Lisa Johnson is currently studying a Law degree at the University of Central Lancashire, where she will soon be entering her final year of study. Here she looks at the growing concern that when the minimum wage for trainee solicitors is scrapped in 2014, women will be most heavily hit.
Following the recent debate of the scrapping of the minimum wage for trainee solicitors it has been argued that female solicitors will be hit hardest by the decision. The Association of Woman Solicitors (AWS) has warned that women who want to pursue a career as a female solicitor will be deterred from entering the profession due to the reduction of the trainee minimum wage which is to drop 40% lower in August 2014 than the current minimum wage to £6.08 per hour.
Joy Van Cooten, Chairwoman of the AWS and Law Society Council member Sarah Austin have both stated that the scrapping of minimum wage will discourage able women who want to pursue a career as a female solicitor which as a result will mean the legal profession will be less diverse and will only reflect people who are experts in the field already, rather than females who have the assets to become a great female solicitor.
The Impact faced by a Female Solicitor
It will also have an impact on females who are from low socio-economic backgrounds and are trying to enter the legal profession as a female solicitor. It will effectively reduce their earning capacity and many women may think that it is not worth them pursuing once you consider all the tuition fees, student finance and other associated costs incurred from a law degree at university/LPC in the hope of becoming a female solicitor in the end.
At the moment it is in fact women and members of ethnic minorities who make the majority of trainee solicitors who are already on the current SRA regulated minimum wage salary. If this was to reduce even further then women would be less likely to pursue a career that they know will only earn them the national minimum wage. The SRA have concluded that a minimum wage salary being placed on trainee solicitors will only prevent people from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures from entering into the profession.
Furthermore if this was to be the case and firms pay the minimum wage salary, the perception of the quality of service on offer to individuals will surely diminish should it become a male dominated field. Will women see a career worth fighting for in this instance should the minimum wage be all they can realistically hope for?
A Female Solicitor to be affected by minimum wage: My Opinion
As a female student myself I am already worried about the costs of pursuing my legal career as a female solicitor. I am already in debt with tuition fees, student finance and then if I take the Legal Practice Course I will only incur more debt for myself. Even so I believe that I am willing to take that risk as I do wish to become a female solicitor. However, following the revelation that a trainee will only be paid the minimum wage, it has left me deflated as I am already worrying about the costs I have sustained and the fact that I don’t have any connections in law. I am the first member of my family to go to university and I thought by doing that I would earn a much better salary than my part time job which currently earns me £6.08 per hour. I do have this growing concern that I will not be able to pursue the career I want if firms were only to offer the minimum wage salary.
I do believe that a positive to come from this will be the fact that companies may be more willing to offer more training contracts for people like myself who come from a normal background with no connections in law. It may give me more of a chance to get my foot in the door if due to the minimum wage this meant that firms would be able to offer more training contracts.
I think that students like myself would have thought differently about going to university and students who are studying for the LPC or have already gained this qualification may have thought differently, if prior to all the studying it was only a minimum wage training contract at the end of it. Obviously this is an area still up for debate and we are yet to see whether or not it will be the right choice in the end.
The views expressed by DG Academy contributors are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to Duncan Gibbins Solicitors
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