YLAL response to Law Society article on trainee salaries

The Law Society has published findings which state that the number of trainee solicitors working for less than the recommended minimum salary is at its lowest point for three years.

The article, based on a survey of 500 trainees from across the UK, states that 25% of trainees in 2019 are paid below the recommended minimum, in comparison to 35% in 2018 and 31% in 2016. The average number of hours worked per week by trainees has also decreased from 43 hours to 42, although London-based trainees are still working an average of 2.5 hours more than their peers in the regions. It is unclear how many of those surveyed worked in legal aid firms. The survey, conducted by Douglas Scott, attributes the fall in numbers of trainees being paid less than the minimum to law firms reacting positively to criticism.

While Young Legal Aid Lawyers (‘YLAL’) welcomes the above findings, we note that there are still 25% of trainees being paid less than the recommended minimum salary. Low salaries have a direct impact on social mobility within the profession. Our third report into social mobility, published in March 2018, found that low pay was one of the biggest challenges facing young lawyers wishing to practise in the legal aid sector. All three of YLAL’s social mobility reports (2010, 2013 and 2018) found that low salaries in the legal aid sector were the main barrier to social mobility within the profession.

Although YLAL welcomes the improvements discussed above, they are as a result of steps taken by individual organisations to ensure their trainees are properly remunerated. These organisations are to be commended, but further progress across the sector as a whole is required. While YLAL acknowledges the difficulties faced by high street firms and other legal aid providers in the current climate, we believe that the future of access to justice depends on the continued recruitment of new generations of legal aid lawyers. We are concerned that even 8 years after our first report into social mobility, low salaries remain a major challenge faced by trainees and paralegals.

YLAL has lobbied the Solicitors Regulation Authority (‘SRA’) on the reintroduction of the mandatory minimum salary since its removal in 2014 and will continue to do so. We welcome the move by the Bar Standards Board, in 2018, to introduce a mandatory minimum pupillage award which is in line with the Real Living Wage and the Law Society’s recommended minimum. We repeat our recommendations in our 2018 Report, ‘Social Mobility in a Time of Austerity’, and strongly urge the SRA to review its decision to abolish the requirement for a minimum wage for trainees.

Young Legal Aid Lawyers

18 January 2019