Of the 370 junior barristers who responded to the survey by accountancy firm BDO Stoy Hayward, 46 per cent strongly agreed that financial pressures were causing people to drop out, while 44 per cent blamed premature departures on work-related stress.
Around 94 per cent of respondents are currently in debt, with 57 per cent estimating that it will take more than three years to get back into the black.
Meanwhile, a sister survey of barristers' chambers, also by BDO, revealed that the introduction of a compulsory £10,000 salary for pupils is forcing 24 per cent of sets to reduce the number of pupillages they offer, meaning that 139 fewer pupillages will be available next year.
Both surveys found that barristers feel most threatened by the rise of solicitor-advocates, closely followed by the increase in solicitors carrying out in-house work.
Bar chairman David Bean QC said the dip in pupillages had been forseen because some sets were expected to be extra cautious as a result of the new £10,000 pupil salary.
Jeffrey Nedas, chairman of BDO's professional practices group, said: “The profession could see a shortfall in the number of junior barristers rising through the ranks in five years time. This could lead to work being given to in-house barristers and solicitors.”