Why Do Firms of Solicitors Pay Such Poor Salaries?
In May of 2012 the Regulation Authority governing solicitors or SRA announced they were abolishing the current minimum wage standard paid to solicitors in training. Currently the minimum wage for solicitors in training is £18,590 in London and £16,650 elsewhere. However, beginning in August of 2014 these minimums vanish. While it sounds quite unbelievable, law firms will be able to pay solicitor trainees as low as £6.08 per hour.
The Law Society Gazette says the SRA decided to wait two years before subjecting new solicitors to the National Minimum Wage of just £6.08 per hour to minimize the impact of those still in training. Unfortunately, wages for solicitor trainees was already too low to comfortably live, imagine what will happen to the rule of law once the new standard takes effect. Obviously, this will stop the field from attracting new solicitors and only serve to back up the legal log-jam of cases even more, and will prevent poorer people from getting contacts.
The SRA offered its own feedback on the issue, and conceded deregulation might negatively affect women and minority groups from entering the legal profession. They also suggested, there is a definite risk that law firms would cut salaries as a result of the new plan. On the other hand, the Sole Practitioners Group is in favour of deregulation. They believe this will open up the market for new contracts and would create more opportunities for more people, albeit at a much lower wage. The current minimum wage was introduced by the Law Society in 1982. August 2014 will indeed be a sad day for the legal profession in the UK when the wage takes effect.
Many from all classes have sought to become solicitors. However, most believe deregulation is a huge step backwards in a time of economic uncertainty and the current high cost of living. In addition, those who enter the law profession must invest large amounts of time and money to obtain the proper training. The fact is £6.08 per hour is not a very big incentive to invest. Many who enter the field are already forced to volunteer or accept the already low trainee salary, and can barely make ends meet now. Living on £6.08 per hour is indeed not easy, if even possible.
Those lucky enough to have the backing of their families for the needed legal education and the new low salary are fortunate. Certainly, there are university scholarships, but the new wage is so low why even bother? The vast majority of students will simply choose another and higher paying vocation. Still, some law firms have chimed in and said they will be able to offer more contracts under the new mandate. Yet, starting at such a low wage means those who self-financed their education will only be adding to their already high debt load.
It seems almost unconscionable to pay a solicitor trainee an insulting £6.08 for one hour’s worth of work, after investing huge amounts of money and time for the required education. Unfortunately, the intended outcome of offering more contracts will likely not materialise. After all, who wants to go to law school to live in poverty?