The Law Society of Scotland has agreed an increase to both its recommended and mandatory minimum pay rates for trainee solicitors.
The mandatory minimum salary has been set at the National Minimum Wage since 2012. However, from April 2016, only training contracts that are at or above the Living Wage, as set by the Living Wage Foundation, will be accepted.
Meanwhile, as of June the minimum recommended (though not compulsory) salary will be raised to £17,545 for first-year trainees and £21,012 for second-years.
Christine McLintock, President of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “This decision means that future traineeship contracts will only be registered by Society if payment is at or above the Living Wage recommended by the Living Wage Foundation. Pay rates for trainee solicitors are an issue of fundamental importance to the reputation of the profession. We have carefully considered the issues involved and agreed that it is vital to the wellbeing of trainee solicitors and to the long-term ability of the profession to attract talent to raise both the recommended and mandatory minimum pay rates.
“We need to strike the right balance when setting the recommended rate for trainee salaries. Trainees are the future of our profession and we want them to be paid properly for the work they do. However we know that while there has been an improvement in the economy, which has undoubtedly contributed to the increased number of traineeships on offer, employers continue to have to control their costs, including salaries.
“It remains the case that some law firms simply cannot afford to afford to take on a trainee. It is a problem acutely felt in the legal aid sector where cuts to budgets and reduced rates of pay have left margins so tight that paying the recommended rate is often not feasible. For these firms the decision to take on a trainee is a difficult one and paying a salary below the recommended rate may be the only viable option.
“This underlines the need for us to continue to press, in the public interest, for an appropriately funded system of legal aid to help encourage new solicitors to enter this branch of the legal profession and to assist employers working in this area to offer employment opportunities.”
The number of Scottish traineeships rose by 2 per cent in 2014/15.