In a move unlikely to inspire mirth from Middle Temple, the Bar Council is seeking to establish new top-tier pay grades for the practising certificate fee (PCF).
As set out in a recent consultation, the Bar Council wants to introduce two new payment bands: Band 7 and Band 8, for high-earning barristers.
Those who earn between £500,000 and £1m a year will sit in Band 7, and will be expected to fork out an annual £2,500 for the PCF, 35% higher than the previous upper limit of £1,850. Barristers who earn over £1m a year would sit at the proposed new top tier and would be expected to pay £3000 annually for the PCF.
According to Bar Council figures, around 200 barristers are earning more than £500,000 a year, while nearly 130 barristers are earning over £1m. Similar projections from last year indicated that 2,562 barristers were on course to bring in more than £240,000.
Despite this hike at the top end of the spectrum, the proposals do aim to reduce the fee for barristers in Band 1 – those who earn up to £30,000 a year. Under the revised fee structure, the lowest-earning barristers would pay just £100 a year, slightly down from the previous fee of £123.
The consultation states: ‘This proposal is certainly not an attempt at redistribution of wealth but is a recognition of the increasing gap in earnings across the Bar and of the pressures on those at the publicly-funded Bar, set against the minimum income requirements of the Bar Council.’
The latest revision to the PCF comes nearly two years since the Bar Council introduced a 12% increase to rates to plug a hole in the body’s pension fund. In February 2017, it was revealed that the top earning barristers would shoulder much of the increased PCF, with those taking home over £240,000 expected to pay an additional £198 in annual dues.