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A compulsory minimum salary for trainee solicitors (currently £18,590 in Central London and £16,650 outside of London) has been prescribed by the Law Society, and now the SRA, since 1982. The SRA now proposes in its recent consultation paper to abolish this minimum salary for trainees, the reason being that such regulation is now deemed "out of step" with the SRA's strategy of regulating only to "encourage an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession" (Legal Services Act 2007) and protect the public interest.
The effect of this deregulation will be that the only protection offered to trainee solicitors will be by the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999. Trainees will be classed as "apprentices" for the purposes of this legislation, and therefore entitled to a minimum of only £2.60 per hour in their first year, rising to £6.08 per hour in subsequent years. The SRA argues that for a large number of trainees (who enter into their first year on a salary of c.£38k) it is the market rate, sector or region that determines salary levels rather than the SRA's intervention. Whilst it is true that removal of the minimum salary is unlikely to affect these trainees, for the majority of trainees their salaries are correlated around the minimum wage with firms using this regulation for a reference point (see SRA training contract salary data 2011). It is absurd to believe that in the current economic climate firms will not (quite justifiably) take advantage of this deregulation and dramatically drop salaries.
As a student currently studying for the LPC in the College of Law Guildford, I know only too well the devastating and demoralising effect this deregulation will have on future trainees. Apprentice wages are designed for school leavers who are living with their parents and about to enter a profession. LPC students do not typically fit this mold. Many of my peers have children and mortgages. Even more, myself included, have their own legal training. Those who have opted to convert to a career in law having completed alternative degrees will have racked up around six years of study and a mountain of debt by the time they begin a training contract.
For many students, the light at the end of the LPC tunnel is the fact that they may, just may, be compensated for their years of hard work/exam nervous breakdowns/financial devastation by securing a training contract with a reasonable salary. Comparatively, the SRA's intention to deregulate solely to ensure their regulatory objectives are not overstepped is, quite frankly, flippant and transparent. It has to be asked; just whose interest is it in to abolish this minimum wage?
Katie is a Paralegal at The International Family Law Group LLP. She assists on cases, court work and client matters. She has a First Class B.Sc degree in Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has studied law and psychology. She obtained distinction in her General Diploma in Law at the College of Law in Guildford in 2011 and sits the Law Society's Legal Practice Course exams in 2012. She has a good working knowledge of Spanish. She will be commencing her training contract with the firm in August 2012.
The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.
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