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Barristers’ Working Lives Survey 2011 paints vivid portrait of life at the Bar

Family Law barristers work longest hours and take least holiday

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, and the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the regulator of barristers in England and Wales, have released the results of Barristers' Working Lives, the first in a planned series of biennial surveys of the Bar. It offers a fascinating portrait at life at the Bar, both for the employed and self-employed.

One in seven of all practising barristers are working mainly in family law. Nearly two-thirds of female self-employed barristers work in this area. 64% of all family law barristers are women. Family law attracts fewer barristers with fee-paying school (40%) or Oxbridge (22%) backgrounds than other areas of practice. 55% of all family law barristers are under 45 years of age. 10% of them are of black or minority ethnic origin.

Self-employed family law barristers, together with criminal counsel, work the longest hours on average (55 hours per week) and take the fewest number of days' holiday. The average d for all full time self-employed barristers is 53 hours per week. However, despite these long hours, one in four of all barristers report that their workload has decreased over the previous year.

Overall, barristers are proud of what they do and the contribution they make to society, and enjoy the variety, interest and challenge of their work. Most (70%) would still opt for the Bar if they could start their career again, and four out of five think the Bar is a respected profession. However. Only 38 per cent feel satisfied with the amount they earn, and most feel under pressure at work and find life as a barrister stressful.

The survey can be read here.