The Solicitors Regulation Authority scrapped the minimum wage for trainee solicitors yesterday in a move which could see trainee solicitors earning just £6.08 an hour.
The SRA board voted unanimously that a partial deregulation was needed with the change coming into effect in September 2014.
After it was recently decided that trainee solicitors in Scotland would be paid minimum wage, yesterday’s results were to be expected.
Although it was feared that trainees could be re-classified as apprentices (earning £2.08 an hour) the good news is that this is NOT the case.
Law Society To Criticise Removal of Minimum Wage For Trainee Solicitors
The Law Society have responded negatively to the removal of minimum wage for trainee solicitors, saying the decision ‘will face criticism’ as some believe trainees could become viewed as ‘apprentices’ and it ‘may prevent poorer people from getting training contracts’.
The Junior Lawyers Division campaigned heavily against the decision, asking for the board to defer a decision until the results of the Legal Education and Training Review.
Samantha Barrass, SRA executive director said:
‘This decision was based on an objective consideration of very full and detailed evidence gathered through a variety of sources.’
Minimum Wage for Trainee Solicitors – The History
The minimum wage for trainee solicitors was first introduced in 1982 to encourage high achieving graduates to become lawyers and to prevent them from becoming exploited in such a competitive industry.
According to the Law Society’s website their Council agreed that the ‘minimum salary level should be increased every two years and should, in due course, reflect the increase in the Retail Price Index.
The current minimum salary for trainee solicitors is £17,110 in central London and £15, 332 outside. In two years time this protection will be removed and if employers wish, they can pay their trainee solicitors the national minimum wage.
National Minimum Wage For Trainee Solicitors – Students React In Anger
The Junior Law Division called on twitter followers to follow the hash tag #SRAdotherightthing to keep them up to date on the outcome of the minimum wage for trainee solicitors. Once the move to abolish the minimum wage had been confirmed sparks flew over twitter.
Students tweeted us @DG_Academy in droves, venting their frustration and anger at the SRA decision. Soon the debate took over our Facebook Page with many students joining in to express their views, the majority against the removal of the minimum wage for trainee solicitors.
@conorburns86: ‘SRA decision is wrong and unjust. Such pay means I couldn’t do such a training contract as would not be able to meet rent, etc.’
@AprilllBarry5: ‘gutted at the decision. Earning less than fastfood workers? Decrease diversity? Yes more TC’s but huge damage to Eng Law
@ri_macca: ‘It’s demeaning. Call centres pay higher salary than mine, current salary barely covers bills yet I’ve studied 4 yrs to get here’
@BexD1991: ‘might open up more TC’s but there may not be as many positions for after you’re qualified to meet the numbers’
@emmabeckett88: ‘Firms might take on more trainees but they won’t be able to keep them all on. I think it will lead to false hope & explotition’
@natalielorna1: ‘I think its a double edge sword – could be bad for diversity but could mean more TCs and less applying to do a law degree’
@Fizzymoon86: ‘I feel VERY disheartened that they feel we are worth so little. But I have no choice but to do that because I’ve come this far’
Minimum Wage For Trainee Solicitors – What DG Academy Says
Beth Nunnington who runs DG Academy shares her views (that are her own and not those of her employers):
Let me first preface my view by first saying that all Paralegals at Duncan Gibbins Solicitors are given clear timelines for when their Training Contracts will start and all Trainees are paid more than the national minimum wage. Let me also say that there is never going to be a “perfect solution” in economic times such as these. Now let me say why I think removing the SRA Minimum Wage for Trainees could be a positive move.
Our last article on the subject of minimum wage for trainee solicitors caused controversy but as I always try to look on the bright side I stick by our point.
I would like to begin by saying that under no circumstances do I think students should be exploited and should be paid the national wage. After all their hard work, financial investment and time they deserve to be paid at a higher rate. However, as upsetting as this decision has been for law students and graduates I want to express why it isn’t completely bad news.
Many students fear they will be exploited but that is not necessarily going to be the case.
By removing the minimum wage for trainee solicitors this may open up many more Training Contract opportunities for students. Currently it is arguable that the minimum wage for trainee solicitors causes a barrier to the profession as it can discourage firms from employing trainees. Instead of offering training contracts they instead take on Paralegals which can be paid at the national minimum wage but are often offered no further qualifications or training.
This seems to be particularly true in the case of small firms. The Law Society reported that there has only been a 2.6% rise in training contracts in smaller firms since 1999, compared to 27% in larger firms.
Many of our followers agreed that although an increase in Training Contracts was a positive outcome, they worried they would not have a job secured at the end. However, surely it is better to be qualified and unemployed than not qualified and unemployed?
Also, if you prove yourself to be the asset to the firm you are working for, it is very likely that you will be kept on. The removal of minimum wage for trainee solicitors could give you more opportunities to get your foot in the door, and if you impress, stay there.
Every other student at University is facing the same struggles. No, they may not have to pay for their LPC but many students right now, in every faculty, will be preparing themselves for the possibility they will have to work either for free, or for a low starting wage. They have no minimum wage above national average to protect them.
Legal Cheek wrote an interesting piece about ‘four reasons why the trainee minimum wage had to go’. Their first statement reinforces my above point. ‘Why, other than for socio-economic diversity reasons, should the SRA impose a minimum salary when no other professional regulators do (other than the Bar, which sets it in line with the national minimum wage?’
Maybe the real issue here is the pricing of the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or the number of students that are taken on by LPC providers? Lawyer 2B wrote an interesting article recently on where the responsibility lies for the ever increasing number of LPC students. The article addresses the issue that perhaps LPC providers should do something to ‘stem this competition and limit the numbers of students paying for the LPC (which can now cost upwards of £13k)’.
Law firms are businesses and right now the UK is suffering from a difficult economic climate. At DG Academy we understand that this is a hard and tough time not just for law students, but for all at University.
I am not undermining the stress and annoyance you must feel at the possibility of having to work for less but hopefully you decided to study law, not just for the money, but because you have a passion to help people.
Some of our twitter followers agreed:
@AlexLane91: ‘You shouldn’t practice law for the $. Too many people with £ signs in their eyes is the reason for over saturation of the market’
@yazschwer: ‘just cos the min wage has been abolished doesn’t mean all firms will pay trainees less. Would be good to hear from firms…’
@Dant112: ‘I agree. It’s preventing firms from hiring in a tough climate’
@BeckyAlice: ‘it seems harsh but will allow for more trainees to be taken on meaning more graduate jobs’
@BegleyPatrick: ‘Solicitors costs are rising and clients are demanding cheaper services, it’s only natural that cuts are made at the bottom.
There are many strong view points regarding the issue and the Junior Lawyers Division is still firmly against the abolition of minimum wage for trainee solicitors.
However, it is definitely worth considering that perhaps the real issue isn’t the minimum wage but the amount of students who are accepted onto LPC courses and who have to pay a huge amount of money on tuition fees, many without any guarantee of a training contract.
Minimum Wage for Trainee Solicitors – Your Views
If you haven’t already you can join in on the debate on our Facebook page where many law students and graduates have already shared their views on minimum wage for trainee solicitors. Follow us on Twitter @DG_Academy for all the latest job vacancies, work experience opportunities, career advice, videos, news and blogs.
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