Listing the top legal aid earners

The Ministry of Justice (“MoJ”) list of the Bar’s top earners in publicly funded work contained several errors and was based on “unreliable” data, the Bar Council has said.

Publication of the MoJ list, an annual event that prompts news stories on which barrister makes the most money from legal aid work, identified the top ten legal aid earners for 2008-09. However the Bar Council spotted several errors and sent out a briefing note, “Barristers’ Earnings—The Reality for Publicly Funded Practitioners” to clarify the issue.


While the MoJ figures listed are said to be earnings for 2008-09, one of the barristers received at least two-thirds of the figure given for work done between 1994 and 2006.

The figure for another barrister included a substantial duplicate payment made to him in error (which has now been paid back).
The Bar Council also pointed out that some payments include money that a barrister had to pass on to other advocates who worked on the case.

In fact, according to the Bar Council’s briefing note, a barrister of ten years’ Call working criminal legal aid “will receive fees of roughly £50-£60 per hour, out of which she will have to pay VAT and office and staff costs, leaving her with about £30-£40 per hour, without making provision for sick pay, annual leave or pension constributions”.

An MoJ spokesperson said: “As agreed with the Bar Council, a number of caveats are published alongside the lists explaining what the figures do and do not represent.

“In particular, we make it clear that the amounts paid do not  represent annual earnings and should not be regarded as such. On this occasion no one raised any concern about duplicate payments. 

“Other concerns that were raised were resolved before publication. If any of the barristers concerned has subsequently discovered any inconsistency we would be very happy to investigate.”

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