Don't exclude future legal aid lawyers
I am disappointed to see that my name has been missed off both the Queen’s birthday honours list and the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY). I suppose they should now be Public Funding Lawyer of the Year but PFLY (Phillies?) does not have the same ring to it. Young Philly of the Year would suit me but now I am pushing 50 (from the wrong side) it seems increasingly unlikely.
I met up with a friend recently whom I not seen in twenty years. We caught up and chatted about how our professional lives had fared. To be honest not much has actually happened in those years. Now perhaps I am a third of the way through my career I read that we are encouraged to employ more trainees as the minimum salary is to be abolished. The theory being I am more likely to offer contracts if they are cheaper. Sadly all that will happen is that the salaries of trainees will go down to the minimum wage.
I must have been one of the first years to benefit from a minimum wage for trainees. In those days in the 1980s the salary was about the university grant level, calculated for the 52 weeks, not just the academic year. Previously salaries for clerks were very low and before that articled clerks had to pay a lump sum to the employer (premium) for the privilege of being taught. I tell people that getting training contracts then was about as difficult as it is now. You wrote 50 letters and were lucky to get a handful of replies. Now as then the colleges were churning out far too many students for too few contracts. It has recently been proposed that aptitude tests are introduced to sort out the sheep from the goats as it were.
My concern is this is another hoop to jump through, and how on earth do you test aptitude for lawyers? What exactly are the universities, professional course providers and training principals doing if they are not testing that?
As a profession we want to encourage the best and most able people to enter. It has never been easy and I imagine it never will be, but it ought to be a fair system that does not exclude people who are poor. We want the sort that would deserve to be on the honours list or in contention for LALY.
David Pickup is a partner in Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott