Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff raised eyebrows in the City last week when she suggested that some of its law firms had promoted "mediocre men" who in a true meritocracy "would never even have seen the paintings on the boardroom wall". And Scott-Moncrieff is in no mood to backtrack as, in an exclusive interview, she tells Legal Cheek's Kevin Poulter how flexible working is often used against women...
The Law Society head honcho goes on to explain why she believes gender "targets" should be used to help talented women break through City law firms' glass ceilings, before, on a lighter note, sharing details of her recent visit to Buckingham Palace with an audibly impressed Poulter.
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As the Law Society's Black History Month celebrations got underway on Monday, it was a surprise to see this picture of disgraced barrister-turned-politician Baron Taylor of Warwick among those on display at the body's Chancery Lane headquarters.
Training contract numbers may be on the increase again, but times are still hard for LPC students – thousands of whom will finish law school this summer without a job to go to.
How to steal a march on the rest of the wannabes? Well, you could take out an advert hawking your services in a legal magazine. That's what Charles Mallinson, an Oxford University graduate currently studying the LPC, has done, placing a come-and-get-me plea to the corporate and commercial law firms of the North West in the latest issue of Liverpool Law Society’s magazine (see below).
Nice idea, you might think. But the trouble with this sort of thing is that it can get you in hot water with law's regulators – as Bar graduate Maney Ullah found out in January 2009 when he placed this full page ad in the inside cover of Counsel magazine.
The minimum trainee salary debate is developing into quite a fight – with the latest blow landed yesterday by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) when it released findings claiming that 70% of law firms which don't hire trainees would "seriously consider" doing so if the minimum salary was scrapped.
Upon hearing this, committee members of the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) of the Law Society, which strongly opposes scrapping the minimum salary, hit back immediately via the comment section of Legal Futures.
“I could not have afforded to be paid the minimum trainee wage while I was a trainee because I had rent and loan repayments to come out of my account. Low paid TCs would only deter others like me from pursuing a career in law,” wrote Grace Cowling.
But what does Cowling's leader, JLD chief Hekim Hannan, have to say about the minimum salary debate?
Legal Cheek’s special correspondent Kevin Poulter caught up with him to find out...
"Could I interest you in a Dewey & LeBoeuf trainee?"
The Law Society is set to step in to assist trainees in the London office of Dewey & LeBoeuf, the US law firm that is looking at winding down its London operations.
In a re-run of what happened when Manchester firm Halliwells went into administration in 2010, the Law Society will work with other City firms to help find Dewey’s current and future trainees new homes.
Following the announcement by the Law Society that trainee solicitors on housing benefit is "not the type of image that benefits the profession", Legal Cheek editor Alex Aldridge and Bircham Dyson Bell lawyer Kevin Poulter discuss the wisdom of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) proposal to abandon the minimum trainee salary and pay rookie solicitors apprentice rates of just £2.60 an hour.
Is the Law Society being snooty?
Or does the status of trainee solicitors need protecting?
Poulter reckons solicitors should be treated as professionals rather than trades-people, but Aldridge isn’t so sure, pointing out that scrapping the minimum trainee wage would help the many legal aid law firms who currently can’t afford to put students through training contracts.
Of course, if you cut the amount trainees earn, you’ve got to cut the cost of legal education, right?
Trainee solicitors could be re-classified as apprentices – and see their salaries tumble to just £5,408 a year as a result – after a new development in the debate about getting rid of the minimum salary that safeguards their pay.
2013: A City lawyer stumbles upon a trainee solicitor at a legal aid firm and decides to dip into the CSR budget
The news comes after the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) ammended its proposals for a new trainee lawyer pay regime following advice it received that trainees would be classed as apprentices under the national minimum wage regulations.
With the minimum salary for apprentices set at just £2.60 an hour (working out at £5,408 a year when calculated on the basis of a forty-hour week), trainee solicitors working in areas like legal aid would, under the proposals, earn less than half what someone on the national minimum wage of £6.08 an hour takes home – and just a fraction of the current trainee minimum salary of £18,590 in central London and £16,650 outside.
If advocacy is your calling, don't try to force the creation of a single, merged profession – join the Bar, urges anonymous barrister The Law Horse
It is easy to be magnanimous when you are winning. Two weeks ago, Julian Young fired a calculated broadside in The Guardian at the Bar’s attitude towards solicitor advocates, while calling for a cessation to hostilities. With solicitors’ invasion of the courtroom all but secured, only one side of this legal battle stands to gain from the outbreak of peace.
Solicitor advocates, by their very nature, deprive barristers of work to which they alone were traditionally entitled, and are better trained and qualified to deal with. Instead of passing briefs up to barristers, solicitor advocates now retain some for themselves. This means less work for the Bar, especially junior barristers. Less available work – there is no sign of a correlated drop in general courtroom work – forces a reduction in pupillages and a long term decline in the number of practicing barristers. Where once our QCs were sought after the world over, a generation from now will see a dearth of talent at the top of the profession and the death of reliably excellent advocacy. It is a situation about which the entire legal profession, and not just the Bar, should be deeply concerned.
Other than a short-lived campaign to occupy the Inns of Court, there are few examples of law students engaging with issues affecting the legal profession, says LPC student Cat Pond
During the recent public sector strikes, I was struck by the size of the turnout and the vehemence of the strikers. For many of them, this was the first time they had ever gone on strike - the government’s programme of cuts seeing them to take that final step of walking out.
The strikers’ very public expression of militant discontent started me thinking about whether the same drive to protest could lurk somewhere within law students. With the exception of 'OccupyTheInns', a law graduate who recently wrote several posts for Legal Cheek, I’m not aware of any law student campaign trying to affect change in the legal profession. In some ways, this is surprising. Surely it would follow that in exchange for engaging in the arduous legal education process and training contract or pupillage hunt, law students would want a say in the running of the legal profession?
But despite the complaints from lawyers and disinterest from the press, the fact the event takes place at all represents major progress, says Alasdair Stewart
National pro bono week took place last month, but I fear that it passed most people by. Despite a range of events taking place up and down the country, coverage in the legal press was limited. Indeed, more than one person suggested to me that the mood seemed lower-key than you’d expect for what was the tenth anniversary of the event.
In Scotland, the profile was perhaps higher – but for all the wrong reasons. This national pro bono week was the first since the launch of LawWorks Scotland in March (an entirely separate charity to LawWorks in London, despite sharing the name). The body's patron called for all Scottish lawyers “to make an annual donation of ten hours of their time to mark the UK’s tenth Pro Bono Week”. This was met with seething criticism from vocal lawyers across social media and in sections of the Scottish legal press.