The PCF, which funds more than 60 per cent (about £8m) of the Bar Council’s annual £15m costs, is set according to year of Call – senior members of the Bar pay more. Last year, for example, self-employed QCs paid £1,223 while those up to three years’ Call paid £81.
This method has remained the same for three decades. However, the Bar Council has now held a consultation asking whether it should adopt a new approach. The rethink is partly prompted by changes to earnings in different parts of the Bar, particularly for those with publicly funded practices.
The consultation asked whether self-employed and employed barristers should continue to pay different rates, whether there should be a flat fee for all, or whether it should be staggered according to earnings or to seniority. Some relevant points to note are that women tend to take more career breaks and so would benefit from a seniority-based approach, while a flat fee would penalise more junior members.
It estimates that the self-employed Bar has annual gross earnings of about £2bn overall, which works out at an average of £160,000 per practitioner, although about half the self-employed Bar earns £100,000 or less; and that the employed Bar earns £150m in total, and £56,000 on average.
The consultation closed on 28 November. Any changes are likely to be introduced from 2014.