updated on 21 July 2021
Candidates undergoing qualifying work experience (QWE) must be paid the same as those completing a training contract, the Law Society has recommended.
Under the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) system, employers are not legally obliged to pay QWE trainees the same wage as they would a trainee solicitor. However, the Law Society has recommended firms who provide training contracts and QWE should pay aspiring solicitors £20,217 outside London and £22,794 in the capital. The recommendation is based on the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) transitional arrangements to “ensure parity across both routes.”
The recommended minimum salary was introduced by the Law Society in 2015 after the SRA ended the regulatory requirement of a minimum payment for trainees. In February, the recommended rate rose 1.1% to the current amount. It came into effect on 1 May 2021 and employers were encouraged to implement the increase within the next six months.
Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “With the implementation of the SQE, firms should be clear that employees, no matter which route they take, will be treated fairly.”
The Law Society worked closely with the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) to amend the salary policy to ensure that those employed to undertake the QWE are not disadvantaged. The Law Society and the JLD firmly believe that entry to the legal profession should be on merit only and an individual’s financial circumstances should not pose a barrier to their legal career.
JLD Chair Manda Banerji urged firms to adopt the recommendation given the positive impact of social mobility, equality and diversity.
Steven Murray, qualifications manager for Law Training Centre and campaigner for improvements in legal training commented: “The recommendation by the Law Society firmly reinforces the industry belief that access to the profession and rewards should be based on merit alone – not simply whether someone has the means to follow a traditional route into the profession. The SQE is already increasing access, in fact many of our learners are telling us that this has removed a significant barrier for them to work towards qualifying as a solicitor – something they simply would not have been able to do otherwise. Many law firms are already focusing on increased diversity and we believe this should help encourage more to do so.”
The recommendation comes ahead of the 1 September launch of the SQE, when the legal profession is predicted to face its biggest change in 30 years.