lazily sourced from Chambers and Legal 500 outside of those they already know. Those guys will then use whatever juniors available beneath them. 

This is just simply a case of natural selection at work, and because it hasn’t given the diversity communists the result they wanted, they’re whining and moaning about more diversity and discrimination. I know people like this and they speak up about it in professional contexts and people like me just have to nod and look pensive. 

Anonymous 28 October 22 19:19

We just instruct via the clerks and ask them to allocate to best person for the brief. Saves us from criticism.

David Boycott 28 October 22 20:06

Those that publish comparative income data without banding it by age or experience are always either morons or dissembling pricks.  

Sigh 31 October 22 09:57

This comment section is deeply disturbing. You people are the problem. Not just in law. In society at large. I'm sure you couldn't care less, either!

Small Man Syndrome 31 October 22 20:06

The issue isn't just women earn less than men because they work less hours.

It's why they work less hours. Inadequate childcare (which is extremely expensive), society leaning towards women being the main child care giver, lack of maternity (or parental) pay in chambers, culture of men not taking parenting responsibilities etc etc.

Yes you should get paid more for working more, but it's important to look at why men are working more. 

Mmmmmmm 01 November 22 10:55


My thoughts exactly... 

And not all women have babies or want to have babies.

That said, I agree that the statistics offered are not very informative given the nature of the work and remuneration. 

Anonymous 02 November 22 20:00

How many of these comments are from men? "Men work harder than women, they have more experience, they are more dedicated."

The system is set up to promote men over women. Because it derives from, and exists in, a patriarchy. The GPA gender pay gap report, which requires firms employing over 250 employees to report salaries, is just one measure of the inequality that exists, and has identified that in those firms there is an average pay gap between men and women (men being the beneficiaries) of 12%. 

If women are less experienced, or they get less work, or they take more time out than men, ask yourselves why. Why aren't men taking on a larger proportion of child care responsibilities? Are women lazier? Are women less intelligence? Are they less hardworking?  I'd suggest, as a trend, not. Instead, we are raised to believe that child rearing is women's work. Women are treated differently from birth through the education system and into the working world (see the debunked 'boys are better at math' experiment that was later damned). We are socialised differently, we are treated differently.

Thankfully these things are changing, particularly in many Western countries, but what we see going on in countries like Iran are examples of how things used to be for women the world over. It is only through acceptance that the system is rigged to benefit (white cis gendered straight) men over women, and taking steps to make it an even playing field, can the issue, the remnants of which we see right here with this article, can there be change. 

So guys, rather than dismiss, how about listen, and think about how you could help. After all, a more equal society for us all could really help improve the lives of men as well. 

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