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Pay training contract and qualifying work experience trainees the same, Law Society tells firms

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Chancery Lane calls for parity across both routes ahead of SQE roll-out

Law firms should not use the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) as an opportunity to pay trainees less, the Law Society has warned.

Th Chancery Lane body stressed that providers of training contracts and qualifying work experience (QWE) should pay lawyer hopefuls at least £20,217 outside London and £22,794 in the capital.

While most readers will be familiar with the traditional TC, many will perhaps be less familiar with QWE. This is part of the changes brought in under the SQE and offers a more flexible approach to on-the-job training, with trainees able to complete their two-year work experience requirement with up to four different legal employers.

Ahead of the introduction of the SQE on 1 September, Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce warned that trainees “doing the QWE must be paid the same as those completing a training contract”.

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She continued:

“As both schemes will run in parallel in the coming years, due to the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) transitional arrangements, this update will ensure parity across both routes. The solicitors’ profession offers an incredibly fulfilling career. With the implementation of the SQE, firms should be clear that employees, no matter which route they take, will be treated fairly.”

Unfortunately, the Society’s recommendations are completely unenforceable after the SRA scrapped minimum pay requirements for young lawyers in 2014. This means firms can choose to simply ignore them, with the latest stats showing that around a fifth of London rookies are being paid less than the Law Society’s recommended minimum wage.

Manda Banerji, chair of the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD), added: “Entry to the solicitors’ profession should be on merit only and an individual’s financial means should not pose a barrier for them to enter the profession; such barriers result in the profession losing talent and representation from diverse communities.”

She continued: “The JLD believes that the implementation of a recommended minimum salary for those completing training will have a positive impact on social mobility, equality and diversity within the legal profession.”

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