Living wage at the commercial bar: Keating insists £15k job ad is an ‘error’

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By Thomas Connelly on

Exclusive: It has now been taken down

A prominent London commercial chambers advertised for a junior clerk on a salary thousands of pounds below the recommended living wage, Legal Cheek can reveal. The set has told us the ad was posted “in error”.

Keating Chambers listed the job earlier this month (screenshot below) on the Legal Practice Management Association (LPMA) website. The ad showed the set — which boasts some of the wealthiest barristers in the country — was seeking a full-time junior clerk on a salary of “£15,000 PA [per annum] plus benefits”.

A spokesperson for Keating Chambers has told us that the advert was released prior to the completion of an internal pay review and chambers has requested it be “withdrawn immediately”. It has now been removed from the LPMA’s website.

The advert also appeared on Keating’s website (screenshot below), however this has now been removed too.

The London Living Wage Foundation (LWF), an independent organisation that promotes fair pay across the United Kingdom, recommends that a person 18 or over and working in London should earn at least £10.20 per hour. Based on a 37.5-hour working week, this equates to an annual salary of £19,890. The recommended figure for outside of London is currently £8.75 per hour (£17,063 a year).

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This means that Keating Chambers — which specialises in high-paying areas of law including construction, energy and infrastructure — is offering almost £5,000 less than what the LWF deems fair. For clarity, the living wage is higher than the national minimum wage (currently £5.60 per hour for 18 to 20-year-olds, £7.05 for workers aged 21 to 24, and £7.50 for workers over 25) and is not enforceable by law.

Legal Cheek’s Chambers Most List 2017-18 shows Keating Chambers is home to 33 juniors and 26 silks, and offers up to three pupillages annually. Each training position comes with a healthy award of £67,500.

A spokesperson for Keating Chambers said:

“The Executive Committee of Chambers recently met (10th October) and agreed to review the pay scales and the interview processes for junior positions. I am afraid the advert for the new position was released before that process had taken place and in error. I can assure you that Keating Chambers takes the welfare of its staff very seriously. The process of review is ongoing, and in the meantime I have asked for the advert to be withdrawn immediately until it is completed.”

Keating Chambers isn’t the only set to have been caught up in low pay controversy.

Legal Cheek has discovered another online ad (screenshot below) offering a salary well below the London living wage. The listing has been posted by a recruitment agency on behalf of a “large multi-disciplinary set” in London, which is seeking to recruit a junior clerk on £16,500 a year.

And earlier this year, Legal Cheek revealed that XXIV Old Buildings and 12 King’s Bench Walk were both looking to recruit clerks on salaries well below the London living wage.

XXIV Old Buildings — which boasts large multinationals as clients and even has an outpost in Geneva, Switzerland — placed an online ad seeking two junior clerks in full-time roles on an annual salary of just £16,000. After Legal Cheek got in touch, a spokesperson for the set told us:

“The position advertised is an entry-level position for individuals who have no experience and who are keen to take their first step into clerking — we do not expect the person to be on this salary for long.”

Meanwhile, personal injury and clinical negligence specialist 12 King’s Bench advertised for a junior clerk on a salary of “circa £17,500”. After Legal Cheek spotted this, the chambers pulled the ad and told us that it was in “the process of re-advertising the junior clerk’s vacancy at £21,600”.

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