Currently set at £18,590 for Central London and £16,650 outside of London, the minimum salary requirement was introduced in 1982 to protect trainees from exploitation and to encourage graduates to join the profession. Now, the minimum salary is under threat again – have we, the trainees of the future, got real reason to be worried? I think the answer is yes.
If the SRA cease to regulate trainee salaries, wages would fall under the terms of the National Minimum Wage Regulations. Adding further insult to injury trainees would not even qualify for the set minimum wage for those aged 21 or over, currently £6.08 an hour. Instead, trainee solicitors would be considered apprentices and as such, would qualify for just £2.60 an hour in their first year before rising to £6.08 in subsequent years. With trainees expected to keep to ridiculous hours in an effort to prove their worth, earning just £2.60 would surely equate to exploitation of the highest degree. We are individuals with multiple qualifications. A graduate job in any other sector would not impose such ridiculous salaries on their employees so why should it happen to us?
Advocates of deregulation in this area feel such changes are necessary in the current recession, making it more commercially worthwhile for firms to employee trainees despite the subsequent financial input required of them as employers. It is argued that these changes would in turn create more jobs and thus allow more people access to the profession. I disagree.
These changes, like so many others would serve to alienate many budding solicitors from less affluent backgrounds. We all know the amount of debt students currently rank up in an effort to progress on their chosen career path. With university fees set to rise and GDL and LPC fees prohibitively high, this additional blow will mean that, should you be fortunate enough to secure a training contract, the result may be that, unless your parents are in a position to support you financially a career in the law may remain unattainable. A career in law should not be reserved solely for the rich – some may argue this is already the case and these proposals would just serve to make things worse.