February and March means completing the Authorisation to Practise and paying your Practising Certificate Fee (PCF). But do you know where your money goes?

The vast majority (71%) of the PCF goes towards the regulation of the profession (to the Bar Standards Board, Legal Services Board and Legal Ombudsman). Just 29% goes to the Bar Council to support the vital work in representing the profession, promoting the Bar, and championing fair access to justice in England and Wales.

And that 29% portion covers only 62% of the income the Bar Council needs to effectively support the Bar. The remaining funds are generated by Bar Council services, training and events, generous contributions from the Inns of Court and, importantly, the Bar Representation Fee (BRF). All of the income to the Bar Council is invested in services and support for barristers.

Last year over 46% of barristers paid the BRF, a voluntary contribution to the Bar Council that can be made during the Authorisation to Practise process. The minimum contribution is £160 a year (or under £13.50 per month via Direct Debit).

The legal framework means that not all aspects of the Bar Council’s representative and campaigning work can be funded through the PCF, so the Bar Council couldn’t deliver the breadth and depth of its work without the vital contribution of the BRF. And that money is put to good use.

The BRF pays for activities that enable the Bar Council to lobby and influence decision-makers and those in power on behalf of the Bar. For example, written responses to public consultations, evidence and briefings for parliamentary inquiries; meeting with MPs and Peers from all parties and civil servants in key departments; organising the working groups and committees who shape Bar Council policy and approach on specific issues; and amplifying the collective voice of the entire profession.

The political focus in the coming year will continue to be dominated by the cost of living crisis and many of those facing serious financial difficulties will need access to legal advice and representation. The Bar Council will continue to press for more funding for all publicly funded work and investment in the wider legal system to build capacity. Other key parliamentary priorities include retained EU law legislation, rejecting the muddled proposals for a new regulatory objective, and debates about reforming the Arbitration Act 1996. The Bar Council will also continue to push back against harmful political rhetoric that helps to fuel disinformation, public anger, and hostility towards lawyers.

The BRF also helps to fund support and guidance provided to barristers on bullying and harassment, wellbeing, and professional ethics, including the ethical enquiries line – the Bar Council’s most used service. Advice and mentoring support focuses on helping barristers throughout their careers from pupillage to securing Silk and judicial appointments and offering mediation and arbitration services, as well as business and practice development guidance and opportunities.

The annual cost of the BRF also provides access to many money saving benefits, including a print subscription to Counsel magazine, 20% off all Bar Council training and events, and access to discounts on hundreds of products and services from popular retailers such as Apple and John Lewis. Paying the BRF also provides the option to request the free appointment of an arbitrator, mediator or expert by the Chair of the Bar, and a listing on the Direct Access Portal.

The Bar Representation Fee is essential to delivering the Bar Council’s work to support the whole profession and is easy to pay during the Authorisation to Practise period. Find out more here