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Fifth of London trainees paid less than Law Society’s recommended minimum wage

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Chancery Lane boosts recommended pay by 1.1%

New statistics show that a fifth of London-based trainee solicitors are being paid less than The Law Society’s minimum salary recommendation.

Twenty percent of trainees in the capital earn below the Society’s minimum suggested wage of £22,541, compared with 16% last year, according to research undertaken by legal recruiters Douglas Scott. The average shortfall in pay is £2,816.

The situation for trainees working in the regions has improved slightly, with over a quarter paid below the recommended minimum of £19,992, compared to 35% in 2020. The average shortfall is £2,638.

The research found the average salary for London-based trainee respondents was £32,190, compared to £23,300 for their regional counterparts. Last February, The Law Society recommended law firms pay their trainees £22,541 in London and £19,992 outside the capital. However, many can (and do) ignore the advice since it is not enforceable.

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Jonathan Nolan, associate director at Douglas Scott, told Legal Cheek:

“Most of the examples of under pay I have seen have been in high street law firms who naturally work with different budgets when compared to their Top 200 cousins. However, there is evidence to suggest that a few law firms are paying below the statutory minimum wage, on or around the £12,000 level which is of course against the law and makes me question whether some employers are just leveraging the qualification journey to employ a cheap resource.”

A mandatory minimum trainee salary was scrapped by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in 2014. The Law Society is expected to increase its minimum pay recommendations shortly.


Update: 11:05am

The Law Society has recommended a 1.1% rise to the minimum salary for trainee solicitors across England and Wales. The new guidance suggests trainees receive £22,794 in London and £20,217 elsewhere. The new rates come into effect on 1 May 2021.

Law Society president David Greene said today the minimum salary recommendation increased in line with inflation as trainees will face rises to their cost of living.

“The solicitor profession offers an incredibly fulfilling career and nobody should face unnecessary financial barriers to entry,” he said. “Our vision is that the profession should be accessible to all, regardless of socio-economic background. I encourage all law firms to adopt this recommendation and pay their trainees a fair minimum salary for their hard work so that people from all walks of life can see a path into a career in the law.”

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11 Comments

B.

Three years ago, I was offered a TC after a short summer stint at one of the London “boutique” (they like to call themselves that, eh?) high street law firms in my area. The salary was £16k and the LPC was to be completed part-time. Of course, LPC was not funded so somehow, had I accepted the position, I would have had to survive on mere peanuts. In fact, my evenings job at the pub while I was a student offered me more money, especially when counting in tips.

I come from a single-parent background and do not have the luxury of nice financial cushion so I decided to turn the offer down (even though some people from my family thought I was crazy to do so). Admittedly, it took me two more years to find a training contract – no MoneyLaw, but a good enough South West firm that pays for my LPC and has a decent trainee salary.

It boils my blood when I recall what I was offered at that high street firm, especially knowing that they still had plenty of desperate candidates who were willing to accept these sub-par conditions.

I understand that imposing mandatory minimum salary could potentially lead to fewer training contracts, but surely the SRA’s tacit approval of shockingly low pays is worse for the trainees.

Kirkland NQ

LMAO that’s about £10k less than I tip my butler for his Saturday morning task of greasing up and polishing the dark carbon fiber on my brand new Lamborghini V12 Aventador!

Must be awful.

hate these firms all of them

Tbh these firms don’t exactly seem like the enormous MoneyLaw sweatshops that can decide to cut down the intake by a small percentage. They’ll either want a trainee or they won’t. They can’t make minute adjustments because of how few people they recruit every year (if any). And if they don’t have the trainee they won’t have anyone to exploit later on and Helen the 65 year old semi-retired secretary and Doug the spotty paralegal from Wales will have to pick up some of the slack.

A

Brings back memories for me. After graduating I worked at the airport on a zero hours basis and after 9-10 months working I barely had a third of the cash to do the LPC even after the Masters student loan. I told my employer I’ve started the course and that I would like weekends off. They wanted me to resign threatening I would get a bad reference. I gave a lot of myself to the work and I do have some regrets about failing the LPC as I had to choose between a job that’s tough for ethnic minorities to pin down and a qualification that loads of paralegal jobs require. It was tough explaining this to my parents whom are asian and have an old fashioned view, arguing “get into the system” it never made sense to me, and they didn’t know about the qualification side, and they always argued you live rent free, and completely ignored the struggles by saying ‘what about me?’ as if their issues are more important, but that isn’t the point of having a ruthless employer and pressure to study on top of the employees backchatting. It’s sad people don’t know the graduate life. My professor didn’t give me an opportunity in his practice after multiple attempts and when he finally found out I was doing it and did I decided I would not risk losing my job and be unemployed and having all these retakes on my LPC, sadly his firm shut down some years later. I wish a LPC wasn’t a requirement for a paralegal job but it is sadly.

C.

LPC is not a requirement for all paralegal jobs. I got a nice paralegal position shortly after graduating without having done the LPC. I did have legal experience, though – vac scheme, CAB, pro bono. I am only doing LPC now, two years after graduating, as I have finally got a TC with a firm that sponsors law school fees.

You could have also try to get a legal assistant/paralegal/compliance officer/data analyst/etc. role and do your LPC part-time, if you were so hell-bent on self-funding it. Plenty of people I know have done it because they could not afford another year out without holding a job, so they worked full-time and studied at evenings/weekends.

I am sorry, but your message is just all whining while there are options out there. You just did not take them.

A

*You could have tried

How is a data analyst job a legal job?

Options out there? Not everyone has equal access some people I know and spoken to said a LPC was a requirement for a paralegal job. One role had 60 hours a week advertised with an LPC as a prerequisite for a salary of 15k.

C.

“How is a data analyst job a legal job?” – it’s not but it is a decent role that quite a lot of wannabe solicitors use in order gather transferable skills and if they fail to get a TC, they could use this role instead as a means of progressing their career in a different sector.

“Options out there? Not everyone has equal access some people I know and spoken to said a LPC was a requirement for a paralegal job.”
I come from a Southern Europe country. I came to England alone straight after college and worked my buttocks off in order to pay for my very modest living whilst a student. Nothing was given to me on a silver platter either, I had to work hard to get where I am now and there is plenty of people like me who were severally disadvantage and for some of us it took longer to adapt to the realities of the career in law, but we eventually did it.
Back on the LPC issue – yes, for some paralegal roles it is indeed a prerequisite because the market is so saturated with LPC graudates. However, there are still roles where it is not required – just having a scroll through my LinkedIn connections now, I can see quite a few people who haven’t done the LPC, yet are working at some good firms or in-house departments.

“One role had 60 hours a week advertised with an LPC as a prerequisite for a salary of 15k.” While not completely unheard of, this is not representative of the paralegal market. I also call B.S. on the 60 hours a week bit explicitly advertised as it would be in violation of employment laws.

I’ll repeat – you are whining. Pull yourself together, do some more research into legal market. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about and you seem to have only a second hand experience of it as evidenced by “some people I know spoken (…)”.
I can sympathise with you to a degree because a career in law when you are disadvantaged from the outset is a hard cookie, but when you show such a lack of understanding of the market and only feel sorry for yourself – then please excuse me, but you really need to man/girl up.

Alter Man

Lol brush up on your employment law contracts explicitly ask people to opt out of the EU working time directive, and it’s not directly applicable regulation that can be enforced like domestic law.

I think you’re seeing things from a wholly different perspective as Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are seriously under represented.

A data analyst job would require the appropriate training and an academic degree in law, especially, doesn’t provide it.

Touker

I don’t get out of bed for £22,541.

Anon

Regional firms aren’t paying much more for NQ solicitors..

Anon

Those entering the profession cannot complain about the amount being paid to trainees or pupils and also the lack of training contracts or pupillages. The two play off. Up the pay rates required of the smaller firms and the number of openings goes down.

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