LPC graduates face a pretty tough time getting training contracts at the moment. Not only is there an ever-increasing number of students graduating from the course – with training providers only too happy to offer more places – but the number of firms prepared to offer the training contract is dwindling.Things may have got worse as a result of the current economic woes, but aspiring lawyers have been struggling to break into the profession for some time. I recall writing a feature back in 2005 about how paralegals were being expected to perform fee-earning work for very low pay on the basis that they would ‘one day’ be offered a training contract, which all too often never materialised. Because they have not yet clasped their palms around that training contract holy grail, paralegals do not enjoy the protection of its guaranteed minimum salary. More than that, the minimum salary actually damages their chances of ever winning a training contract, because it makes it too expensive for firms to offer. Many firms are not being deliberately exploitative when they take on LPC students as paralegals. They would like to offer them a route to qualification, but they worry, often justifiably, that they can’t afford it. If they could take on their best paralegal staff as trainees, without having to up their salary (although of course the minimum salary level of £16,650 outside London or £18,590 in the capital, for someone who has already invested so much time and cash in their degree and LPC course, is not exactly big bucks) then I think that many firms would gladly offer this opportunity to their staff. True, a training contract will still involve a bigger regulatory burden than just employing someone as a paralegal, but surely the main barrier for firms is the financial obligation to pay a set wage. Groups such as the Junior Lawyers Division are against scrapping the minimum salary level. They are concerned that without it, trainees will be paid a pittance, and as well as being unfair, that could be detrimental to diversity in the profession, with only the better off able to afford to qualify. That is a fair point. There’s little doubt that if the Solicitors Regulation Authority does choose to stop laying down a minimum salary, many trainees will indeed find themselves facing a pay cut, and that could be seen as exploitation. But the fact is that many LPC graduates out there working as paralegals are already being exploited, and the only salary protection they have is the government’s minimum wage. Some LPC graduates are so desperate to secure a training contract that they are even prepared to conduct ‘work experience’ for free. After all, what is the justification for the SRA to interfere with firms’ freedom to decide what they should pay their staff? This doesn’t happen in most other walks of life. The only reason I can see is that the regulator is attempting to protect trainees, and the financial investment they have made in their education and training so far. But in doing so, it is making matters worse for the many talented individuals who have still to get their first foothold into the profession. The time has come to let the market, not the regulator, decide what trainees should be paid – and in doing so, open the door to many more aspiring lawyers.
Digging deeper – Anderson calls for renewed focus against England in ‘must-win’ Netball World Cup clash
Liverpool, England:Following their shocking 55-53 defeat to South Africa yesterday, the Sunshine Girls will be in for another bruising encounter today when they face hosts England in their second-round match in Group G of the Vitality Netball World Cup at the M&S Bank Arena here. Group G, which is comprises six teams, also includes Scotland, South Africa, Uganda, and Trinidad and Tobago, with the top two teams advancing to the semi-finals. However, interestingly, the teams that were drawn in the same group in the first round and have already played each other, will not face each other in this phase of the competition despite being in the same group, meaning that each team will play only three matches. The teams will instead carry over their goal average from the first round of the competition to this round of the tournament. Jamaica were totally outplayed in every department by the South Africans in the first two quarters of yesterday’s match. The Sunshine Girls, who are ranked second in the world, three places above the South Africans, committed 16 turnovers in the first two quarters on their way to their first defeat against South Africa since 2013. READY FOR COMEBACK Jamaica’s head coach, Marvette Anderson, said that they were deeply saddened by the loss but she is backing her team to return to winning ways against England today. “It is going to be tough, but we have been down this road before, and it is about how well you come back. I think that we are ready for that comeback,” said Anderson. “I think that when you play, you play to win, so it means that we just have to dig deeper in our match against England because it is a must-win for us,” she said. The Sunshine Girls have committed 81 turnovers in three matches in the competition so far, including 21 against the South Africans, and Anderson said the Jamaicans must do a better job of taking care of the ball against third-ranked England today. “We have been having a problem with turnovers, and I think we had too many early in this game. So we have to ensure that we protect the ball whenever we are in possession of it,” Anderson said. She said that yesterday’s defeat will not affect the team mentally. “It will definitely not affect the morale of the team because it was a competitive game, and we expected the fight, and we came out on the losing end, but that has not taken the sting out of our quest because we are going to be ready for our next game,” Anderson said. The match tips off at 9 a.m. Jamaica time.