Whitestone chambers is refusing to tell applicants for its 'work experience' placements how much it might pay them. As an ethically dubious alternative, candidates are being told that they will have to negotiate for their salary with the head of chambers during their interview.
Pitched on LinkedIn and Gumtree as an opportunity to gain practical experience at a "dynamic commercial law set in the heart of the legal world", the work experience sounds a lot like a full time job.
The ideal candidate is promised "contact with barristers and staff" and tasks include practice management, marketing, legal research, preparation of applications and trial bundles, note taking, and drafting particulars of claims, skeleton arguments and legal advice.
Its duration is listed as being between four weeks to six months and the "suggested" hours are five days a week, 9:30am to 6:00pm.
They just need to have completed their BPTC, and be ready to argue for their salary, which is described only as "negotiable". When an applicant asked Whitestone Chambers in advance of the interview what their pay would be, they were told it was a matter they would have to discuss with Lawrence Power, the head of Whitestone Chambers, at the interview.
"But are you worth more, Oliver? You have 60 seconds."
RollOnFriday asked Whitestone Chambers if it perceived a problem with compelling a work experience candidate to argue for their pay with the Head of Chambers, at their interview, given the relative power of the parties. In a statement Whitestone Chambers claimed this was "not true" and that "the Head of Chambers does not do the negotiation. It also does not say this in the advert".
It appears to contradict what Whitestone said in its email to RollOnFriday's applicant, however, to whom it wrote, "Unfortunately all information pertaining to pay and hours of work is dealt with in the interview by the head of chambers".
Asked to confirm that it would pay successful candidates at least the London Living Wage, it would say only that "all the persons we now take on are paid". The most recent "at over £20,000 p.a and we are right now looking at another for a similar sum".
By not stating the remuneration upfront in its advertising for its work experience slots, Whitestone is spurning the government's best practice code for high quality internships. The code advises that paying a salary helps to widen access to the profession, and recommends employers "state clearly" in adverts the pay and expenses terms of positions.
Whitestone has a record of welching on work experience. In 2012, when it was called 4 King's Bench Walk, it was caught offering very similar opportunities in exchange for zero pay.
On the plus side, it does have a bonkers website.