I have been reading with interest about the trainee situation in law firms, including the minimum wage issues. I was a mature student who took an LLB honours degree with the Open University, while holding down a full-time legal secretarial position in a high street firm and bringing up three young children. I had to remortgage the house to complete my LPC and I consider myself lucky insofar as I had the means to do so.
I do not have A-levels and I passed my degree with a 2.2. What eventually got me a training contract (with a medium-sized firm in Surrey) was my 12 years of experience as a legal secretary. I was familiar with the way things were done in a law office and had administrative skills to bring to the position. I was paid at the same rate as the secretaries, as I doubled up to help out when staff were absent, so avoided the minimum wage issue. The only downside was that I had a peculiar training contract. I had the responsibility for my own clients and caseload; I was assistant to a partner in the firm; and I was general dogsbody around the office.
I have since left this firm, although I was happy there and a job was offered to me at the end of my ‘training’. I know how difficult it is to study for a law degree and to pay for it, but those students who may wish to avoid the minimum wage issue might find a way around this by taking on administrative work as well.
Secretaries and paralegals are better paid than trainees and have far more interesting work, by and large. It is easier to find legal secretarial or paralegal work after completing the LPC and, if you can prove yourself, I have found that firms are far more likely to offer training contracts after a relatively short period of time.
Lyn Mason, assistant regional solicitor (locum), Taylor Wimpey UK, High Wycombe