Starting Practice as a Barrister: A Guide to the Finances

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Starting Practice as a Barrister

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Starting practice as a barrister is a pivotal moment that follows years of academic and vocational training. However, the journey does not stop at completing your pupillage and being called to the bar. There are crucial financial aspects to consider, from accounting methods to finding the right accountant.

Use the contact form on the right and one of our barrister tax experts will be in touch.

Why is Understanding Finance Important for a Barrister?

Being a barrister often means you are self-employed. While the profession can be lucrative, the earnings can also be unpredictable, especially at the start of your career. Understanding how to manage your finance efficiently can make or break your practice at the bar.

Financing Your Pupillage and Bar Course

Before you can practise as a barrister, you will need to complete your pupillage and possibly a bar course. This stage can be financially taxing.

Student Loans and Other Funding

Student loans are a common way to finance your education. However, be prepared for the fact that repaying these loans will impact your earnings as a barrister. You may also explore other financial avenues like scholarships or grants.

The Pupillage Payment

During pupillage, you will receive a minimum pupillage award, which serves as a sort of salary. This amount varies and is often higher in London compared to outside London. It is advisable to plan your expenses around this payment to ensure you can cover your financial needs.

Setting Up Your Practice: The Initial Costs

Starting your practice involves several one-time costs, including chamber fees and registering with various legal bodies.

Chamber Fees

Joining a chamber comes with its fees. These chamber fees are a critical part of your initial expenses and can take up a considerable proportion of your earnings in the beginning.

Registration and Compliance

You will need to register with HMRC and also meet various compliance requirements. It is beneficial to consult an accountant experienced in the legal profession to guide you through this process.

Jack Ross Chartered Accountants has served the legal community for decades and is well-equipped to help barristers with their finances at all stages of their career. Whether you are starting your pupillage or working out of an established chambers, we are here to help. Use the contact form on the right and one of our barrister tax experts will be in touch. 

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The Jack Ross Team has been an absolute delight. Professional, nice and fast during the Audit procedure. Thank you Jack Ross Team.

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Very good service from the Jack Ross Team. They gave us good advice and completed a very efficient audit. They have a friendly and competent team. I would surely recommend them.

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Brilliant service from the Jack Ross team in setting up several companies in very quick time, along with providing associated accountancy advice. Can recommend wholeheartedly as a leading accountancy practice with a can-do attitude.

Managing Ongoing Expenses and Legal Aid

Routine Expenses

As a practicing barrister, you will have ongoing expenses such as travel, professional attire, and legal subscriptions. These will be part of your annual income calculations.

Legal Aid Cases

If you take on publicly funded or legal aid cases, be prepared for different fee structures. Legal aid generally does not pay much, but it is a crucial service that many barristers provide.

VAT and Tax Relief for Barristers

As a self-employed barrister, you may be required to register for VAT depending on your annual income. It is crucial to understand the threshold for VAT registration and how it applies to your practice. Tax relief on certain business-related expenses is also something you can capitalise on. For example, the cost of legal publications or membership fees for professional bodies can often be claimed back.

Financial Planning for the Long Term

Pension Considerations

Planning for your retirement is as essential as managing your current earnings. As a barrister, you will likely be responsible for setting up your own pension scheme. You can contribute a proportion of your earnings into a pension fund, which will then be invested to provide you with an income upon retirement.

Provider and Investment Choices

When it comes to pensions, you have multiple provider options. Each provider offers a range of investment choices designed to suit various risk appetites. It is advisable to consult a financial advisor to tailor your pension scheme according to your specific financial needs.

Barristers and Equality

The legal profession has been taking steps to promote equality and diversity within its ranks. Financial planning can play a significant role in ensuring that barristers from all backgrounds can sustain a successful practice. Understanding how to manage your finances effectively enables you to focus on your work as an advocate, irrespective of your socio-economic background.

Budgeting and Savings

Efficient financial management goes beyond earning a good fee; it involves prudent budgeting and savings. Consider setting up a separate savings account to set aside a portion of your earnings for future needs or unforeseen circumstances. This is especially important for publicly funded barristers who may not earn as much as those in other areas of practice.

Importance of Compliance and Deadlines

As a practising barrister in England and Wales, you are bound by various deadlines for submitting tax returns for personal income and VAT. Missing deadlines for tax payments to HMRC can result in penalties. Therefore, keeping track of all compliance deadlines is vital for your practice.

The Role of Accountants in a Barrister’s Financial Journey

Why Accountants are Indispensable

Accountants can provide invaluable assistance in managing your finances. They can help you understand your income, expenses, and how to claim tax relief on business-related costs. Moreover, an accountant can assist you in preparing for your annual tax returns and ensuring that you comply with all HMRC requirements.

Accountants and Financial Planning

A qualified accountant can also advise you on long-term financial planning, including pension contributions and investment options. Their guidance can be beneficial in optimising your tax liabilities and planning for a secure financial future.

Jack Ross Chartered Accountants has decades of experience providing bespoke accounting services for legal professionals. Use the contact form below and one of our barrister tax experts will be in touch. 

Areas of Practice: Where to Focus?

Specialisation and Earnings

Your area of practice could significantly impact your earnings as a barrister. Specialising in fields like corporate law or international arbitration can be financially rewarding but may also come with its own set of challenges and responsibilities.

Financial Needs for Different Areas

Different specialisations may have varying financial needs. For instance, a barrister focusing on criminal law might have different expense structures compared to one practising commercial litigation. Knowing these differences can help you plan your finances better.

Financial Stability at the Start of Your Career

Planning and Forecasting

Financial stability does not happen overnight. It requires careful planning and forecasting, especially at the start of your career. Tools like financial calculators can help you estimate your income, expenses, and tax liabilities for the year ahead.

Savings and Emergency Funds

Creating an emergency fund can be a lifesaver during unexpected financial downturns. Aim to save at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a separate savings account for maximum financial security.

Your Financial Hub as a Barrister

Starting your practice as a barrister is an exciting but challenging endeavour. From the complexities of legal aid work to the financial intricacies of different areas of practice, there is a lot to consider. But with careful planning and prudent financial management, you can pave the way for a successful and fulfilling career.

Seeking specialised accounting services for barristers? Complete the contact form below and a Jack Ross advisor will be in touch to discuss tailored solutions.

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As a barrister, you can make a profit through the fees you charge for taking on cases and providing legal advice. You also have the potential to make more money through barristers’ chambers, which are structures that allow multiple barristers to practice together and share profits.

Yes. Barristers must pay income tax on any earnings they receive from their practise. This includes payments made for solicitors’ briefs, public access work and any other earnings received during the tax year.

Silk is used to describe barristers who have achieved the highest level of recognition within their field. It is awarded by judges based on merit and excellence within the profession and allows one set of barristers to stand out amongst their peers.

Charles Eastwood, Barrister,  St Johns Buildings Chambers

I would recommend Jack Ross Chartered Accountants as great leaders in the field of providing barrister accounting services.

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