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So, after much deliberation, the SRA announced yesterday that they are going to scrap the minimum salary for trainee solicitors. But what does this mean for solicitors of the future?
Effectively, it means that as opposed to the SRA’s previously established minimum wage for trainee solicitors (£18,590 for Central London and £16,650 elsewhere), budding solicitors will now face the prospect of getting paid £6.08 per hour for their services.
I am a final year undergraduate at the University of Liverpool studying Modern Foreign Languages, and I am currently preparing myself for my final end-of-year exams. I have accepted a place onto the GDL at CoL Manchester in September 2012 and I have managed to secure three summer work placements in a bid to try and gain the all-important experience that I will need for TC applications in July this year.
I come from what would be considered as a low-income background and, unfortunately, I do not therefore benefit from the bank of mum and dad. The prospect of financing the GDL and LPC has been giving me sleepless nights for months, but I have always maintained that the law is where I am meant to be. Nonetheless, the SRA’s recent decision is making me think twice about whether I am making the right decision.
In 2009-2010 there were 14,510 confirmed LPC places, which contrasts quite dramatically with the 4,874 TCs that were registered in that same year. Evidently, there are far too many LPC students compared to the number of TCs on offer (something I am sure we are all aware of).
So, this begs the question: what to do?
A recent report by the SRA found that if the minimum wage was abolished 70% of firms which do not currently offer training contracts would consider doing so. Problem solved? Certainly not.
The fact is, the SRA does not realise that although their decision to abolish the minimum salary may increase the number of TCs that are available in the short term, its impact on the availability of future NQ positions is likely to be minimal.
Currently, it seems to be common knowledge among aspiring solicitors that it is a risky business embarking upon the LPC without having previously secured a TC. This is especially the case for non-law graduates, like myself (making up around 50% of solicitors), who find themselves crippled by the cost of studying an undergraduate degree, GDL and LPC.
To me it would seem that the SRA’s decision could potentially ease the financial burden on High Street firms as far as hiring trainees is concerned, but will it end up being at the expense of widening diversity of access to the profession?
In March 2012, attendees at Lawyer2B’s Careers Day highlighted social background as the biggest barrier to the profession, and although almost 75 firms are now signed up to Prime (the first profession-wide social mobility initiative), I believe that scrapping the minimum wage will prove to be yet another obstacle facing aspiring solicitors who already have the odds stacked against them. A round of applause for the SRA!