As the website Law Careers puts it, becoming a barrister is a high-risk and very expensive project. On top of the already high costs of studying and paying for a university degree, there are also the costs of obtaining a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) – with current tuition fees of nearly £11,000 – plus the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), for which fees may be more than £19,000.
After all this expenditure, you might find yourself starting out in pupillage for as little as the minimum £12,000 a year.
After such a financially challenging start, once you find yourself in barristers’ chambers (having secured “tenancy” as it is called), things may not change any time soon – if at all.
Why? It might help to look at the way barristers earn their living and the financing of barristers’ chambers.
There are around 15,500 in practice in the UK and although some work for large corporations, the majority retain their traditional role as self-employed professionals.
Contrary to what is probably a popular belief that barristers are permanently engaged in glamorous, high-profile work, enjoying a very wealthy lifestyle, recent research by the Bar Council, cited by Legal Cheek, suggests that the average earnings of an individual barrister are just £60,000 a year.
But the range of average earnings across such a relatively small population of legal professionals is extremely wide. Whilst 16% of them earn more than £240,000 a year, says the Bar Council, 13% are earning less than £30,000.
The principal reason for the relatively low average earnings across the profession – certainly compared to popular conceptions – is that the self-employed barrister or the partnership of barristers that makes up chambers needs to deduct substantial overhead costs from any earnings from fees.
These overheads include such essential expenditure as office space, staff, travel (and accommodation), pension contributions, sick pay provision, VAT and other tax liabilities and the professional liability insurance required by any practising barrister. Taken together, these overheads typically account for approximately a half of anything a barrister earns in fees, admits the Bar Council.
Add to this the length of time which many barristers need to take in investigating, researching and preparing for cases, together with the invariable delay between the work done and the receipt of fees paid, and it may become clear that one of the major budgetary concern for any barrister – or the chambers in which he or she has tenancy – is one of cashflow.
Managing cashflow problems
When there is a substantial lag between expenditure and receipts from fees, it may be necessary to turn to borrowing – after all, this is the way most student barristers are likely to have funded the many and expensive years of education and training they have already had to complete.
Unsecured barrister loans from us here at Professions Loans are designed to meet just that need.
Unlike a long-term secured loan, our unsecured loans may be as short as three months or up to five years and the interest is fixed, so that you know exactly how much you need to repay each month. Thanks to your professional status and standing as a barrister, you are likely to find those repayment terms completely affordable.
An unsecured, fixed rate loan may also be adapted to suit the precise needs of a barrister or his or her chambers. A £5,000 loan, for example, may be used to meet professional liability insurance costs or loans of £1 million – or more – might be advanced to busy and successful chambers eager to invest in new premises, acquire or lease other valuable assets – such as modernised IT support systems – be used to meet your collective VAT and other tax liabilities or simply provide the working capital necessary to manage the cashflow challenges almost invariably faced by any barristers’ chambers.
If yours are more progressive chambers, an unsecured short- to medium-term loan might also provide the means of investing in the future by joining the few chambers which currently offer payment for vocational training to those individuals in pupillage.
Taking advantage of your new found status and creditworthiness of a newly qualified barrister, you might also consider paying off some of those personal loans on which you are likely to have relied whilst going through the years of self-financed education at university, and training for your GDL and BPTC.
A fixed rate, unsecured loan might not be the answer to all your prayers, but it certainly has the capacity for making the road ahead altogether much smoother.