Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) has called for the Solicitors Regulation Authority to reinstate the minimum salary for trainee solicitors and for professional course fees to be subject to regulation.
In a new report, the association, comprised of students, paralegals, pupil barristers, trainee solicitors and qualified junior lawyers committed to practising in areas of law which have traditionally been publicly funded, also recommended that professional bodies consider replacing the current route to qualification with a form of work-based learning.
YLAL cited a survey of their members, in which 71 per cent of members who had taken the Legal Practice Course said they were in favour of replacing it with work-based learning.
The association also drew attention to the issue of unpaid work experience in the legal aid sector, saying that it trapped aspiring lawyers and restricted diversity within the profession, as only a small proportion of young people could not afford to work for free.
YLAL surveyed its members on various aspects of their work. It found that 89 per cent of respondents had undertaken unpaid legal work experience, compared to 40 per cent of respondents who had undertaken paid work. Some 42 per cent of respondents had completed expenses-only work experience.
The report found that over half of YLAL members who had attended law school relied on their family for financial support. A third relied on loans and another third had used personal savings, while 14 per cent had balanced their studies with a part-time job.
YLAL also surveyed its members about their salaries. It found that 5 per cent were earning less than £10,000 per year. Approximately half of its members were earning under £20,000 per year.