The Junior Lawyers’ Division (JLD) has come out strongly against the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) decision to opt for the national minimum wage for trainee solicitors, labelling the regulator as ‘clueless’.
The division of the Law Society that represents young lawyers believe the SRA’s equality impact assessment and agenda notes for the board meeting were ‘heavily biased towards abolition giving far more weight to anything that supported their decision’.
Chair of the JLD Hekim Hannan continued: “They have effectively slammed the door shut in the faces of those from lower socio-economic groups trying to enter the profession. £6.08 an hour for a £35 hour week is a salary of £11,065 a year and a monthly take home of £838.02.
“Furthermore, most trainee solicitors work more than 35 hours a week but it is unlikely that they will ever complain as they will be in danger of jeopardising their future careers. Exploitation for the most vulnerable in our profession will be open to abuse.”
The JLD believes the consultation was rushed, and should have been extended to after the conclusion of the Legal Education and Training Review (19 March 2012).
The SRA minimum salary is currently set at £16,650, rising to £18,590 for Central London. However the SRA currently recommends that trainees in London and elsewhere in England and Wales should be paid £19,040 and £16,940 respectively (16 May 2012).
The changes will come into effect in August 2014.
Full JLD response
It is nothing short of disgraceful that the SRA Board have voted to abolish the trainee minimum salary in 2 years’ time. They have effectively slammed the door shut in the faces of those from lower socio-economic groups trying to enter the profession. £6.08 an hour for a 35 hour week is a salary of £11,065 a year and a monthly take home of £838.02.
Furthermore, most trainee solicitors work more than 35 hours a week but it is unlikely that they will ever complain as they will be in danger of jeopardising their future careers. Exploitation for the most vulnerable in our profession will be open to abuse.
How will someone without parental support manage to fund the LPC and then, if they are lucky, obtain a training contract at minimum wage? The loan repayments on the LPC are in the region of £300 – £400 a month. That leaves a little over £400 a month to live on, not taking into account any overdrafts, credit cards or other student debts that maybe immediately due.
Those from lower socio-economic groups will have to work 1, 2 or 3 jobs while they are studying, which will inevitably have an impact on their results and their future careers. The profession is difficult enough at the moment to enter for those from lower socio-economic groups . This decision by the SRA is the final nail in the coffin for those with the work ethic and aspirations to enter the profession without the financial backing.
The whole process, from consultation, review and decision has taken place within 4 months. The JLD have spoken to their members at their events and put together a detailed response to both the consultation and the Equality Impact Assessment. The only reason that some people thought abolishing the minimum salary might be for the good is that it may possibly increase training contracts. However, against this not a single firm has stated that a new training contract will be produced. Furthermore, if any training contracts are forthcoming they are likely to be at the lower end of the salary range which would ’price out’ all but the wealthy. There has been some recent inroads in social mobility but this is a step backwards. It makes the LETR and the development of more flexible and financially viable routes into the profession even more important.
It feels as though the decision was already made and the rushed consolation process was nothing more than the SRA ’going though the motions’. The consultation, the press release following the equality impact assessment and even their agenda notes for their board meeting were heavily biased towards abolition giving far more weight to anything that supported their decision and paying only lip-service or ignoring the real impacts of abolition.
The JLD are taken from and represent the junior end of the profession and are completely in touch with our membership; are the SRA board in touch with those entering the profession? From this decision it shows that they are clueless and completely out of touch with the most vulnerable of those who they regulate.