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Nearly a third of trainee solicitors paid below Law Society recommended minimum

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Rookies in regions hit hardest

The number of trainees solicitors earning less than the Law Society’s minimum salary recommendation is on the rise, new research has revealed.

Legal recruiter Douglas Scott found that 30% of rookies across England and Wales were being paid below the recommended levels set by Chancery Lane’s top brass, a rise of five percentage points on last year.

The Law Society currently recommends trainees be paid at least £22,121 in London and £19,619 outside of the capital. But the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) scrapped minimum pay requirements for young lawyers in 2014, rendering the guidance completely unenforceable — i.e. firms can (and do) ignore it.

The research also found that over a third (35%) of regional trainees were being paid below the Society’s recommended minimum, a rise of nine percentage points from 2019.

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Meanwhile, in London, where rookies can earn as much as £60,000, 16% of trainees said they were paid below what the Law Society deemed fair, down from 17% in 2019.

Jonathan Nolan, associate director at Douglas Scott, said:

“In all likelihood this story is being played out in high street, regional and rural law firms; reform and the slashing of public funding means the money just isn’t there in some circumstances. Born of necessity rather than exploitation. It would be interesting to hear otherwise.”

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18 Comments

Anon

£20k?! Laughable. Could just be a tube driver and earn over double. Why anyone would want to work in the regions is beyond me.

(15)(13)

Up North Trainee

Work-life balance. I realised a long time ago that enjoying my life far outweighs my career.

To be clear, I do not criticise those that prefer the conventional lawyer life.

(22)(7)

Exec

a shift leader in sainsbury’s earns more than this. Sad for some trainees who forked out their own LPC fees just to be started on 20k, 40 hour working week and overworked.

(23)(2)

Anonymous

40 hours a week and ‘overworked’, maybe if you’re a single parent or have some important personal life stuff going on, but otherwise, not sure you can be overworked as a trainee on a 40 hr work week.

(18)(2)

Jim

I started on 17k as a trainee at a top regional firm, now in the Magic Circle. Where you start is not necessarily where you end.

(9)(0)

Anonyman

Long live the free market eh?

(0)(0)

US Trainee

Genuinely didn’t realise this was a thing. I thought the minimum was £50k for first years?

(7)(15)

Noface

you must have never stepped outside of London

(25)(1)

Anonymous

I know people who joined firms as paralegals having had the TC carrot dangled in front of them, grinded for two years on appallingly bad pay to grab said carrot, then continued to be paid the same wage for another two years until they finished their TC…and only then did they see a meager increase to their pay, and still below the national average.

And the public at large still think lawyers are all fat-cats.

(36)(0)

a

Minimum Wage (NLW) for an average 37.5 hr week works out at around 13k a year. Pretty sure some of these trainees who we already know get less than 19k will be paid less than NLW per hour.

(4)(0)

Plod

Unless you can get the big cheese at top US firms in the City you’ll unfortunately be toiling hard for pennies as a lawyer.

Mum and dad may have thought being a solicitor is a safe career for little George and Harriett, but the industry’s changed and ever-increasing living costs in London (and to a lesser extent regional hubs like Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds) means that an average corporate lawyer will struggle to enter the middle class and get on the housing ladder.

On the flip-side, if you can bag a City role that pays £70k+ gross but doesn’t sweat you with crazy hours, you can at least coast along and do fuck-all for decent cash. HTH

(9)(4)

Angus, Exeter University LL.B.

So is it worth doing in the city or not…

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Some of these obvious creative-writing stuff here (why do I even bother, any more?!) … I sometimes wonder, who much did some of the parents (from India/China/Hong Kong/Malaysia) have to pay in terms of school and University fees, Boarding and Accommodation for 10-15 years, so that their children (probably sons) can keep on daydreaming?!

(0)(1)

Yorkshire Trainee

Genuinely disgraceful how little paralegals and trainees are paid compared to what is expected of them and the responsibility they have! Same with the newly qualified given that it is a minimum of 5 years training to qualify!

(7)(0)

Anonymous

But £19k in the North is like £50k in London money.

(1)(12)

Anonymous

You need to remember that the average Legal Cheek reader has a room temperature IQ. A higher number must surely be better. Taxes and living expenses? Never heard of them.

(3)(1)

NQ

I work for one of the biggest northern firms and they only pay the LS minimum to trainees. It is appalling given they are successful commercial practice. All the partners rock up in 100k cars while trainees can barely afford to live. On qualification pay goes up to 28k which is a big percentage increase but still doesn’t in any way reflect the level of graft required to get to that stage. The Law Society’s minimum is appallingly low and means that many firms can afford to not bother putting any effort into the training. You just end up with unconfident and unequipped NQs who can’t wait to leave their training firm, having felt ignored for two years.

There is nothing fat cat about law in the north. All my clients earn more money than me. I would not have chosen this career had I known the reality. A total farce.

(16)(0)

Senior Associate (still climbing)

Supply vs demand. This profession is a bottom heavy pyramid. You just need to climb. Climb minnow, climb. Get off leg. Climb harder. You stupid minnow. I am superior.

(1)(2)

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