Following on from the revelation that Scottish trainees can expect half the wedge of their English cousins, there are reports of even more stinginess north of the border.

Top corporate outfit Dickson Minto - the most profitable firm in Scotland where senior partners trouser £1.5m (more than their counterparts at Clifford Chance) - is rumoured to have cut trainees' pay over the recession. True to its tight-lipped form, the firm refused to comment except to confirm that trainees' pay has never fallen to Law Society minimum wage levels of £15,965. So it could be £15,966.

Readers say that the bare minimum wage is paid by some of the other top firms, including MacRoberts (the firm failed to comment). Senior Associates in leading firms with four or five years' qualification under their belts can expect to make what a first seat City trainee pulls in. And some firms are apparently keeping NQs on three-month rolling contracts to screw them out of redundancy pay, or retaining them as paralegals or secretaries.

    A Scottish trainee yesterday

Certainly there are reasons for the lower wages in Scotland - chief of which, as McGrigors points out, is that trainees are charged out at a much lower rate. There are no uni fees for undergrad courses, and the cost of living is lower. But is Edinburgh really much cheaper than Bristol, where trainees make £30,000? The truth appears to be rather more prosaic. As one reader says, "the largest Scottish firms have been getting away with murder. But the trainees can't say anything as job competition is so fierce, it's a small market, and everything gets back to HR."

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 09 September 11 10:41

Law Society reccommended salary is just that - a reccommendation. I know of at least one firm that is paying less than than the Law Society salary.

Anonymous 09 September 11 11:08

More lazy journalism from ROF following on from last weeks 'exclusive' that Scottish law firms pay less than London.

Why would firms be doing NQ's out of redudancy pay by putting them on 3 month contracts? They wouldnt have to pay them redundancy pay on completion of their traineeship. You ask any recently qualified NQ if they would take a 3 month rolling contract and most would bite your arm off. In terms of keeping them on either on contracts or as paralegals, in many instances this is reflective of the market and better than being unemployed for most.

Again, I am not disagreeing that the salaries are low and not entering into a discussion about whether this is right or not, but this is simply not some from of exclusive. Old news. Yawn.

Anonymous 09 September 11 13:23

As others have said, the level of trainee salaries in Scotland is not breaking news. When placed in the context of pay levels for solicitors in Scotland trainee pay seems absolutely reasonable. Even at the biggest firms, pay for all solicitors is less than half of city firm rates. Both fees and charge out rates are much much less than those of city firms too.

FrankW 09 September 11 13:42

OK, so it's hardly earth-shattering (and we never claimed an exclusive). But consider:

- the complete lack of transparency. Have a look at grad rec websites and materials for Scottish firms - McGrigors is the only firm up-front about pay. Every City firm, almost without expection, freely admits what they pay their trainees.

- the partners are still raking it in at City+ levels. If your senior partners take home £1.5m, is paying 18k to a trainee acceptable?

- the point about redundancy is that NQs are being taken as temporary staff, rather than proper employees - doesn't that impact on continuity of employment (any employment lawyers about)? Appreciate it's a reflection on the market, but still seems shabby and feeding on desperation. What's to stop all NQs being taken on short-term contracts?

Anonymous 09 September 11 13:48

Frank @ Rof - you honestly think partners at McGrigors, McRoberts etc take home £1.5m???!! At Dickson Minto maybe - but they are hardly representative of Scottish (or for that matter city) firms. As a 10pqe Scottish solicitor I can only dream of being paid city rates - but it ain't going to happen unless Scottish charge out rates and fees rise to city levels.

FrankW 09 September 11 13:59

OK, not partners plural, but there's obviously cash sloshing about at the top of these firms which is not filtering down.

Dundas & Wilson. PEP of £330,000, with top of equity of £730k. Trainees start on £19k.

BLG (whilst it still exists). PEP £329,000, top of equity £462k. Trainee starts on £34k.

Maybe it's the London lawyers that are being overpaid...

Anonymous 09 September 11 14:16

"the largest Scottish firms have been getting away with murder. But the trainees can't say anything as job competition is so fierce, it's a small market, and everything gets back to HR."

Its not just with trainee pay that large Scottish firms get away with murder - pay rates are shockingly low. 6pqe on £46K anyone?

Anonymous 09 September 11 16:15

Frank, you more or less ran the same news last Friday, just a different headline. It was very much heralded as headline news and exclusive.

There really is no need in Scotland for Scottish firms to advertise what they pay trainees as they are advised of this by the law society. You know as well as I do that the reason why the city firms are so open is to attempt to trump each other and understandably this is to attact the best candidates. Not disagreeing but its not necessary in Scotland which you would realise if you had done your homework.

The reason why a trainee would join Dickson Minto would be to aspire to be a partner and earn the levels that the partners do. Of course there is money in the Scottish firms, but its proportionate to the level of experience.

Anonymous 09 September 11 21:12

Why should trainees be paid larger salaries? in my experience, half of them are lazy and think certain tasks are beneath them and are only in it for the "status". I've just had to pick up something that a trainee did several months ago that was a complete mess - they don't know how to lay out documents, spelling is awful and generally they are more interested in what bag they're carrying or whether they are going skiing!

Anonymous 10 September 11 02:01

I'm a trainee at a "big" Scottish firm. I'm not in a position to argue about my salary. My goal is to become qualified. After that it's up to me. At least ten people would cheerfully murder me to get the opportunity that I've got. End of.

Roll On Friday 10 September 11 15:54

Thanks ROF for at least bringing some transparency to this issue. You are right to note that the total lack of advertisement of trainees salaries (McGrigors exepted) which lends itself to firms paying trainees at different rates which has certainly happended at my firm. My firm will not even confirm our second year salary.

The fact is that we are made to feel so grateful to the firm that this is supposed to eclipse any discussion of financials. Yes, we are lucky but we also deserve a fair wage compared to the work and expense to get into a position to be a trainee.

I for one will be heading south on qualification and not filling the pockets of partners who leave the office at 5 pm.

Anonymous 11 September 11 14:45

The trainees at MacRoberts have a very easy life. With the odd exception they are chasing the secretaries out the door at 5pm. Their pay is not great but their work like balance cannot be compared with trainees at MC firms. The real scandle is what associates get paid...

Anonymous 19 September 11 21:21

@Frank @ RoF - this article just emphasises the lack of information about salaries and benefits north of the border - not just at trainee level, but also for qualified solicitors.

Perhaps now it is time to extend the "UK National Firms" section of Inside Info to include Edinburgh and Glasgow? DLA, Pinsents, Cameron McKenna and Eversheds all have offices in Edinburgh, and the top Scottish firms are of a similar size to, or bigger than, the English regional firms.