2015-16 Chair's Messenger Article Dec '15
Recommended Minimum Trainee Salaries – are we forgetting something?
In a break from my usual facetiousness, I wanted to add my two pence worth to an issue which I’m sure others will comment upon at length. Last month saw the announcement from the Law Society that its recommended minimum salary for trainee solicitors would increase to £18,183 outside of London. The figure was calculated on the basis of a combination of the living wage and average LPC repayment costs. Fair enough. However, the problem here is that trainees tend to dominate when it comes to any discussion of junior lawyers. Paralegals, conversely, are often conveniently ignored.
Before the pot calls the kettle black, I would point out that the MTSG (Manchester Trainee Solicitor Group) [of which I am the Chairman] is a prime, if only superficial, example of this. The group is open to all junior lawyers and counts a huge numbers of paralegals amongst its members. However, its name refers only to trainees. Admittedly, whilst part of the explanation for MTSG retention of this name is historical, the other is that neither I, the present committee nor our predecessors, have been brave enough to risk the marketing disaster that might ensure if a more all-encompassing name change were to be effected.
As I have mentioned, the way in which the recommended salary has been calculated, according to the Law Society’s press release, is the sum of the living wage and the cost of average annual LPC repayments which are calculated to be over £3,000 per annum. Effectively, therefore, the Law Society has recommended that trainees actually receive a living wage which accounts for financial obligations incurred as a prerequisite to employment as a trainee solicitor. Although it’s hardly ground-breaking stuff, few would argue this is anything but a positive step.
However, it is the basis of the calculation of the suggested minimum wage which, for me, highlights the problem facing paralegals. Many, perhaps even most, of the many highly intelligent, hardworking and eager paralegals working across Manchester will also, like their trainee colleagues, be LPC graduates. This will mean that they too will often be lumbered with the same £3,000 per year loan repayments but with much slimmer pay-packets with which to service their debts. Moreover, this is something which firms will be well aware of when they fill their paralegal vacancies with the ‘most qualified’ candidates.
Feel free to call me an idealist but given how profitable paralegals can be, should the legal community not seek to ensure that all members of the profession receive a living wage which takes into account the huge financial cost of entering it.
Glass Half Full!
As we enter the festive period, FELT have a wine tasting event which we are sure will help warm away the winter blues. The event is set for 9 December 2015 at Salut Wine Bar just off Albert Square. Attendees will be treated to several glasses of the fine stuff, with each variety explained in full by the friendly and well informed staff as well as a few nibbles to go with it. The FELT calendar is well and truly up and running and we are looking to meet those from smaller firms all over Manchester. To secure your place at the event, tickets will shortly be going on sale for £5 with limited spaces available so be sure to act quickly to avoid missing out.
Education, Education, Education
Our extremely hard-working Education Directors Joe Ailion and Rachel Forbes have launched into an incredibly interesting and useful programme of career-enhancing opportunities for MTSG members. October saw members attend a Pro Bono & Employability Fair, a careers presentation at Manchester Metropolitan University and a Humanities Law School seminar at the University of Manchester. We will be attending a Q&A Panel in November at BPP, alongside assisting with the University of Law’s mentoring scheme launch and promoting MMU’s mentor match programme. We’ve been inundated with volunteers and at the moment are fully-booked for these events but please check our Twitter, website and regular MTSG update emails for details of other opportunities coming your way which you can use to develop extra-curricular skills and enhance your CV!