YLAL has submitted its response to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) consultation on the proposal to scrap the minimum salary requirement for trainee solicitors.
YLAL is strongly opposed to the abolition of the trainee minimum salary. In our view the minimum salary provides an important safeguard that protects against exploitation and contributes to social mobility and diversity within the legal profession. We find it surprising and disappointing that the SRA – a body charged with encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession and promoting the public interest – would even contemplate such a course of action.
We are particularly concerned about the impact on those looking to start their careers in legal aid work. Many firms and legal organisations who conduct legal aid work are already at the margins of financial viability. If they are able to reduce trainee salaries to try to maintain a service to clients, they are likely to do this. Such reduction in salaries is likely to deter individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds entering the profession (and the legal aid sector), thereby impacting on the diversity of the profession.
There is also likely to be a knock-on effect on clients since removal or severe reduction of the minimum salary could see an overall decrease in the number of people entering or drawn to legal aid work. A drop in the number of solicitors willing to work in these crucial areas of law for the very poorest in society would be detrimental to the public interest.
The SRA has suggested that a reduction in the minimum salary could be balanced by an increase in the number of training contracts offered. However, there is no evidence or reason to believe that this will happen. Our response sets out Law Society statistics that show there is little (if any) correlation between the level of the minimum salary and the number of training contracts registered with the Law Society.
If it is the SRA's aim to encourage an increase in training contracts, we believe any alleged benefit would not overcome the disproportionate negative impact on diversity and social mobility. We believe it is vital that the profession is open to all, no matter what an individual’s financial circumstances might be. The minimum salary plays an integral role in ensuring that there is equality of opportunity and removal of this safeguard would constitute a retrograde step undermining social mobility and diversity within the legal profession. This would run counter to the public interest.
We urge the SRA to abandon the proposal or at the very least delay making a decision on this issue until the Legal Education and Training Review publishes its recommendations.
Download our full response from the bottom of this page.
*update* The SRA has published its Equality Impact Assessment of the proposals. The assessment comes as the result of a short survey run by the SRA after the proposals were first published. The results support YLAL's concerns raised in our response to the consultation. We have written to the SRA pointing out how the assessment justifies our concerns and urging the SRA Board not to abolish the protection of the trainee minimum salary.
Download our response below.