The Law Society is recommending, as a matter of good practice, that providers of training contracts should pay their trainees £20,913 in London and £18,547 outside of London.
On 1 August 2014, the Solicitors Regulation Authority replaced the former regulatory minimum salary with a requirement that firms pay trainees at least the national hourly minimum wage. Prior to this, firms were required to pay their trainee solicitors at least £18,590 if they were in Central London, and £16,650 elsewhere.
With the removal of the minimum salary, firms are now required to pay no more than the national minimum wage, currently £6.95 per hour. For an average 35-hour week this equates to a gross salary of £12,649 per year, a significant decrease on the previous required salary.
Why should my organisation adopt the recommended minimum salary?
The solicitors’ profession remains one of quality and integrity. This profession has long supported an ethos that entry to the profession should be on merit and that age, disability, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, race, religion or belief, or social background should not be a barrier to entry. Many firms have developed recruitment policies that enshrine these values.
A full equality and impact assessment was undertaken by the Law Society in 2012 looking at the impact of an abolition of the minimum salary for trainee solicitors. This foresaw a negative impact in particular for entrants from less affluent backgrounds, and a disproportionate impact on black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) representation in the solicitors' sector.
The Law Society therefore believes that the implementation of a recommended minimum salary for trainee solicitors could have a positive impact on equality and diversity within the legal profession, in addition to being good practice in supporting entrants to the profession. Firms adopting this recommendation could promote this as good practice and are welcome to advertise that they do so.
How is this recommended minimum salary calculated?
The recommended minimum salary is based on a 35 hour week at the Living Wage (£9.75 per hour in London; £8.45 per hour outside of London) to which we have added £3,168, the average yearly Legal Practice Course (LPC) repayment.
The LPC repayment fee has been added to the salary as it is a cost that the majority of trainees will be burdened with, in addition to their usual living costs. The LPC is a pre-requisite for qualifying as a solicitor and the knowledge and skills trainees have gained on this course are of benefit to their employers.
The Living Wage is calculated differently inside and outside of London. The London rate is set annually by the Living Wage Foundation and calculated by the Greater London Authority, which covers all boroughs in Greater London. The UK (outside of London) rate is set annually by the Living Wage Foundation and calculated by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University.
The Law Society recommends that the geographical cut off used by the Living Wage Foundation, whereby 'London' is all boroughs in Greater London, be recognised by those firms looking to implement the recommended minimum salary.
What consultation with the profession has been held?
The Law Society has worked closely with the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) on this recommendation. The JLD is the community for LPC students, paralegals, trainee solicitors and solicitors up to five years qualified. It has been supportive of this move on behalf of its members who have been most adversely affected by the SRA's abolition of the regulatory minimum salary.
In addition, the Society ran a consultation on the proposals requesting that employers, and providers of training contracts in particular, give their views on the introduction of a recommended minimum salary. The results of this survey were in favour of the introduction and so the Law Society believes it is correct to promote good practice in this way.
Will there be any consequences if we do not pay our trainees this salary?
No, there is no regulatory requirement to pay this recommended minimum salary and there will be no consequences for not doing so. The Law Society believes that this salary represents good practice in this aspect of employing a trainee. The Society would encourage employers to consider this salary when deciding how much to pay trainees.
When will this recommended minimum salary be reviewed?
In line with the Living Wage, the recommended minimum salary will be reviewed in November each year. Employers should implement any rise as soon as possible and within six months. All employees should receive the new rate by 1 May the following year.