Almost two thirds of the criminal Bar work for nothing at least one day a week and more than a third of all barristers do unpaid work to help their clients, a survey revealed.
The Bar Council’s report Barristers’ Working Lives 2017: Barristers’ attitudes towards their working lives, revealed the impact that the struggling justice system is having on the profession.
It showed that 62% of criminal barristers routinely work at least one or two days per week unpaid. In other areas of private practice, more than a third do additional unpaid work where their client cannot afford more.
Barristers are working more hours and suffering greater stress than in 2013, when the survey was last conducted. Of the 4,092 responses (over a quarter of the profession), 27% of criminal barristers and 33% of family barristers said they work more than 60 hours a week, compared to 16% in commercial and Chancery, 17% in civil and an average of 22% across all practice areas.
45% felt able to balance their home and working lives, while only 26% said they were not under too much work pressure.
The survey also showed that over a third of criminal barristers are considering leaving the Bar, compared with 24% of the rest of the profession.
More positively, 89% found their work interesting and 61% agreed that they were enthusiastic about work on most days.
Bar Chair, Andrew Walker QC said it was a ‘worrying trend’ that so many barristers have seen their stress levels increase and their work-life balance deteriorate.