Trainees starting training contracts in 2014 can look forward to earning only the national minimum wage after the Solicitors Regulation Authority took the visionary step of scrapping trainees' minimum salaries in England and Wales.
The minimum wage currently runs to £6.08 an hour. On a standard 35-hour week (clearly pie in the sky for most law firm trainees), that comes to £11,065 a year. Which sounds, frankly, pretty shite. And suddenly makes the previous minimum of £16,650 (which goes up an extra two grand in you're in London) sound beyond the dreams of avarice. Even Mort "3,300 hours a year" Pierce would only have made £20,000 at the minimum wage.
After lengthy consultation, the SRA claimed the move was made in response to the large numbers of law school graduates unable to find training places, and it hopes it will allow smaller firms to take on more trainees. Fair enough, although it won't do anything to help all the NQs without jobs. If anything, it can only make that situation worse, deferring the application bottleneck from getting a training contract to getting a job as a qualified lawyer.
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The reason there are so many jobless law school grads around is, of course, partly down to the SRA's efforts to stop law school entrance becoming more rigorous. And with twice as many students completing the LPC as there are training places, there's bound to be a big market for firms proffering cut-price training contracts. They'll be able to pay their indebted trainees less than paralegals, work them harder, bill more for their time and drop them after the TC without any fuss.
Samantha Barrass, SRA Executive Director (not paid minimum wage), said: "This decision was based on an objective consideration of very full and detailed evidence gathered through a variety of sources". Although those objective considerations seem to have failed to take into account access, diversity, university fees, LPC oversupply or common decency.
When the moment comes, and you know of a law firm paying its trainees minimum wage, make sure you drop RollOnFriday an anonymous line. Any serious outfit which pays its trainees £6.08 an hour deserves to be widely congratulated.