News

New trade union targets overworked junior lawyers

By on
23

Legal Sector Workers United wants trainees and pupils to help fight oppression and inequality

Junior lawyers of the world, unite: a new trade union branch for legal sector workers has been launched and wants solicitors and barristers in training to sign up.

Legal Sector Workers United (LSWU) says that it aims to bring interns, trainee solicitors and pupil barristers into a workers’ alliance with support staff such as cleaners and security guards.

The new organisation was launched yesterday by trade union United Voices of the World (UVW), part of the LSWU. It has been representing Ministry of Justice cleaners locked in a wage dispute with the outsourcing firm that employs them, but is now trying to bring legally qualified workers into the fold.

UVW says that the legal sector is in “dire need of greater unity” to improve working conditions, adding that “strategic action is required to reduce exploitation and oppression”.

LWSU is open to anyone working in the legal sector, including practising solicitors and barristers. The only proviso is that members can’t have “the power to hire or fire“, so there’s no risk of running into the managing partner on the picket line.

The union says that the legal sector is “riddled with poverty pay and huge wage inequality”, pointing out that “paralegals often do not even earn the real London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour, yet equity partners in the same firms can take home over £2 million per year”.

In a pitch to overworked trainees — like those we exclusively revealed were asked by their firm to pull an all-nighter or have a damn good reason why not — the new grouping says that “junior legal workers are subject to enormous pressure from multiple sources. Too often this results in high workloads, low salaries and inadequate support”.

LSWU also has its eye on the notoriously underpaid junior criminal bar. It cites the £46.50 flat fee sometimes paid for a day in court — which works out as less than the going rate for flipping burgers at Maccy Ds.

Lucie Wibberley, a criminal defence barrister at Garden Court Chambers, said that LSWU “signifies a turning point in the politics of legal provision and a step towards a brighter future”. Veteran silks John Hendy and Michael Mansfield are also backing the new organisation.

The 2019 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

23 Comments

Old boy

Ruddy socialists! Next thing they’ll want all us junior lawyers to be ‘happy’ and have a mandatory afternoon making daisy chains to talk about our feelings..

Anonymous

Depending on the exact chambers structure, surely this rules out a lot of barristers if they have a vote on tenancy decisions? Even if it’s a hypothetical one?

Trollbadher

Our self-employed learned friends work for themselves don’t they? No hiring or firing…

Anonymous

“Legal Sector Workers United (LSWU) says that it aims to bring interns, trainee solicitors and pupil barristers into a workers’ alliance with support staff such as cleaners and security guards.” In other words they want to use the lawyers to sort out the work and pay of cleaners and security guards who I believe already have unions.

Anonymous

Too narrow. I’m 2PQE and admittedly on a reasonable 80k so I am admittedly not within the most junior category of legal professionals that they are aiming to protect and ensure receipt of minimum wage. It isn’t about the money for me though, it is about the expectation to work horrendous hours, and the lack of a voice or real ability to speak up against conditions that affect both mental and physical health.

Anonymous

You sir are a wanker.

Anonymous

“Reasonable”.

Kirkland NQ dig bick

Your 2PQE and just £80k? Lmaooooooooooooo

Anonymous

My what? Learn to spell. I imagine you’re a student who spends 80p a day on a loaf of bread. Just bread. Not even butter. F*cking grim existence.

Anonymous

You butter bread? What an absolute wrongun’ you are. If I want to eat something that tastes overpoweringly of butter, I will go and eat butter.

Anonymous

Shanter

Anonymous

Because lurching to the left politically has been working so well for the Criminal Bar so far?

Anonymous

Nothing political about a business declining work that does not generate a profit.

Anonymous

lol at the criminal bar being politically left.

It is the epitome of middle class liberalism mixed in with a healthy dollop of social conservatism.

Just lol at the idea that the bumbling poshos of the criminal bar are in any way left. Do you want some fries with that cut glass accent?

Anonymous

Agreed that anyone who thinks the criminal bars campaigning has been either:
A) left wing; or
B) effective

Needs their head checked

Anonymous

Campainging has not been effective. The only thing that has been effective is acting like a buisness and not accepting loss-making work. The ‘strike’ in 2014 was effective in the sense that the MOJ did abandon the propossed cuts. The ‘strike’ last year did force the MOJ to scrap the S10 system and replace it with S11. As a member of the criminal bar I am baffeled by people posting saying they only got paid £46.50 for hearing X. Then don’t accept hearing X. If you do, you are part of the problem.

A lot of legal aid AGF is actually reasonably or even well paid. A lot of it isn’t. Any other buisness would just decide not to do the loss-making cases and only do the profit making cases. You give up 1% of your turnover and the MOJ has a massive problem as 30% of cases are uncovered. This action can be kept up indefenatley as the bar loses no income by not doing cases which make a loss anyway. As long as people accept the loss-making cases then the rates on those cases will never change.

Anonymous

Most juniors accept work even if low paid. Required. This is the issue, not juniors as the problem.

Kirkland NQ

Finally! No more overworking for minimum wage – fair pay for all!

Anonymous

Long, long overdue

The legal sector is rampant with exploitation, job insecurity and low pay

Redistribute salaries downwards

And vote Corbyn to increase taxes on city greed and pay for legal aid!

FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW!

Anonymous

Justice for City lawyers. For too long have over-privileged millennials slaved over menial tasks for six figure sums. The time to rise up is now. Workers, you have nothing to lose but your chains (and a life of Ocado and first world problems).

Bob

But lawyers are professionals not workers

Anonymous

Sorry to be pedantic, but although not all workers are professionals by definition all professionals are also workers. “engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as an amateur.”

Anonymous

Sounds like another money grab via union fees.

Join the conversation

Related Stories