A CONFIDENTIAL free-phone helpline for Irish barristers struggling with financial and emotional difficulties is to be launched in the next few weeks. The Bar Council is set to subscribe to the UK company, Law Care, with a view to offering its members extra support due to increasing numbers of barristers finding it hard to make ends meet.

It is a startling turn of events for a time-honoured profession long associated with social esteem and wealth. But legal sources say that at least half of the country's qualified barristers are now living on less than the average industrial wage.

Law Care markets itself as an "advisory and support service to help solicitors, their staff and their immediate families to deal with health problems such as depression and addiction and related emotional difficulties".

The Bar Council is expected to announce details of its participation over the coming weeks.

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, Sasha Gayer, vice chairperson, said: "If members are feeling under pressure or if they have financial worries they can ring and there would be a volunteer at the end of the line.

"We have been more aware over the past year that young members feel they are getting nowhere and making no money."

The profession, in recent years, has been dogged with a lack of earnings, clients who won't cough up and an increasing drop-out rate.

Much of the problem can be aligned with a surge of young new barristers who entered the profession during the boom years.

Membership of the Law Library – the base for all of Ireland's barristers – has increased by 33% in the space of four short years. Between 2004 and 2008 the numbers grew from 1,456 to 1,939.