I can see the argument that trainee minimum salaries amount to an anti-competitive measure. If the SRA had justified its decision to abolish the minimum on those grounds I might not have been driven to comment, but the suggestion by the regulator that this measure will result in greater diversity defies logic.
Reducing the salary might increase the number of training contracts, but this is unproven. The top firms will still appoint as many trainees as they want and pay them well, so abolishing the minimum wage will have no effect here. Does the SRA believe that those firms which will pay the minimum wage will offer more training contracts as a philanthropic act, or as a service to the profession?
Obviously, a more diverse profession is desirable, but if there is no increase in the number of training contracts as a result of abolishing the minimum wage, then by what mechanism does the SRA suggest diversity will increase? Inevitably trainee salaries in the smaller firms will fall. The laws of supply and demand will drive down rates. Most trainees will take it on the chin and be grateful to get a foot in the door. Some may abandon law altogether, unable to face another two years in poverty having just spent four years getting into debt.
Reducing the trainee wage will therefore disproportionately affect the poorest in society and reduce diversity.
Howard Shelley, QualitySolicitors CMHT, Walsall