On the 20 March 2012 the SRA amended its consultation paper on trainee solicitor salaries having received advice that trainees would be classed as apprentices within the terms of the National Minimum Wage Regulations. As a result of this advice, the SRA has amended the consultation document to show the minimum rates of pay which would apply under the legislation. If this is correct then it could be the case that trainee solicitors could be paid as little as £2.60 per hour for their first year of training.
The SRA Board said they will be giving careful consideration to the potential impacts of this advice.
The Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) has commented that this is inappropriate, saying:
“Apprentice wages are designed for school leavers who are usually living with their parents and about to enter a profession. Solicitor trainees will have completed five or even six years of training by the time they begin a training contract and may have children and mortgages, not to mention a mountain of debt from studying”
Under these proposals even in the 2nd year of training a trainee solicitor would only earn approximately £12,000 a year.
The JLD make the point that such changes would inevitably deter people from less affluent backgrounds from entering the profession, thus undermining equality and diversity.
Stephensons has always believed that people should be paid a fair wage. It is for this reason that we do not take interns working without pay. If the rules are amended to abandon the current minimum wage for trainees it is highly unlikely that we would follow those guidelines. Our trainees, both current and those of the future will be paid along similar structures to those currently in place.
We think it is really important to encourage people from all walks of life to enter the profession and would not wish to deter someone from completing the final stage of their qualification because they cannot afford to support themselves.
The SRA consultation closed on the 21st March, responses are due by 10th April.
By Stephensons’ Chairwoman, Ann Harrison