I am writing this as one of the few trainees who is currently working for nothing. When I say nothing, I mean nothing. No money, no training, no respect and no supervision.
Warning bells began ringing when I started in the firm – where I had agreed to work on the basis that my first year would be for free and my second year would be paid – and was not given a training contract. So I was left to draft that on my own. On handing it to my supposed training supervisor, the bells became a deafening siren as the issue of what number would go beside my second year wage was met with the reply: “I haven’t decided what you are worth to me yet”. In desperation to get my training contract registered, it went through as “at least minimum wage” for my second year. My first year will soon be up and I have still not been told what my “worth” is.
The siren lowered to a faint persistent alarm after this, with no training programme to speak of, not even a skeletal one. I was thrown in the deep end and was in a state of half drowning, half treading water as I self-taught my way through my workload. Every day brought another straw to break the camel’s back: requests for help went unnoticed, drafts went unrevised, leaving me feeling unfulfilled as the hopeful trainee in me drained away along with my self-worth.
Just as the camel accepted it would never get back up again, there was a kick which landed square in its jaw. The PCC – which all training firms will know is a mandatory element of the traineeship, to be completed between six and 18 months from commencement of the traineeship – had been organised. I had gone through the providers and found an available space and filled in the forms. Leaving my training supervisor with the overwhelming task of signing on the line and writing a cheque. I was told it couldn’t go through quite yet because of a funding issue. It would be sorted by the time I got back from holiday.
Well, I got back from holiday, the PCC was not booked and the place was now gone. On confronting the training supervisor I was told that I was a liar, that he knew nothing of the course, he hadn’t seen the forms – no, wait… he did see the forms but he didn’t know what to do with them. I had not realised that signing a bit of paper was such a big ask! Next time I will leave him step-by-step instructions. (1) Pick up the pen. (2) Move the pen down towards the paper where it is marked “Signature”… Wait, wait a wee minute here! Was organising the PCC not actually his responsibility in the first place as the training supervisor?
So that’s the end of my bitter ramblings and anecdotes, but what was my point? I guess it is to say thank you to the Law Society of Scotland for having brought in the minimum wage to be paid to all future trainees. Because I can tell you from first hand experience that a solicitor who does not feel the moral obligation to pay a trainee, will not feel obligated to do anything else, even if those obligations are part of a contract. The passing of the minimum wage requirement has not helped me personally, but as someone who cares about the future of the profession (unlike my training supervisor), I am so glad to know that unethical solicitors cannot take advantage of desperate would-be-trainees and cheapen the profession. As for me, all I can hope for now is for an NQ position in the future with an ethical firm, but after the beating this camel has just had it’s hard to believe that such a thing is anything more than a distant mirage.Name and address supplied