One in six young barristers say they want to leave the bar over unmanageable or unpredictable working hours, according to a study by the Bar Council.
The potential health consequences of remaining at the bar was one of the key issues cited by barristers who have been practising for less than seven years and are considering quitting, with the report recommending that ‘work allocation needs to be fairer and workloads need to be more manageable’.
This will require ‘culture shifts’ but is necessary in order to ‘avoid burn-out and the loss of young barristers from the profession’, the report added.
Michael Polak, chair of the Bar Council’s young barristers’ committee, said the findings ‘should act as a wake-up call for those interested in the future of the profession’.
The report also found that only half of barristers feel work is allocated fairly, with many juniors finding it difficult to turn down work for fear of the potential consequences in relation to future income and career progression.
The financial impact of the pandemic was also ‘more significant’ for young barristers than for the bar as a whole, the report added, with nearly a third of respondents saying they experienced ‘financial hardship’ as a result, particularly those working in crime.
While there has recently been an increase in earnings for many who suffered during the pandemic, some barristers ‘now struggle to cope as courts attempt to clear the backlog’, the report found.
Bar Council chair Mark Fenhalls QC said: ‘Our profession has been ageing rapidly and we can ill-afford to lose the next generation for any reason.’