Leading from the top…
The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) has this morning rounded on the president of the Law Society after it emerged that his law firm does not pay the recommended trainee solicitor minimum wage.
Speaking to Legal Cheek this morning about Joe Egan’s breach of legal profession good practice, JLD chair Bryan Scant, who is a solicitor at Coffin Mew, said:
“I hope that he will reconsider what he pays his trainees. It’s disappointing.”
When he is not heading up the solicitors profession as Law Society president, Joe Egan runs Bolton high street law firm Joe Egan Solicitors. Overnight a report emerged on legal blog RollonFriday suggesting that the firm pays trainees below the £18,547 minimum salary that the Law Society itself recommends. Egan has since confirmed the story, issuing this pre-prepared comment to the legal press:
“My firm is predominately a legal aid firm and times have been difficult for us and many other businesses since LASPO came on line. Two years ago I took no salary at all so my firm could keep going. At the moment we have two trainee solicitors — and, yes, it’s true we pay below the recommended rate. I regret this. But these two people would not have had training contracts with us had we not made this difficult choice.”
Egan’s struggles up north contrast with the lavish resources of the Law Society. During each president’s year-long term, they live in a luxury early 18th century Georgian townhouse — complete with a wine cellar — located just off Chancery Lane.
Unsurprisingly rookie solicitors are not happy about the situation, with the JLD — which was the driving force behind the implementation of the recommended minimum wage in 2015 — leading the way.
As Scant reminded Legal Cheek this morning: “A few years ago the JLD worked very hard with the Law Society to come up with a recommended minimum salary”. So no wonder he and his colleagues are pissed off.
Still, for a JLD chair to criticise a Law Society president in such strong terms is unusual (bear in mind that the JLD is itself part of the Law Society) — and underlines what weak ground Egan is on.
In a formal statement sent out across the legal press, Scant continued:
“It is extremely disappointing that the president has chosen to disregard his own organisation’s guidance in relation to the minimum salary and chosen to pay his firm’s trainee solicitors less than the society recommends. The LASPO cuts affected the entire profession and many firms suffered as a result. Firms recognise that trainees are in a difficult position trying to repay university tuition fees, LPC fees and living expenses. Trainees in this category therefore rely on the protection afforded by the Law Society’s recommended minimum salary.”
He added: “The actions of the president undermine the entire policy and the society’s aims of increasing social mobility, which he has himself spoken out on.”
The Law Society appears to be with the JLD on this one. In a statement it said:
“The Law Society of England and Wales’ recommendation for minimum pay for trainee solicitors is £20,913 in London and £18,547 outside of London. We stand by that policy. These rates are recommendations rather than mandatory.”
The ball is now in Egan’s court. Will he follow the JLD’s call to “reconsider” what he pays his trainees?