Barristers are self-employed, so the headlines show gross figures from which they have to pay all expenses, leaving a net of somewhere around £40 an hour. They have no sick pay, no holiday pay, no private health insurance and no pension, they have no perks of any kind; all or any of those have to come out of what’s left of the £40 after tax. And now Mr Straw wants to cut those rates by 18 per cent.
You can’t get your car fixed for £60 an hour, yet the Government seems to think that barristers who protect the reputations, livelihoods and liberty of those accused — but not convicted — of crime are not even worth that.
Well, Paul Mendelle (from the Bar Association), it might well be argued that people who protect us every day on the road are worth just as much. Frankly I don't like the insinuation that somehow, barristers are "better" than mechanics.
But let's look at some things here: all of those costs you mention also apply to a mechanic business, but unlike them, they've got a whole bunch of costs you don't have. Costs of supplies , costs of tools, costs of machinery, premises that are larger than a small office, higher insurance costs, higher public liability costs. They typically need to have cover (in terms of extra staff) because of people being off sick.
Barristers have to undergo five years of training and professional qualification before they can begin to practice and most come to the Bar saddled with debts of £40,000 to £50,000. Mr Straw claims there are too many barristers, saying there were 2,500 in the 1970s. There are more than 12,000 barristers in England and Wales, which had a population of 54 million in 2008. In 1900 there were more than 9,500 barristers when the population was 32 million, so there are now fewer barristers per head than a hundred years ago.
Well, barely. It's now 2.2/10,000 people compared to 2.9/10,000 people in 1900. Are barristers saying that they haven't improved their productivity by 25% in 110 years?
We could also consider that a garage man doesn't get the advantage of protecting his trade by high barriers to entry and fixed prices for his work and typically has at least 5 years before starting out on his own.