Wednesday 16 May 2012 by John Hyde
Regulators have voted to partially deregulate the trainee solicitor minimum wage 30 years after it was introduced.
The board of the Solicitors Regulation Authority made the decision to change the terms of the salary at its meeting today - with the change coming into effect in September 2014. The tailored solicitor minimum salary will be scrapped, but the SRA will implement a minimum salary at the main rate in the National Minimum Wage, currently set at £6.08 an hour.
The change has been deferred for two years to minimise the impact on people already in the training system and allow future candidates to make informed decisions on their situation. The decision comes after a five-month consultation with the profession and despite concerns that deregulation will prevent poorer people from getting training contracts.
Partial deregulation will face criticism from the Law Society, which questioned the measure in its response to the consultation.
In its own summary of feedback, the SRA conceded there were fears that removing the minimum salary would have a disproportionate effect on women and black and minority ethnic groups.
The board papers admitted there was a risk that employers would decide to cut salary levels as a result of deregulation. There were also calls to defer a decision until the findings of the Legal Education and Training Review were known.
A minority of stakeholders responding to the consultation, including the Sole Practitioners Group and some would-be trainees, were in favour of deregulation. They argued it would open the market for training contracts and create more opportunities for individuals, even if they were on lower-paid contracts.
Samantha Barrass, SRA executive director, said: 'We wish to thank everyone who responded to the consultation, and those who took part in the stakeholder meetings, focus groups, and the online survey for their views and information that were taken into account in reaching this decision.
'This decision was based on an objective consideration of very full and detailed evidence gathered through a variety of sources.'
There were 130 responses to the consultation, about 60 individuals in total attended nine focus group sessions across four cities, and over 1,300 individuals responded to the SRA's online survey.
The minimum salary was introduced in 1982 by the Law Society to protect trainees from exploitation and to encourage high-calibre graduates into the profession.
Currently firms have to pay their trainees £16,650 a year, rising to £18,590 in London.