Pay aspiring lawyers for work experience, says Law Society

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

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The Law Society has called for firms to pay those on work experience the minimum wage or above, after a survey showed that many aspiring lawyers were working for months unpaid.

In guidance published today, the Law Society has said that work experience opportunities should be clearly defined, openly advertised, and paid to the national minimum wage where possible, and that unpaid placements should last no longer than four weeks, with expenses covered.


The guidance, drawn up in collaboration with the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD), follows a survey on work experience by the JLD in 2014 in which 80% of respondents said they had done some form of unpaid work experience.

Of those that did, 39% worked unpaid for between one and three months, while 23% did for over six months. But less than half of them said that they felt these placements had helped their job prospects.

Jonathan Smithers, president of the Law Society said: ‘Legal work experience has become a defining and important step towards a legal career, so competition for work experience can be intense.

’The Law Society guidance on work experience supports law firms to promote fair, equal access to the legal profession and good working practices.’

It said that when competition for work experience is intense, there is a potential for some people to be left with a choice between taking a position under unfavourable conductions or not taking a placement at all. This, it said, raises ‘significant’ equality, diversity and social mobility issues.

Leanne maund

Leanne Maund

Leanne Maund (pictured left), chair of the JLD said: ‘While work experience is generally considered to be a good thing for aspiring trainee solicitors, sometimes the reality does not live up to expectations. In some cases, candidates we heard from appear to have been taken advantage of.

'We worked with the Law Society to produce this guidance to ensure that a line is drawn between circumstances where a prospective trainee is gaining a valuable insight into an organisation for a short period of time, and those where an individual is simply working unpaid.’

Readers' comments (15)

  • Do these folks have any idea how life is outside big practices...?

    Generally speaking you get an e-mail out of the blue asking if someone can get some work experience for a couple of weeks in Uni Vacs.

    If you've got a need/free slot/big trial coming up/loads of archiving that needs doing, then you say yes.

    Or a good client phones up and asks if their kid/relative can do a couple of weeks, and you somehow squeeze them in...

    ie. here is high-street land it's virtually always reactive rather than proactive on the part of the firm.

    The notion that you should advertise these slots, and have a full diversity check blah,blah, blah, shows how out touch Mr Smithers and his chums at 113 CL truly are...

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  • I provide work experience when I can - and lose a lot of time looking after / babysitting kids - usually who are at school / A levels/ Uni.

    My office is a small hight street practice, and it's exceptoinally busy, we also need to work like billy-o to make ends meet. I'm happy to assist kids for a few days, at cost to myself - but if I'm asked to pay for them coming in from school etc I'd have to stop that practice.

    What is wrong however, is asking LPC students to come in and provide weeks of work at no cost - and geting them to work as a clerk.

    There is a very clear distinction to be drawn as to 'work experience'.

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  • That's funny, when we are inundated by the local schools seeking work experience for their pupils, one of the conditions is that they are not paid - if they are then it isn't classed as education time and all the kids simply apply for the experience where they make a few quid rather than something they aspire to

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  • Pay us first or at least do what you are suppose to do and stop cuts to our pay so we can (a) pay interns (b) pay trainees and (c) provide a proper professional service ourselves.

    In between the crap diversity initiatives to try to encourage the latest peculiarity in at 113 that is..

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  • Firstly, there is a big difference between a week or two of work experience (a right of passage for high schoolers in my time) and months worth of work in the case of law students and LPC graduates. There cannot be any justification for exploiting the latter groups in the way that we see in some areas; the fact that said student/graduate is 'game' is not an excuse, so desperate are many of them for even the smallest of foot-holds into the profession.

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  • I agree above though, and you should a swell Marshall Hall.

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  • Why don't the law society offer as a gesture of goodwill cut the practicing certificate fees for firms that do..thought not..those in the ivory towers of no idea of the real world.

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  • Too many people undertake a law degree and LPC with no idea of whether they can find work afterwards.
    I would encourage aspiring lawyers who can't walk into a top training contract to take the CILEX route to qualification and earn as you learn, save money and face up to reality as early as possible.

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  • Very good comment Arthur. That's precisely what I did, and went on to further qualify - it shows you work at the coal face, and at a junior level when you start, so if it's not for you, you can easily look elsewhere too.

    My son did the traditional route and is now my trainee - my youngest lad is just 15, and I will certainly be telling him to join me via the ILEX route, so he can earn and learn.

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  • I agree Paul.

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