Should you pay your interns? Law Society publishes new guidance for law firms
The Law Society of Scotland has produced new guidance on law firm internships as part of its work on fair access to the legal profession.
The guidance, developed alongside the Society's work with Adopt an Intern, aims to promote high quality internships and sets out the legal obligations for those who take on interns.
Alistair Morris, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: "This is an important issue for the profession today and for the future. It is vital that the profession is open to as wide a variety of people as possible and that we maintain excellent standards in education and training, while challenging existing barriers to becoming a solicitor.
"There is no standard legal definition for an intern but our new guidance will help firms clarify what an intern is, compared to someone who is work-shadowing or a volunteer, and their entitlement to payment."
The Law Society describes a good quality internship as one which has been openly advertised; has fair and transparent recruitment and selection process; provides a quality learning experience; complies with the national minimum wages; offers regular feedback and a review at the conclusion.
Morris said: "Our fair access to the profession work has examined each stage of the route to qualification as a solicitor, including matters relating to trainee recruitment.
"Many law students seeking a traineeship will take on some form of work experience with law firms or in-house legal departments. Equally, many law firms use their internship programmes as part of their trainee recruitment process which means that securing an internship is viewed as an important step in securing a traineeship leading to qualification as a solicitor.
"There has been increasing competition for jobs and traineeships, and some law graduates have been willing to take on unpaid placements to gain all important work experience.
"We want to make sure that individuals with the ability and desire to become a solicitor can do so no matter what their financial background might be. Students are keen to gain practical experience and boost their vocational skills and for many an internship is a route to gaining a traineeship at a law firm. However we know that some students simply cannot afford to take on an unpaid role so are immediately at a disadvantage compared to some of their peers who have enough funds to be able to do so.
"The guidance will provide clarity for firms about what they can offer students in terms of work experience and internships and will help promote good practice throughout the legal profession."
Notes to editor
The guidance on interns is available on the Society's website.
A wide-ranging action plan aimed at making the route to qualification as a solicitor as fair as possible was approved by the Law Society of Scotland Council in January 2014
The two-year action plan is based on the 21 recommendations of the ' Fair Access to the Legal Profession' report. The recommendations include running a Street Law project in schools; making access to legal internships fairer; and a re-evaluation of the alternative route to qualification.
The Society has worked closely with the Campaign for Fair Access to the Legal Profession, the Scottish Young Lawyers' Association, and the Trainee and Newly Qualified Society amongst other organisations throughout this process.
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15 July 2014