It’s a very soggy June 2012 and Nick Mason outlines the change to the trainee minimum salary and considers whether it will result in any deluge in the number of annual training contracts available.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has announced that from the 1st August 2014 they will no longer set a compulsory minimum salary for trainee solicitors who have to undertake two years of apprenticeship after obtaining academic legal, and practice – related, qualifications and before admission to the roll of qualified solicitors.
It was a widely held belief amongst many that a minimum salary was required to prevent exploitation of young would-be solicitors and to prevent a legal trainee from amassing yet more debt upon entry to the profession. It was also seen as a way to avoid restricting
the profession to the self funded affluent middle classes.
Others saw it as a bottleneck – there have, for some years, been a significantly greater number of aspiring solicitors than there were available annual training contracts and many legal careers foundered because so few firms offered training facilities. It was a waste of aspiration and hope.
Law firms currently face huge upheavals in funding and competition as retailers such as the Co-Operative enter the legal services market, private equity investors turn an eager eye to law firms and the legal aid system is closed down. De-skilling and commoditisation are the watchwords of the day as many try to reduce legal services to nothing more than clerks going through tick box exercises on a computer screen, in the name of delivering consumer focussed quality but providing exactly the reverse.
I am hopeful that the abolition of the minimum salary will open up entrance to the professon for those successful law students who wish to qualify as solicitors –
whether the legal profession will need solicitors at all in the future is an entirely different question. After all, we now have Google, don’t we?