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Law Society says students should be paid at least national minimum wage for legal work experience

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New best practice guidance states unpaid placements should last no longer than four weeks

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Law students should be paid at least the national minimum wage during work experience programmes, according to new Law Society guidance released today.

The guidelines — drawn up in collaboration with the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) — aim to promote fairer access to the legal profession.

According to the solicitors’ representative body, students who undertake work experience in the legal sector should be paid “where possible” the national minimum wage or above.

This minimum pay threshold per hour currently stands at £5.30 for those between the ages of 18 and 20, and £6.70 for those over 21.

Where work experience placements are unpaid, the Law Society has warned firms that they should last no longer than four weeks. Guidance also states that reasonable expenses incurred by the student should be reimbursed.

In addition to payment, Chancery Lane big-wigs state that work experience opportunities should be “clearly defined”, “openly advertised” and “fairly recruited”.

With the guidelines being just that — i.e., not enforceable — those providing work experience within the legal sector, can simply ignore them if they wish.

In the wake of this new guidance, president of the Law Society Jonathan Smithers said:

Legal work experience has become a defining and important step towards a legal career, so competition for work experience can be intense. The Law Society guidance on work experience supports law firms to promote fair, equal access to the legal profession and good working practices.

According to JLD chair, Leanne Maund, some students’ experiences with firms did “not live up to expectations”. Citing feedback from those who had undertaken work experience in the legal sector, she said some students felt that they had been “taken advantage of”.

Back in 2014, legal aid giant Duncan Lewis attempted to hire 20 “volunteer” paralegals. The advertisement — that was quickly pulled when Legal Cheek contacted the firm — claimed that students would be assessed over a four week period, with the possibility of a job offer at the end.

But hats off to Canary Wharf based outfit Kawa Guimaraes & Associates, who went one step further, and actually attempted to charge students for work experience.

Last summer, the employment law and clinical negligence specialist, posted a job ad that revealed the opportunity — targeting desperate wannabe lawyers — was a “chargeable assessed placement”.

21 Comments

Seamus

About time!

(6)(0)

Daniel H

The LS should not be straying into economics.

But for unpaid internships right now I’d be working at Pizza Hut. Instead I’m a trainee solicitor.

Maybe the Magic Circle firms can afford to pay work experience students, but many of your high street firms simply can’t, and forcing them to pay would just result in them no longer offering internships. The bottom rung of the career ladder would be taken away. No thanks.

(0)(0)

Josh

this is bs. the whole point of work experience is that it’s an experience, and you shouldn’t be paid for an experience. if anything you should pay for it. why else do people pay for courses/education etc, it’s because it looks good on their CV, like work experience does.

(1)(20)

Anonymous

Hi Weil!

(2)(0)

Reality Check

What about baby barrister wannabes?

Most Vac Schemes pay anyway.

(3)(0)

Snr. Jnr. Baby Bazzah

Little people pay for the privilege of being in the company of us Gods.

(2)(0)

Lord Lyle of the Isles

Ah had complaints to the Law Society for maintaining a bevy of about 12 exquisitely beautiful work experience girls doing ma laundry, fixing ma cuff links and tie N stuff. Dinnae worry, they got to deal with ma car insurance, free lunch with me and most importantly keeping ma wives outta the office. I enthusiastically pleaded guilty and begged em to bring it afore the SDT, but the bastarts wouldnae do it. Ah Sooo wanted that published in the gazette. There was no ugly discrimination then ya see, so they couldnae stop me.

(1)(1)

Not Amused

The regulators need to enforce this, not issue weak willed guidance.

The market is frantic. Capitalists exploit vulnerable people. These things are obvious. They are known.

A 4 week unpaid placement is a disgrace. Name and shame. The same applies to the Bar.

(3)(0)

Lord Lyle of the Isles

Ah paid em their disbursements and a free pub lunch.These ppl are volunteers Not Amused. Ye cannae force ppl not tae volunteer any more than ye can force ppl no tae feed the homeless.

I dinnae think ye ken wha yer slaberring about.

(1)(5)

Anonymous

Scottish schtick is getting boring now

(2)(0)

William Wallace

It got boring about a year ago.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I did three unpaid vac schemes, totalling one month. I’m not complaining too much because they helped me to secure a TC through direct TC applications. I’m not against short (emphasis on short!) vac schemes being unpaid, as smaller firms don’t have the budget to provide paid schemes.

It’s better to have more schemes, with some of them unpaid, than less schemes, with all of them paid.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

It’s actually illegal for firms not to pay interns:

https://www.gov.uk/employment-rights-for-interns

unless they are required to be carried out as part of a university course, which isn’t the case for any vac schemes as far as I’m aware. The rule of thumb is whether the intern does any real work for the firm – if they just do a couple of fictitious projects and otherwise shadow someone, they aren’t required to be paid.

I think there are very few firms that couldn’t afford to pay minimum wage for 8 hour days for two weeks. It’s about £250 a week. If a vac schemer is actually used to do useful work and is a capable person, then they might even be able to provide that much value to the firm anyway. Certainly a capable vac schemer is likely to be able to do enough to save a few hours of paralegal equivalent work.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I totally agree with you that there’s a huge distinction between a proper vac scheme and an exploitative arrangement.

The former is meant to give you a taste of the firm and of the type of work done at that type of firm. The firm knows you won’t be productive given the lack of training or experience and they don’t expect you to be.

In the latter you’re expected to do the work that a paralegal would normally be paid to do for a long period of time (several weeks or months).

If you’re not paid for the latter, then there’s definitely something wrong.

(0)(0)

A drunk man looks at a thistle

Law Society of Scotland issued guidance on this last year: http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/trainee-level-pay-for-interns-in-scotland/5042227.fullarticle.

Workers are workers under NMW Act!

(0)(0)

Lord Lyle of the Isles

The Scotz Guidelines dinnae apply tae volunteers and thae Sassenach wans are a load of knapderloch.

The simples is, the kids want a wee bit O work experience on their CV and a reference. Whaes wrong wi that?

I had an arrangement wi the school across the road for their 16yo and 18yo school leavers did two week work experience on a voluntary basis. Twas the bizzo.

Btw there’s dunderheeds who find law boring N only dae it coz their mammy n pappy, taul em tae. We call em mushrooms. Mushrooms sit in a dark room hoping nae tae be seen or asked tae do any work. But every so often we open the door a throw a bucket of shots round em and then close the door leaving the light off.

Whereas those that are enthusiastic will have a CV, work experience and referees afore they even leave school. We call em the Bees Knees.
So ye can be a mushroom or the bees knees. Uptae ye

(0)(2)

Lord Lyle of the Isles

Bucket of shite

(0)(0)

chancerypupil

This is something the Bar has got right. A 2 day mini-pupillage is more than sufficient. Why employers think that 6 month interning will be oh so valuable is beyond me.

(1)(0)

@ Chancerypupil

So the Bar has to part with their hard earned award just so such paupers from Edge-Hill University can realize their dream of becoming a Barrister!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Show me da monies!

(0)(0)

Lord Lyle of the Isles

NED alert LC

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.