Almost 30% of publicly funded barristers are unsure whether they will renew their practising certificate next year, a survey of the profession has found.

Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, told the Bar Standards Board that 29% of legal aid practitioners and 38% of criminal practitioners are uncertain whether they will renew their practising certificate in 2021.

Fee income has fallen by an average of almost 60% across the board, including privately funded work, she added. The full survey results are expected to be published imminently.

Speaking at a BSB meeting last night, Pinto described the news as ‘devastating’ and criticised the Treasury’s lack of support for the self-employed bar. ‘What we are finding is that there’s no real drive to rescue people at this point. I genuinely thought we were going to get at least the young practitioners supported. That was a really shocking failure.’

On court estates, Pinto said it is ‘perfectly obvious to practitioners’ that even buildings that have reopened are not being used to capacity. ‘I include in that the extras that we know are coming – the Blackstone courts. It’s just not being used efficiently or sufficiently.’

According to Pinto, the Ministry of Justice’s modelling is based on the assumption that social distancing will have ceased by May 2021. ‘I have no idea what they are basing that on. As far as I know nobody knows when social distancing will disappear,’ she said.

Bar Council chief executive Malcom Cree said the representative body is to take out a £5m loan as part of the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to combat cash flow issues.

‘I’m afraid next year the finances are going to be my major concern,’ Cree told the BSB, predicting that bar income will fall ‘very, very substantially’ across the board.