SRA opts for £6.08 per hour for trainee solicitor minimum wage

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  • a reasonable outcome I think

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  • That is a thoughtful idea and will go some way in increasing access to the profession for students from less wealthy backgrounds, particularly as higher education is getting so much cheaper.

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  • This is such an idiotic move by the SRA. Whilst I understand this move will ease the financial burden on firms when it comes to hiring trainees, it is at the expense of widening access to the profession.

    The firms that will take most advantage of this will be high street firms, who generally hire students on the LPC. These students will be crippled by debt from the LPC and undergraduate fees (unless they have rich parents of course).

    Also, whilst it can be argued this may increase the number of training contracts, I doubt if it will filter through to more NQ positions. Therefore, all this will achieve will be a slight easing of the bottleneck of training contact application stage and shift it to qualification.

    It is quite clear that the SRA do not care in the slightest about social mobility, LPC students, trainee solicitors or the future lifeblood of the profession.

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  • Surely this will make no tangible difference? As a trainee I worked 8-6 with no lunch aka 10 hours per day, I would suggest that this is pretty reasonable and representative of the kind of hours most trainees will do (outside of the city). By my reckoning this would come out at £17,680 for the year i.e. an increase on the £16,500 I think I was paid. Can't see a problem with that.

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  • @Anonymous | 16-May-2012 4:48 pm

    What nonsense. Why should the SRA artificially prop-up trainees salaries? More to the point why should trainees solicitors be treated any differently from anyone else and NOT be subject to the minimum wage - what makes solicitors special? I agree that LPC places are way too high but the issue is not with trainee salaries but with the number of LPC places.

    It is possible to live off the minimum wage (I have) and though it is hardly glamorous this is all the SRA should be doing i.e. ensuring that trainees are not exploited and have enough to live (as you would expect to get with any form of employment).

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  • Considering the amount of debt we, as law students, are expected to mount up in order to get the necessary qualifications, I think this is a disgusting decision. I started my law degree fully intending to enter the profession and now, quite honestly, have found my self priced out of it. My parents cannot afford to pay for my LPC or to help me out on such low wages for a training contract. This move is a real shame, and will have a significant impact on the number of students who can make it in to the profession. There are graduate jobs out there, not requiring an expensive post graduate course, with much higher starting figures than that. In fact, I receive more than £6.08 an hour for my part time retail job. I wonder who this was truly meant to benefit, because I can assure you, it isn't graduates. Easing the pressure on firms in the here and now is all very well, but such a move jeopardises the future of the profession if there is such a bias towards those with money rather than ability.

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  • agree with the above points about pushing the bottleneck to NQ positions, which is arguably worse. However I really don't understand why everyone on the lawyer seems to think that every decision regarding the legal profession must be made solely for the purpose of "widening access". Since when did the legal profession take on the entire responsibility for social mobility?

    That said, playing around with salaries is utter nonesense anyway as the real issue is with the fact that we have 10,000 more LPC places than training contracts. The solution is not to pay people peanuts but to limit the number of LPC places making it more linked to actually having a job in the law, as with the accountancy profession

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  • Before I begin, just a note on any problems with undergraduate fees: at £6.08 an hour, that's not going to present any kind of issue.

    LPC fees, however, are a far more real and dangerous problem for budding lawyers that these changes will not help to alleviate in any way. Let's face it: for that kind of money these potential trainees could be doing literally any other non-apprenticeship job and not be saddled with the 5-figure debts attracting commercial interest rates (what are the going rates on these loans nowadays? ~7%?).

    I'd say that I hope that this maybe serves to devalue the LPC in the eyes of students, but considering that the LPC market has remained resilient in the face of a dearth of training contracts, that looks highly unlikely.

    Then again, perhaps it'll send the signal to students that the perception that if you get a training contract you're guaranteed a well-paying job for the rest of your career is wrong.

    Seeing as no concrete evidence of any kind of material upshot in the number of training contracts offered was ever presented by the SRA, I cannot see this as a good move. Indeed, it looks likely to be a costly gamble in attempt to win a pretty poor return.

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  • @Anonymous 4.48pm

    I could not agree more. I am a student about to graduate from a non-qualifying law degree and I have a place on the GDL at CoL for next year.

    After hearing of the SRA's decision, which I believe to be quite frankly foolish, I am beginning to fear the impact that this could have upon students like myself, who have no financial backing from parents. I dread to think what it will be like in two years time if I have to try and repay my tuition fee's + GDL + LPC on £6.08 an hour, with the looming prospect of having to then fight for highly contested NQ positions. I am guessing that this will have a similar effect on other prospective solicitors in my financial position and ultimately, further restrict access to the profession.

    What an absolute joke.

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  • If someone goes through four years of university training, invests thousands of pounds in developing abilities and is then worth £6.08 hour is there not something wrong with the training?

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  • How does this facilitate access or social mobility? It means those from poorer backgrounds surely are even less likely to be able to enter the profession when they can now be paid even less yet will have a heavier millstone of debt around their neck from the costs of training than might others. I qualified some years ago so it doesn't affect me remotely but think it's a negative move and can't really see any benefit to it other than huge savings for firms.

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  • The people who (a) compare law to other graduate jobs and (b) who say social mobility isn't important are misguide, short-sighted fools.

    At the end of the day (a) law isn't like other jobs. Irrespective of the fact law has a certain 'status', no other 'fresh otu of university' graduate job requires a £12 000 privately funded course - in fact, you could get 2 Master's degrees for that and become an academic if you really wanted to. Also, it creates the prospect of paralegals and secretaries being on more (or the same) as trainees when they haven't shelled out £ x xxx for the privilege - hardly a harmonious working environment or one that appreciates the level of education a trainee has gone through

    And (b) social mobility is important because law, like other professions, has to shake its elitist image and, as lawyers, we need a diverse profession that meets the needs of our clients, which is who we are there to serve.

    It's ok for people like me in the City but I do feel for others who, I suspect, will go to much smaller firms with no funded LPC.

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  • @Anonymous | 17-May-2012 10:53 am

    Yes, but you're forgetting no-one is forcing you to take on £40k+ worth of debt to realise your dream of being a solicitor you can equally choose not to do law and do something else which pays a reasonable wage for your degree education.

    Consider two examples: one completely self-funded student with no access to parental financing has got a good degree from a good university (paid for by student loans, part-time work, overdrafts etc.) and now faces a choice - do the LPC (£12-13K in fees alone + living cost) or do another job. If they elect to do the LPC then on completion they can choose between getting paid £6.08ph or again elect to get a different job and start paying off their debts. Ultimately, the student always has a choice. Let's say the student decides not to do law and gets a reasonable graduate job earning £20-25k.

    In another situation consider a student which has everything handed to them by their parents and then gets the same good degree from a good university, has the LPC paid for them and then takes a training contract which pays them £6.08ph. I'm not sure about you but personally other than being able to swan around at (budget) dinner parties and say "I'm a solicitor don't you know" the first situation seems much better to me.

    To those groaning about social mobility - you can never achieve 100% equality of opportunities, and its certainly not the SRAs job to make that happen anyway. Self-funders take on a risk when accumulating large amounts of debt (as does anyone taking on debt) and they need to realise that if £6.08ph is all you'll get at end of it - maybe it is not a great idea?

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  • The evidence on the impact of the minimum salary on social mobility is mixed. On the one hand it's abolition may lead to lower salaries for a minority of trainees but on the other hand it may lead to more trainee jobs being created. Those who criticise abolition have to explain why trainee solicitors should be unique in the workforce in having a salary fixed by a regulator rather than an employer. They also have to explain why it is OK for paralegals, who may also aspire to become solicitors, to be paid the statutory minimum wage but not trainees. The cost of the the LPC is no answer to this. There are many jobs where training has to be self funded and where post graduate training, with no guarantee of employment, is a necessity to stand a reasonable chance of gainng employment, in many cases in occupations with much lower long term salary prospects than solicitors and with equal uncertainty about the prospects of employment at all. Diversity is important but the answer to this is not a minimum wage for solicitors that is higher than for the rest of the population but a re-examination of the basis of solicitor training including a review as to whether the need to obtain a training contract is of itself a barrier to entry to the profession for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and whether there are better ways to train prospective solicitors. Such a review is now underway and those concerned to widen access to the profession would be better employed contributing to this debate than focussing on wage regulation which, at its best, is of marginal relevance to the issue. For details of the review see:http:// letr.org.uk

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  • Is it worth pointing out that £6.08 per hour is the national minimum wage (for non-apprenticeships)?

    Hopefully most small firms will be realistic and not pay trainees less than they would earn working in a local pub or supermarket.

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  • @ Anonymous | 17-May-2012 12:41 pm

    Your examples prove my point exactly...it will deter equally bright people (if not brighter people) from entering the profession simply because they're poorer and reduce quality as a result.

    You say everyone has a choice. Yes they do, and if everyone who is bright but unable to support themselves chooses not to be a lawyer, this will have long term implications for the number of lawyers and for social mobility. Not saying social mobility is the bee-all and end-all but things that have a high chance of reversing social mobility should be avoided. And as I have already said, the law is there to serve a diverse range of clients and needs to reflect such.

    Equally, if everyone of the parent-fund rich people chooses not to work for peanuts - same problem.

    Also, the anti-social mobility brigade may do well to remember that same said regulator recently elevated equality and diversity to a principle of professional conduct....

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  • It is funny how some people on here say:"Oh but you don't have to go into law. Do another job so you do not have to face the debt etc..".
    What happens to the people who actually want to be a lawyer? Should we just say "Well, screw my dream and my ambitions and all my hard work. I am going to be a consultant and yet will always look back in misery and onto my grades which could have gotten me into a decent law firm if it was not for the monopoly of a few course provider who charge the world for the course."

    It saddens me, as a student who actually wants to be a lawyer, that our dreams and desires are just easily washed away in this discussion.
    Funnly enough, the solution is quite simple:

    Make a central, nationwide LPC exam. You do not have to go to a course provider for that but if you have the money or are not able to believe in your own abilities to prepare for the exam. The result from this nation wide LPC is then used as an indicator for future employers.

    It would:
    a) Destroy the monopoly of course provider to charge 12-16k
    b) Gives an considerably fair chance for anyone to at least try and attempt the LPC (even with a compareable low 2:2 degree)
    c) Nobody cries about a destroyed or financially troubled future even if you do not get a training contract since the nation wide LPC exam would not be charged with 12-16k

    It may not reduce competition but at least it does allow a fairer access for people from poorer backgrounds and people who are unsuccesful in securing a TC would not face a difficult life in regard to debt. I may be naive but I do not see how such a system could be any worse than the one we currently have. The only thing I see at the moment, as a person that knows legal training in other countries, is a protectionism of LPC provider by the SRA.

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  • Some people forget that there are parts of the country where the pay is even less in the profession.

    The minimum salary for a trainee in Belfast is £12,400, rising to £14,040 in your second year.

    If you are purely in the profession for the money then you're better off deterred.

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  • £6.08 an hour is a wage - no more excuses for not paying overtime?

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  • Some good ideas in response.

    Why not simply make the LPC and PSC a compulsory part of the Training Contract and something firms have to pay for?

    This way firms will buy into the LPC more, thus I expect driving down cost and increasing the value of the same by directly inputting on course content.

    In addition this then prevents the huge debt for those who can't afford it but deserve a chance based on ability. Also of course it would mean that you would have to get a Contract first so no more hit and hopes for people who in reality will never get one?

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  • I have survived paying rent in Leeds in a shared flat on £13,000.00 per year as a paralegal and I know some people who only earn £12,000.00 per year. Yes times are tough for graduates (I should know I am looking for a training contract), but seriously stop complaining, it could be a lot worse.

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  • @Anonymous | 17-May-2012 1:35 pm

    I agree - there will be situations where equally qualified applicants are barred from the profession but the point from my examples is not that. It is simply that you are not forced to work for peanuts. Few firms will pay salaries this low and the ones that do will have to accept that the quality of graduates they receive is likely to be the same as other jobs paying similar wages. Whilst other jobs are free to pay more and attract graduates this way. Law is not special and does not justify a higher salary over other careers.

    But don't get me wrong I think LPC fees are ridiculous and the SRA is better tackling this than the minimum wage. A small number of very expensive LPC providers does no-one any favours - having a centrally set exam and allowing students to choose different ways of passing it (including self-taught methods) I think is a very good idea; or perhaps putting a cap on places to be closer to the actual number of training contracts on offer.

    My thinking is that students have a choice of many other careers and I dont think we should be incentivising them (by virtue of a higher salary) to choose a legal career over any other career. All career choices have their ups and downs and students will have to weigh-up their options and realise they are taking a risk (taking on so much debt) in choosing law and that less risky options exist. Those that have "dreams" of becoming solicitor should be realistic that this may never happen and we should at the very least expect them to look at other options rather than collect debt like pokemon and then complain that the SRA should be helping them pay it off.

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  • @ Anonymous 12.41pm

    Quite frankly I think you are missing the point completely, in fact, I would go as far to say that I'm not even sure if you have any idea wha the point is.

    So you say that it is the student's choice to take on the £40k worth of debt to qualify, and if they don't want the debt, then do something else...

    You say that students can complete their degree, but then elect to do a different job to pay off the debt if they don't want to fork out for the LPC. I ask you, what would the point of doing a degree be, if you were then going to elect to do a different job just to pay off the debt?

    You say people groan about social mobility and that it's not the SRA's job to make it happen anyway. That is quite strange, seems as though I was under the impression that the regulating body of the legal profession would be held accountable for regulating the profession, no?

    You say you would rather opt for the first of the two situations which you outlined, and I'm guessing that is because you have absolutely no idea of what the first one is like. When I read your comments it seems to me like you are oblivious to the fact that this decision will ultimately deter those who are financially burdened from entering the profession.

    I'll show you the workings out: at £6.08 per hour, 35 hours a week, monthly earnings would stand at £851.20. Now consider the current repayments on loans for the LPC, between £300-£400 pounds a month. That would leave roughly £450 a month spare. Then take away student finance repayments and overdraft repayments, and I doubt whether you are left with enough to rent a flat, nevermind clothing or feeding yourself.

    What this means is that people who benefit from the bank of mum and dad will not think twice about doing the course, just like they don't now, and people like me who have trained for 5 years and put in countless hours of hard work, will be priced out of the profession.

    This decision is foolish to the point where it enfuriates me to even read some of the comments that suggest maybe I go on down to Asda and hand in a CV, with the hope that I can count my chickens and start paying off my debts rather than do the LPC. Ridiculous.

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  • Daniel,

    you make some good points regarding how it is indeed wrong to simply suggest those who do not want to be in debt take other jobs. I also completely disagree with the decision by the SRA to scrap the minimum salary.

    However the rest of your comment is nonsense. Firstly it's simply boring now when self-funded LPC students go on about how hard they have worked. Everyone has. Get over it. The fact that you self-funded your LPC in no way means that you worked harder than those who have their places funded or those whose parents can afford to pay. In fact if it suggests anything it is that you didn't work hard enough at getting the grades or on your applications in order to secure a TC before you took the LPC.

    All this debating about minimum salaries is a complete waste of time and a smoke screen for the real issue here which is that there are too many LPC places! The irony is that it is the very people who self-fund, taking on silly amounts of debt, who drive the providers to be able to charge stupidly high fees and offer places to any who applies. Like others have said, more training contracts won't equate to more NQ positions. The SRA needs to focus on reducing the number of people who do the LPC. It is a professional course that should only be taken if you have secured a TC.

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  • There are a lot of people who seem to support this move based on the fact they are in a tough spot and feel like they are justifying the sacrifices they have made by adopting a I'll take all comers attitude, or maybe some of you genuinely believe you have to take 10 years of shit before finally make it in law. But this decision just comes in the context of the fragmentation of low and high earners in our society. The fact is the current high unemployment and wage depression in a society co-exists with booming wealth for the top percentiles and among them partners in large law firms. On the one hand they say the can't afford to increase training contract vacancies but on the other they make exisitng NQs and trainees work 70 hour weeks and the biggest firms have PEPs of around half a million. In this context this decision is just the latest in an effort by those already in privileged positions to kick away the ladder after themselves and chisel away opportunities for the future generations.

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  • I can't agree more with Daniel's comment(s) in particular the SRA's duty to regulate the profession. I find it extrememly hard to swallow the arguments of the SRA that a minimum salary is not conducive to their 'outcomes focuses regulation' when one of the pillars of that argument is that no other regulator sets a minimum salary for their profession. Well none of my neighbours recycle their waste so why should I bother?!?

    Perhaps it's just naive of me to think that, just as a solicitor has moral and ethical obligations to safegurad the interests of his clients, the SRA has a moral and ethical obligation to safeguard the interests of its professionals - and that includes trainees.

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  • Seems to me that there are two separate issues - what is the reasonable minimum wage for a trainee and how should the funding of the GDL and LPC be arranged.

    Personally, I don't think it is unreasoanble to pay the minimum wage to a trainee. It may create more TC opportunities in smaller firms. I also think some trainees have an overinflated view of their worth to the firm. It costs more than the salary paid to train you to be a qualified solicitor. The minimum wage is for a limited period, when you qualify, you would then expect to see a decent increase in salary at which point paying off the cost of the LPC and GDL will become that bit easier.

    To the person who complained about "what about those of us who really want to be lawyers", no ones stopping you, you just have to accept the reality of the situation, suck it up for a few years, get on with it and play the long game. As a career changer and someone who self-funded the GDL and LPC, that's exactly what I did.

    The main issue is the funding and expecting GDL and LPC fees to be paid whilst still a trainee. This is where the Law Society (as opposed to the SRA) should step in and try engage with lenders to provide loans where the commencement of repayment is deferred until qualification. It doesn't remove the problem of repayment and ultimately the borrower will pay more, but at least they won't have to start paying the loans until (hopefully) there are in a better financial position to do so.

    Lawyers in the making may also wish to think about the reality of the future. Except for a small proportion, don't expect qualification as a solicitor to be the golden goose it used to be. There are plenty of other roles out there paying similar or better money without the stress or hours that solicitor has to deal with.

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  • The LPC and it's associated cost has forced me out of following a dream I've had since being 10 years old to being a solicitor. But, being from what would be considered a low-income family, resilience has embedded itself in my psyche and I shall seek a career in the legal profession through an alternative route, I wanted to specialise in family law anyway, dare I say following the CILEx route could be a possibility now? It's still real law work, still in the area that I wished to practice, and pay before getting to that point will be more than £6.08 an hour!

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  • Stop whining, such overwhelming sense of entitlement. First, being paid min wage is not valuing you the same as a shelf stacker. You are still training, once trained you will go on to earn substantial sums, the shelf stacker will still be stacking. Two, as alluded to in previous para, you are still training but now, instead of paying, you are being paid. Being paid to be trained! If you don't want the training contract then go shelf stacking and leave the way clear for someone who does.

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  • Last week's announcement that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) would be scrapping the minimum salary for trainee solicitors has angered many within the profession. As a 2nd year law student who is perilously close to his overdraft limit all of the time, it might seem illogical that I am supportive of this new measure...
    For more opinion see http://www.thebuddinglawyer.co.uk/2012/05/trainee-solicitors-minimum-rage.html

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  • So it's 2:42am and I'm just leaving the office. I've left the office before 11pm only about 8 times in the last two years. Never mind what it is set at, I would like to GET an hourly wage! -magic circle trainee wage looks pretty ropey compared to paralegal/secretary/tesco shelf stackers, when you actually work out the "actual hours worked to wage earned." I hope I get better at spotting when someone is lying in a contract because "9:30-5:30 with occasional times when you may be asked to work later" is a shameless misrep of trainee training contract working times. And genuinely my firm is really caring and goes out of its way to not let trainers get abused (ie we are not slaughters) but nonetheless the time sheets speak for themselves.

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  • I'm about to apply for the LPC.

    All I want to ask those that have done it - is it really important if you want to become a solicitor (pretending now it isn't compulsory). In other words, could you leave Uni, and just 'learn on the job'.

    Or are skills you learn there paramount when embarking as a Trainee Solicitor?. Particularly if you are going into a very niche environment where you will not need to use employment, criminal or all those other courses.

    I don't understand why they can't somehow merge LPC stuff into a law degree (for those who choose them) and just make the Uni year slightly longer (like it is for Medics).

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