Scrapping the minimum salary could force some trainee solicitors to claim housing benefits and take on second jobs, creating an image that will neither benefit the profession nor promote social mobility within it, the Law Society has warned.
In its response to a Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) consultation on minimum salary requirements for trainee solicitors, the Society said that it has always 'strongly supported' a minimum salary so that trainees could focus on their training 'without the distraction of financial worries'.
Removing the minimum salary 'safeguard' would also expose trainees to 'exploitation' and have a disproportionate impact on those from less privileged backgrounds, the Society said.
Without the minimum salary, the law would be seen as a career only for those able to 'fund their training years', reinforcing the perception that it was an 'elitist profession'.
The Society's response was critical of the SRA's conduct of the consultation. It questioned why the SRA had not undertaken a full equality impact assessment on the likely outcome of stopping the minimum salary. This would have helped the SRA outline its 'proposed direction of travel' and enabled consultees to give a 'more informed response'.
The Society added that 'repeatedly requested' data from the SRA on how many firms request 'waivers' for the minimum salary 'has not been forthcoming'. This data would give a 'useful indicator of any possible movement down the pay scale' if the minimum salary was scrapped.