The President of the Law Society pays his trainees less than the Law Society's own recommended minimum salary.
Joe Egan confirmed to RollOnFriday that Joe Egan Solicitors, his Bolton firm, pays its trainees less than the £18,547 recommended minimum. He said, “At the moment we have two trainee solicitors – and, yes, it’s true we pay below the recommended rate. I regret this".
Egan said that it was because his firm relied predominantly on legal aid work, and that since the introduction of LASPO "times have been difficult for us and many other businesses". He said, "Two years ago I took no salary at all so my firm could keep going". He told RollOnFriday his trainees would not have had training contracts with his firm at all, had they not made the "difficult" choice to pay them peanuts.
Although the Law Society recommends that training contract providers should pay at least the minimum "as a matter of good practice", some law firms have exploited its unenforceability. It has come as a surprise to some, however, that one of the transgressors is its own figurehead.
Bryan Scant, chair of the Law Society's Junior Lawyers Division, said, “It is extremely disappointing that the President has chosen to disregard his own organisation’s guidance". Scant told RollOnFriday that the LASPO cuts "affected the entire profession and many firms suffered as a result", but that firms "recognise that trainees are in a difficult position trying to repay university tuition fees, LPC fees and living expenses. Trainees in this category therefore rely on the protection afforded by the Law Society’s recommended minimum salary". Scant said, "The actions of the President undermine the entire policy and the Society’s aims of increasing social mobility, which he has himself spoken out on”.
Asked whether it was appropriate that the person representing the profession pays his trainees less than its recommended minimum, the Law Society declined to comment. It also declined to disclose how much the President's trainees are paid. Instead it took potshots at its own policy by emphasising that it was voluntary. A spokesman said, “The Law Society of England and Wales’ recommendation for minimum pay for trainee solicitors is £20,913 in London and £18,547 outside of London. We stand by that policy. These rates are recommendations rather than mandatory”.