One-third of trainees paid below Society minimum

Topics: Junior lawyers,Law firm & practice management,Law Society activity

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  • Portrait of Jonathan Nolan

Almost a third of trainee solicitors are being paid below the minimum level recommended by the Law Society, research by a legal recruiter suggests.

Three months ago the Law Society recommended that trainees should be paid £20,276 in London and £18,183 outside the capital. This replaced a mandatory minimum of £18,590 and £16,650, which was scrapped by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in August 2014. 


But answers to a survey of 500 trainees by recruiter Douglas Scott showed that 31% of trainees are being paid under the thresholds set by Chancery Lane, with salaries in the north-west particularly falling below this level.

According to the recruiter over half of trainees in this region are being paid below the recommended level, compared to just 12% in the south-west and 20% in London.

Meanwhile as many as 60% of trainees working in general practice were paid under the minimum level.

But despite this just 2% across the country are being paid less than the minimum wage, whilst 20% are being paid below the living wage.

Jonathan Nolan (pictured), director at Douglas Scott, said: ‘Budgetary pressures born of the ongoing liberalisation of the legal services market and economic uncertainty mean that law firms are engaged in a balancing act – they want to create opportunity but at a price they are comfortable with.’

But he added that the vast majority of firms are paying trainees about the mandatory minimum that was set by the SRA.

Readers' comments (17)

  • Let's be honest, budgetary concerns may play a small part but when you're talking a thousand pounds here or there in most firms capable to taking on trainees, this is a nonsense. I'd be seriously worried about the financial position of any medium or large sized firm which says it cannot afford to pay its trainees the minimum at least.

    Unfortunately, plenty of lawyers out there are willing to exploit those at the bottom of the rung because of the level of competition for training contracts. Anybody who has gone through the LPC / TC route over the last 10 years will know this.

    I know at least 2 people who worked for nothing for the first few months post-LPC before they were given the honor of being made paid "Legal Assistants" (no Paralegal status for you minnows yet, no no!).

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  • I do think this is very sad, but I suppose market forces will out.

    I am concerned that so many LPC students are taking on significant debt for degree/GDL/LPC (£50,000?), just to start a job that is paying c.£15-18,000, presumably less if you are forced to do a paralegal-ing stint for a year or two first.

    How are they realistically expected to pay for this?

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  • When will the penny drop to law students that unless you secure a TC before you start your LPC, you are condemned basically to a decade of desperate struggle, with maybe a 35% chance at the end of that time-frame of having qualified and being on a reasonable salary...?

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  • No one can be surprised at the lack of training contracts so long as trainees have to, or even ought to, be paid these rates. Yes, it's another two years' of not being paid properly, but you don't have to do it, and trainers don't have to train anyone...

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  • Why should trainee solicitors, or those who aspire to that status, expect to be shielded from market realities in a manner that other graduates are not? I know of a number of graduates who are still, some time on, working as unpaid 'interns' as a means of, they hope, getting their feet under the table, and thus a paid job, with the organisation for whom they are working or, at least, getting something tangible on their CVs in order to improve their prospects of achieving paid employment elsewhere. After all, these individuals chose to go to university and to study for the LPC. If they wanted paid work from day one, they could have gone into a job after 'A' levels rather than, with open eyes, walking into four years of debt creation without any settled prospect of well paid employment at the end of it.

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  • Good Lord I didn't think anybody still believed all of the that market tripe bandied around by the neo-con's.

    How about Solicitors setting an example and being model employers who pay a fair wage for a hard day's work? Is that so much to ask?

    To hell with the market!

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  • Perhaps the market is doing these would be trainees a favour? After all it is keeping them out of this lousy profession.

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  • Nothing has changed in the past 40 or 50 years - there have always been firms around who have paid less than the minimum recommended by the Law Society - and the way things are going, it may very well end up that trainees will pay firms for teaching them. That is the direction in which the university law schools are headed (charging students for practical legal training components of their course). What's the difference if firms started charging for practical legal training too ? Isn't that what happened pre-1950 ?

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  • No one is obliged to train to become a solicitor. No one is obliged to take on trainees. Personally speaking I now wish I had become a doctor. They at least have recently had an 11% pay rise forced upon them. Jeremy Hunt would not have had to force that on me, I would have grabbed it with both hands. (And I worked a lot of my Saturdays...and sometimes a bit on a Sunday too...and no one talked about overtime rates for my doing so)

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  • @Anonymous12 February 2016 12:55 pm:

    I was talking to someone on the public transport the other day that said just this. They had been lied to to do the 'University' of Law course.

    @Anonymous12 February 2016 11:31 pm:

    Absolutely correct. Until the latter 1960's even the larger City Firms took many trainees on premiums.

    In reality, though, premiums are still charged but through the back door of the practice. Many trainees are on the one hand working at a very low salary and on the other relatives are giving the work through the back door.

    The Claims Handling (Law) Society knows it is going on particularly in certain kinds of forms, but are powerless to do anything about it.

    The days they had the power was when they owned the College of Law and modulated the professional course (LSF).

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