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.
 
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Comments

Anonymous 18 May 12 02:39

Thank you RoF for reporting this story in the light it deserves. The SRA would have done well to address the cause of the current problem of over-supply by upping entry standards to law schools, rather than massage the symptom by allowing firms to recruit under-paid trainees. No doubt many trainees will simply be unable to afford to accept jobs at minimum wage, especially under the burden of tuition fees. This is a shameful blow to social mobility in the profession.

Anonymous 18 May 12 09:31

What a stupid idea. The simple answer to the oversupply of LPC-graduates is a 3-year training contract which includes an LPC funded by the employer. No oversupply, no desperate graduates overstretching themselves financially, no profiteering by law schools. A perfect match of demand and supply. Come on SRA - how hard can it be?

Anonymous 18 May 12 10:02

I fully agree with anonymous user 18/05/2012 01:39 - entry to the law schools should be upped. It is better to burst the bubble of would-be law students before they shell out both time and money for courses rather than setting them up for the choice between unemployment or the breadline (if they even get the choice).

Anonymous 18 May 12 12:18

Had this deal been limited to, for example, sole practitioners who had not taken a trainee in the past 3 years, it could really have benefited in providing extra jobs. A proper incentive.

Instead, the SRA has screwed-over thousands. Well done. Another fine mess.....

Anonymous 18 May 12 12:40

Agree that it's tough for trainees on low pay, but having just won a TC with funded study (after 2 years hard slog), I can't understand how some students "expect" to become a lawyer, self-fund their study, and then gripe when no one offers them a TC. Whatever happened to restraint? No one put a gun to their head and said "you will study and you will pay for it yourself." If they're that keen, why not study part time and work to minise debt? Or, you could limit LPC places to TCs, similar to the accountancy system. Don't imagine too many people would be sad to see some of the course providers take a hit and go under.

Anonymous 18 May 12 15:44

I completed the SRA's survey along with trainee and NQ colleagues and friends. Without exception, we were all wholly against the loss of the minimum salary. In your article you suggest that the loss of the trainee minimum would mean trainees being paid less than paralegals. I beg to differ. The loss of the trainee minimum could well see a consequent drop in paralegal salaries, with many at regional firms only just coming in around the £12K pa mark in the first place. Any firm that cannot afford to pay a trainee a decent, livable wage, should not be allowed to take on trainees at all because it's clear they will never foot the bill for the sort of supervision and guidance that all trainees require as that would require other fee earners taking time out from billing hours to train them. 100 badly trained lawyers are not better than 10 well trained lawyers by anyone's standards, and that's all scrapping the minimum salary in an effort to boost the number of TCs will give us.

Anonymous 18 May 12 16:44

Forgive me as I'm not a lawyer, but are law school grads and trainees unemployable elsewhere? Does the metamorphosis of legal training somehow spoil them for more menial vocations. The lawyers in in-house jobs because they didn't get a contract contribute superbly to our firm, bringing the same work ethic and intellect to all of the other activities that make a firm successful. Some manage to keep up with the work needed to keep their practivcing certificate so they stay on the market. Some find non-fee-earning work has enough attractions of its own.

It may be heresy to you, but there is life outside of law - and a good living within a firm not earning fees - for well trained, disciplined, commercial-minded, analytical, bright young people. The more enlightened firms should value the experience that a busmans holiday outside of the profession might give you, if and when you decide to go back and try your hand at lawyering again.

Anonymous 18 May 12 16:47

So, if I read the situation correctly, the SRA think that the solution to having too many lawyers, is to scrap the minimum salary for those who do make it, so that those who were not able to make it before can take a share of their salary? Glad I qualify before this. Everyone I know is against this, who exactly did think it was a good idea? Many won't be able to afford those "extra" jobs and any current ones which are reduced to the minimum salary. Enter a whole raft of poorly trained solicitors who don't need to work for money. Rant adjourned.

Anonymous 23 May 12 19:34

On £16,650, all you had to do was work 53 hour weeks and that's you on less than minimum wage. Poor trainee salaries are nothing new. The problem is that there are too many people in the LPC. Greedy universities should put student's interests ahead of the high fees they can charge.

If trainees are willing to work for minimum wage, then they should be able to.

Anonymous 02 February 13 11:50

Disgraceful but I suppose any savings made will be passed directly to the greedy partners!

Anonymous 24 February 13 12:07

You should enlarge your survey on the scandalous fee charged in American universities for attending colleges ...

Maybe you should ask for full transparency of how they use the money, all the more so that the likelyhood for a great majority of the graduates to find a good job that will pay well enough to enable them to repay their loans very quickly is very illusive...


LOL This world is great

Shams are all over the place


Plus the outrageous interest rates