Growing numbers of trainee solicitors are receiving less than the recommended minimum salary, with over a third of regional trainees paid below £19,619 a year. 

According to research by legal recruiter Douglas Scott, 30% of all trainees are paid less than the recommended minimum levels, five percentage points more than last year. Trainees working outside of London are hardest hit, with 35% receiving less than the Law Society’s recommended minimum of £19,619, up from 26% last year. 

In contrast, the percentage of London-based trainees receiving less than they should continues to fall. Only 16% of trainees in London are paid below the recommended minimum salary for the capital (£22,121), one percentage point less than last year and nine percentage points less than in 2017. 

Last February the Law Society increased its minimum trainee salary recommendations. The new rate came into effect on 1 May 2019 and saw a 2.6% rise for trainees in and outside London in line with inflation rates. Previously a mandatory minimum salary was set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. However, this was abolished in 2014 and the SRA now stipulates only that trainees are paid the national living wage.

Jonathan Nolan, associate director at Douglas Scott Legal Recruitment, said: ‘In all likelihood this story is being played out in high street, regional and rural law firms; reform and the slashing of public funding means the money just isn’t there in some circumstances. Born of necessity rather than exploitation. It would be interesting to hear otherwise.’

The minimum salary for trainee solicitors is still higher than for barristers’ pupils, however. As of last month, chambers in London must pay pupil barristers at least £18,866 a year, while pupils outside of London should receive a minimum of £16,322. The rates apply to all chambers and Bar Standards Board-regulated entities.