A group representing young legal aid lawyers has urged the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to abandon its decision to scrap mandatory minimum salaries for trainees.
The Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) group said its research over the last eight years had revealed that low salaries in the legal aid sector were consistently the main barrier to social mobility within the profession and one of the biggest challenges facing young lawyers.
‘We are concerned that even eight years after our first report into social mobility, low salaries remain a major challenge faced by trainees and paralegals,’ the group said, in a notice shared with the Gazette.
The YLAL’s challenge to the SRA follows updated statistics which show that a quarter of trainees are working for less than the recommended minimum salary.
The latest Law Society guidance suggests that providers of training contracts should pay their trainees £21,561 in London and £19,122 outside the capital. Previously, a mandatory minimum salary was set by the SRA but after abolishing that requirement in 2014 the regulator now stipulates only that trainees are paid the National Living Wage.
In the notice the YLAL said: ‘YLAL has lobbied the SRA on the reintroduction of the mandatory minimum salary since its removal in 2014 and will continue to do so. We … strongly urge the SRA to review its decision to abolish the requirement for a minimum wage for trainees.’
It added that it welcomed the move by the bar regulator the Bar Standards Board to introduce a mandatory minimum pupillage award which is in line with the Real Living Wage.
In May last year, an SRA impact study revealed that abolishing the minimum wage for trainees had led to a slump in average pay and seen the gender pay gap widen.
Despite the negative headline figures, latest salary statistics published by legal recruiter Douglas Scott show that the number of trainees working at below the minimum had fallen. Although 25% of trainees are paid below the recommended minimum, the proportion is down from 31% in 2016 and 35% in 2017.