Law Soc gets tough on minimum wage

The Law Society is drastically reducing the amount of waivers it grants to firms which pay their trainees below the profession's minimum wage.

Currently, 30 per cent of trainees are paid at or below the minimum wage – u10,850 outside the City and West London, or u12,150 in the City and West London.

Many firms, however, are excused from paying trainees the minimum wage if they ask the Law Society for a waiver. The Law Society says that now there must be “exceptional circumstances” for a waiver. Previously there were no set criteria against which to judge the validity of claims. It feels too many firms are paying below the minimum wage. It has not specified what these circumstances might be, or exactly how many firms are affected by the waiver, but currently 209 firms pay below the minimum wage.

“The Law Society is now enforcing its minimum wage for trainees more vigorously. If we didn't, people would starve,” says a Law Society spokesman.

According to the Law Society, City firms are unlikely to be affected by the decision, but many other firms across the country will be.

Trainee at Denton Hall Matthew Parish says: “This measure is good. The Law Society minimum wage is extremely low as it is. Most trainees leave law school with huge debts. They are paying hundreds in repayments.

“In the City trainees are paid well. We get about u20,000 at the start and about u24,000 in our last six months. And we are properly trained, but I know several people outside the City who are struggling on trainee salaries.

“It is total exploitation. Most of them receive virtually no training. They are made to do the same work as a solicitor. When they qualify they are waved goodbye because it is cheaper to replace them.”

See special report on training and recruitment, pages 26-29