Female and ethnic minority barristers earn less than their white male counterparts even when grouped by practice area and seniority, a study by the Bar Standards Board has found.
According to the regulator’s research on income at the bar, female barristers are likely to earn less than male barristers and those from black, Asian and other minority ethnic (BAME) groups are likely to earn less than white barristers.
This holds true 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 BSB also found that there are differences in the income of BAME barristers once ethnicity is studied more closely, with black barristers earning less than Asian barristers overall.
According to the research – which looked at barristers’ financial declarations for 2018 – 22.3% of the practising bar as a whole earns between £90,000 and £150,000, before they pay their costs to chambers. However, a notably higher proportion of female barristers are in the lowest two income bands than male barristers, and a lower proportion are in the highest four income bands. A similar pattern is observed in relation to ethnicity.
The BSB said the gender pay gap could be due to favouritism around work allocation; a drop off in work after women have children; the fact that women are more likely to work part-time; and the expectation that female barristers will specialise in lower earning, publicly funded areas of law.
On ethnicity, the regulator said BAME barristers are more likely to be working at the employed bar or as sole practitioners. It also mentioned perceived bias in the way work is allocated, which could mean BAME barristers have less opportunity to progress their career.