Recommended salaries for trainee solicitors in Scotland are to rise by nearly £500 from 1 June 2017, following a decision by the Law Society of Scotland's Council.
At its meeting on Friday Council agreed that the recommended rate for first year trainees should rise from £17,545 to £18,000, and the rate for second-year trainees from £21,012 to £21,500.
The recommended rate is not compulsory, though it is often used as a benchmark for employers. Individual law firms or in-house employers must pay at least the national living wage, as set by the Living Wage Foundation.
Eilidh Wiseman, President of the Law Society of Scotland, commented: “It’s important that we strike the right balance when setting the recommended rate for trainee salaries. Trainees are the future of our profession and we want to ensure they are paid fairly for the work they do. However we fully understand that while we have seen improvements in the economy, which have undoubtedly contributed to the increase in traineeships, employers continue to have to control their costs, including salaries.
"Today's law graduates have more choice than ever in terms of the kind of career they want to pursue. Around half choose not to join the solicitors' profession and new roles, such as legal analyst positions, offer an alternative and attractive career path in law. We need to ensure that we can continue to attract high calibre individuals to the profession, which includes maintaining competitive pay rates for trainees."
She added: "Unfortunately some law firms just cannot afford to afford to take on a trainee. It is a problem acutely felt within the legal aid sector as cuts to budgets and stagnation in legal aid rates, some of which have not kept up with inflation for over two decades, have left margins so tight that paying the recommended rate is not feasible. For these firms the decision to take on a trainee is a difficult one and paying a salary below the recommended rate may be the only viable option."