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Barrister set to strike ‘earned £7,000 more per year as coffee shop barista’

Rosalind Burgin, 28, says criminal defence is noble work but ’you still need to be able to live’

Jake Meeus-Jones
Wednesday 24 August 2022 14:45 BST
Related: Barristers strikes: Criminal barrister says she sometimes earns minimum wage

A barrister set to strike says she earned £7,000 more per year as a coffee barista than she does now.

Criminal defence barrister, Rosalind Burgin, 28, says she earned around £10,000 in her first year working as a junior.

But while working full-time as a coffee barista she earned around £7,000 more annually – and said it was much more reliable work.

Ms Burgin admits first year earnings tend to be lower but “you still need to be able to live” and claims she is now earning less than minimum wage.

The lawyer from Manchester is speaking out ahead of the 5 September strike over legal aid rates.

It is expected that the majority of crown court cases across the country will be adjourned.

She said the thought of her client’s suffering is “gut-wrenching” but feels she has no choice but to strike because her job security is at an all-time low.

“I love working in criminal defence, and it’s heart-breaking that we have to do this, but there are no options left now,” Ms Burgin says.

“It’s not just about the pay, the work is really unsecure as well.

“I’ve been in tough situations before, but I’ve never had as little job security as I do now.”

Ms Burgin worked in a number of different coffee shops before starting work as a defence barrister and says she felt more secure throughout.

“At least working at a coffee shop you knew what you were getting and it was secure,” she said.

“I knew I would get paid for 10 hours work, whereas now I don’t know how much I’ll get for 10 hours.”

The barrister says she is still waiting on payments for cases that finished in September last year.

Colleagues are leaving to support their families because criminal defence work is not paying enough, she said.

“The amount of work that goes in to chasing fees is so draining,” she said.

“My friend has recently had a baby and he can’t do crime work because there’s not enough money for him to support his family.”

The junior defence barrister said she knew it was not going to be easy and “pay was going to be tough” but thought it would be above minimum wage.

“I thought I’d be comparable to some of my friends working in healthcare, who I completely support in their right to strike as well, but they’re still getting minimum wage at least,” she said.

“I’m not.”

The public reaction to the strike has been largely supportive, with many calling on the government to act.

Ms Burgin has said the support has been “incredible” and “so many people seem to be on our side”.

“I’ve been saying to clients if a court date is on a strike day that I can’t come in, and they have been really supportive,” she said.

“One even said, ‘Good, you better not come in!’

“Support tends to increase after each strike – train strikes are good examples of that.

“Hopefully the government will listen to our demands.”


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