Women will be disproportionately affected by the scrapping of the minimum salary for trainees, the Association of Women Solicitors (AWS) said today.

The AWS has added its voice to mounting opposition to the decision taken last week by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. From August 2014, firms may pay trainee solicitors at the national minimum wage of £6.08 an hour - around 40% lower than the current minimum salary.

The Junior Lawyers Division last week branded the decision to deregulate as having ‘effectively slammed the door shut in the faces of those from lower socio-economic groups trying to enter the profession’. Now the AWS has warned that women will be deterred from entering the profession by the reduction of the trainee minimum wage.

AWS chairwoman Joy Van-Cooten and AWS Law Society Council member Sarah Austin said: ‘We are concerned it will discourage able women away from the profession and the result will be a return to a less diverse profession that will reflect practitioners’ means rather than their merit.

‘This can only devalue the professional reputation of solicitors and the public’s perception of the quality of our service.’

They pointed out that women and members of ethnic minorities already make up the majority of trainees who receive the prevailing SRA regulated minimum salary of £16,650 and £18,590 in London.

The SRA has insisted it took all views into account after national roadshows and a survey that attracted 1,300 responses. Board members considered the impact of deregulation on diversity but concluded that a minimum salary was not the best way to attract a wider range of people to the profession.