Junior lawyers have called for a recommended trainee minimum salary, citing evidence that the abolition of a mandatory minimum will have dire consequences for diversity.
From next month, employers are only required to pay trainees the national minimum wage of £6.31. Previously, employers were required to pay a minimum salary of £18,590 per year for training contracts based in central London and £16,650 for those outside the capital.
The Junior Lawyers Division wants the Solicitors Regulation Authority to adopt a similar stance to that of the Law Society of Scotland, which recommends a minimum salary of £16,700 for first-year trainees.
In a letter to The Law Society, the JLD said: 'While it is appreciated that [a recommended minimum] will not be obligatory, providing "good practice" for the legal profession may guide the market.'
JLD chair Sophia Dirir (pictured) said: 'The minimum salary is inadequate in all areas of the country, for individuals who are already carrying significant debt.'
The JLD has campaigned against the removal of the mandatory minimum salary since it was first suggested by the SRA in 2012.
Dirir said its removal will be a 'step back for diversity.' In a poll of JLD members, 82% said they would not work for the statutory minimum if they had to self-fund their LPC course.
She said: 'This further reduction of the minimum salary will only serve to assist further exploitation of our more vulnerable members, who are carrying large debts. It is clear we are not doing enough as a profession to protect our junior members from exploitation. This affects the most vulnerable of our junior members.'
Dirir also questioned whether the number of training contracts will increase significantly as a consequence of the changes.
Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said: 'We opposed the abolition of the minimum salary for trainees and had significant concerns about the equality and diversity implications of the proposal, which is why we have lobbied the SRA strongly on this issue.
'We sympathise with the JLD and hope to meet them shortly to discuss how the Society can best assist them in addressing their concerns.'
The JLD said it would welcome the opportunity to liaise with the Society and consider an appropriate recommended rate.