Regulators have voted to scrap the trainee solicitor minimum wage 30 years after it was first introduced.

The board of the Solicitors Regulation Authority made the decision to deregulate the salary immediately at its meeting today.

The decision comes after a five-month consultation with the profession and despite concerns that deregulation will deter poorer people from training contracts.

In its own summary of feedback, the SRA conceded there were fears that removing the minimum salary would have a disproportionate effect on women and black and minority ethnic groups.

The board papers admitted there was a risk that employers would decide to cut salaries as a result of deregulation. There were also calls to defer a decision until the findings of the Legal Education and Training Review were known.

A minority of stakeholders responding to the consultation, including the Sole Practitioners Group and some would-be trainees, were in favour of deregulation. They argued it would open the market for training contracts and create more opportunities for individuals, even if they were on lower-paid contracts.

The minimum salary was introduced in 1982 by the Law Society to protect trainees from exploitation and to encourage high-calibre graduates into the profession.

Currently firms have to pay their trainees £16,650 a year, rising to £18,590 in London.