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SRA dismisses calls to reintroduce mandatory minimum trainee solicitor pay

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JLD argued rookies risk ‘exploitation’ under work experience element of SQE — but regulator doesn’t agree

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has dismissed calls to reintroduce a mandatory minimum salary for trainee and would-be solicitors, following concerns from some junior lawyers that those seeking to enter the profession were at risk of “exploitation” under the work experience element of the new solicitor super-exam.

In a letter to the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD), the SRA’s director of education and training, Julie Brannan, said that law firm employees are now all protected by national wage requirements and that it would “not be appropriate” for the regulator to impose further salary requirements covering “wider categories of employment”.

The response comes after the JLD wrote to the regulator last month, warning that under the current proposals, wannabe solicitors could gain the work experience required to pass part two of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) “without receiving any remuneration”.

This is of particular concern to the JLD, which represents approximately 70,000 Legal Practice Course (LPC) students, trainees and solicitors with up to five years’ post qualification experience (PQE), given the SRA has already indicated that the likely cost of the SQE would be in the region of £3,000 to £4,500 for the examinations alone.

Continuing, Brannan, who will be speaking at next Wednesday’s Future of Legal Education and Training Conference 2019, said:

“We have deliberately defined Qualifying Work Experience broadly. It can include working in a student law clinic, or on a pro bono basis in a legal advice centre. This type of experience is valuable both to students and to members of the public who benefit from the service. Mandating a minimum salary for Qualifying Work Experience would not result in students being paid for working in a student law clinic. But it would mean that it could not count towards admission as a solicitor, and would remove the incentive which we have introduced.”

This isn’t the first time the regulator has faced calls to reintroduce a mandatory minimum salary. As reported by Legal Cheek earlier this year, the Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) group urged the regulator to rethink its decision, arguing that low trainee pay was having a “direct impact” on social mobility within the profession.

Following the SRA’s scrapping of the mandatory salary in 2014, the Law Society introduced a recommended trainee minimum salary, which currently stands at £22,121 in London and £19,619 elsewhere. However, the pay guidance is completely unenforceable, meaning law firms can simply ignore it if they wish. And many do, with research published last year showing that around 25% of rookies were being paid below the recommended levels.

Brannan added: “Overall, the removal of the minimum salary should be understood in the broader context of the changes we are making to how we regulate professional legal education and training. SQE will give candidates greater choice about how they learn and train.”

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15 Comments

Anonymous

Brothers! Sisters!

Only Jeremy Corbyn can end this exploitation!

Solidarity with trainees!! Solidarity with Palestine! Tax partber greed now!!!!

VOTE LABOUR, FOR THE MANY NOT THE FEW!!!

Anonymous

If even self employed barristers can agree that pupils deserve a minimum award, the very least – and I literally mean the very least – the SRA can do is to do the same. Frankly embarassing they refuse to do so.

Anonymous

To be fair though barristers are not abolishing pupillage and replacing it with a work experience requirement. Not saying abolishing training contracts is a good thing, but it does mean that if work experience counts then it can be with non-solicitor / non SRA regulated organisations.

To some extent that is the point of it (again not saying this is necessarily a good thing. The two years paralegaling / voluntary work etc that many training contract applicants have already put in and not obtained a training contract would allow them to qualify without doing a TC at all. Once though the equivilant of a training contract can be delivered by non SRA organisations, the SRA can’t control or tell them what to do as it doesn’t regulate them.

Anonymous

£22,000 in London!? Lol how?!

Kirkland NQ

Lol I spent that in one month on Michelin stared dinners and champagne last month!

Anonymous

You need urgent psychiatric assistance.

Disappointed

Well this is a surprise said no paralegal/trainee/solicitor ever.

I trained in London with apparently the largest Legal Aid firm in England. Living on £17,000 was not fun.

Why does the SRA hate us so much?

Anonymous

Is that Duncan Poo-is?

Anonymous

Its legit not even that hard to do.

Anonymous

Meanwhile Davis Polk pays £60k to trainees..

Anonymous

Shit the bed.

Anonymous

Lmao get real brahs. If you’re not on 45k as a first year trainee at a top TOP us shop (only kirkland, latham, davis polk will do) then you have failed before you’ve even began

Anonymous

What if I am on 45k, but my shop is not top…top?

Anonymous

Trolls gotta love em 😂

Paul

Kirkland NQ
Cause you did you fucking Toby

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