The Law Society is recommending, as a matter of good practice, that providers of training contracts should pay their trainees £21,561 in London and £19,122 outside London. The new rate comes into effect on 1 May 2018. Based on previous guidance, employers are encouraged to implement the increase as soon as they can, on or after this date, and at least within six months.
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 a regulatory minimum salary, firms are now required to pay no more than the national minimum wage.
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.
We know that businesses, including law firms, benefit from a diverse workforce. The Law Society 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?
We have used the inflation rate to calculate this year’s rise. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate from November 2017 has been applied. This leads to a 3.1 per cent increase in salaries in London and outside London. (The CPI has been used instead of the alternative method of the Retail Price Index (RPI) due to guidance from the Office of National Statistics).
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.
Chair of the JLD Adele Edwin-Lamerton said: 'The Law Society recommended minimum salary is an important component of access to the profession.
'The method of calculation and the annual review assist in preventing personal finances acting as a barrier to talented individuals who would otherwise not be able to support themselves during the period of recognised training.'
In addition, the Society ran an earlier consultation on the original 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?
The methodology and the level of the recommended minimum salary will be reviewed in November.