News

80% of law internships are unpaid

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Substantial confusion on the law concerning work placements, social mobility report finds

Almost 80% of interns working in law aren’t paid, with many relying on family, friends and second jobs to get make ends meet.

The report, published by the Sutton Trust, a charity that campaigns to improve social mobility, showed that 54% of internships in the legal sector received no remuneration, while a further 17% covered expenses only. Eight percent paid less than the national minimum wage (NMW), currently £7.83 an hour for workers over 25.

This means almost 79% of internships in law are unpaid, according to the Sutton Trust, which defines all interns receiving no remuneration, expenses only, and wages below the NMW as unpaid.

There were substantial differences in pay levels interns received across sectors, according to the findings. Eighty-nine percent of internships in retail, 86% of internships in the arts (TV, theatre, film, fashion), and 83% in media were unpaid. This compared to just 26% of IT & telecoms and 32% of manufacturing internships.

Image credit: The Sutton Trust

Accepting that there was “no precise” definition of an internship, the report, which is based on the responses of over 3,600 business leaders and graduates, allowed respondents themselves to define what they counted as an internship.

So how do students and graduates make ends meet during their unpaid positions? According to the research, a large proportion (43%) rely on living for free with family and friends to get by. Just over a quarter (26%) relied on money from their parents while a similar number (27%) had to work another paid job in order to fund their internship.

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The report, Pay As You Go — Internship pay, quality and access in the graduate jobs market, also found that both graduates and employers were confused about the current law on unpaid internships. It said:

“Young people are not fully aware of their rights, and employers either unknowingly or deliberately take advantage of the legal grey area in order to not pay their interns. It is difficult to contest that most interns are likely to count as ‘workers’. Employers have an expectation that the intern will turn up to work, and the employer provides it. Only a small proportion of interns could genuinely be classed as ‘volunteering’ or ‘work shadowing’, with no expectations whatsoever on them in terms of performing tasks.”

The report comes just days after a bill to ban unpaid internships over four weeks in length was brought before the House of Commons. The proposed legislation originated in the House of Lords by Conservative peer Lord Holmes and is sponsored in the Commons by Alec Shelbrooke MP for or Elmet and Rothwell.

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23 Comments

Anonymous

Why does this not surprise me

(3)(2)

/s

So what you’re saying is that if you allow businesses the opportunity to make more money by letting them get junior personnel to work for basically free, they will?

Astonishing, I never would have thought!

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Well done Alex for stopping comments on your over priced ego event, saves you having to delete them later.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

HAHA, noticed this too – there’s no point. Your comment here, and my reply will probably be deleted soon. We already went to ROF to ask them to run a story and they wouldn’t.

As clear as it is that Alex is a charlatan with an ego made of glass and there’s not a lot we can do about except stop reading LC.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

I would LOVE to comment on the Fiona Onasanya story

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Haha there were lots of other comments on this, not any more!

Thanks Alex for cleaning up 🙂

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Serious Q, does LC pay all of its contributors, including for the one off pieces by current students? Is it a non-derisory amount?
I only ask because media is more notorious for unpaid internships then law is.
FWIW, the only unpaid legal internships I ever did were week long mini pupillages in my hometown which were more me filling an odd week in holidays with something minimally productive

(14)(0)

Anonymous

All decent London sets paid, and quite frankly paid more than I was making pulling pints at the time

(3)(0)

Anonymous

I did one.

At the end I asked if there was any pay.

I received a typewritten pay packet containing the princely sum of £2•17•6d in old money.

I was told it was left over from the last time an intern asked to be paid.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

They don’t ever respond to requests to comments of this nature, which makes it painfully obvious that they’re on the take for advertorials.

I asked about writing an article when the late Katy King ran things, there was no talk of payment.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Right, all LC content aside from by the regulars is self promotion of some sort – whether of a law firm or of an aspiring lawyer, current law student.
So, what’s wrong with this aspiring lawyer self promoting by ‘working’ unpaid in a law firm?

(0)(1)

Anonymous

I interned at legal cheek with a couple of others. We were not paid at all, not even expenses

(2)(0)

legal hopeful

Any news on how much does Dewey Pegno & Kramarsky pay its interns? Would love to work there.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

About tree fiddy

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Back when I was a student I did a 2 weeks at Bevan Brittan on their official summer vac scheme – unpaid. There was no reference to pay on the application form or during the interview process so a few people were a bit surprised when they confirmed we’d be getting nothing.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

People think that the law is big money but they forget that’s only a minority and in the bigger firms! A lot of legal work is unpaid and that’s the real issue in the legal profession, it’s majorly unfair

(1)(1)

Anonymous

This happens more often than most people think. Totally common in the City, especially with smaller firms and sets.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Why would anyone apply to a firm which doesn’t pay full yankee dollar. Practically self-flagellation.

(2)(1)

Fumb duck

Lmao back to your contract law textbook fresher.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I’m actually a senior associate at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo in London and making it rain hard.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

I think you spelled “fresher at University of Wolverhampton” wrong

(4)(0)

Anonymous

There’s nothing new about unpaid internships per se, but it seems that the big shift in recent years has been the length of time that graduates are expected to work for nothing.

It would be interesting to see the average length of these placements. There is a big difference between shadowing a Barrister or Solicitor for a week in the uni holidays to 1-2 month (and beyond) placements where firms are able to bill for the work you end up doing.

(1)(0)

Peace sells

Modern slavery in broad daylight.

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.

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