Solicitors Regulation Authority publishes research on trainee salaries

The SRA has released a new impact assessment looking at the deregulation of the prescribed SRA minimum salary for trainees. In 2014, the SRA removed the minimum salary levels for trainee solicitors. The previous levels of prescribed salary were replaced with a requirement for trainees to be paid at least the national minimum or living wage, with the idea that salaries should be set by market forces and the profession itself and that this could help increase the number of training contracts and access to the profession.

In particular the SRA wanted to find out about the impact on the distribution of salary levels of trainee solicitors and the association between salary and diversity and equality characteristics.

What was done?

  • Analysed data on 33,000 trainee solicitors, who started their training between January 2011 and December 2016;
  • Analysed the data of firms employing these trainees;
  • Assessed the relationship between trainees’ salary with the policy change, their diversity characteristics and firms who offer the training contracts;
  • Carried out online surveys aimed at employers, trainee solicitors and students, paralegals and others working in the legal sector, to seek their views on the impact, if any, of the removal of a prescribed minimum trainee salary.

Key Findings

Since the removal of the minimum trainee salary:

  • There has been an increase in the number of training contracts
  • Trainee pay has dropped, on average by £560 per year. The main cause of this has been a drop in the salary of the lowest earning trainees.
  • The majority of trainees (75%) and firms (82%) felt that the change had not had an impact (either positive or negative).
  • Trainees are now significantly more positive about salary levels than they were in 2012
  • The average pay gap between different ethnic groups has reduced significantly. This is mainly as a result of reductions in the salaries of White trainees. Black and Asian trainees are still generally paid less, as they are more likely to work in firms that pay less, such as sole practices and firms specialising in criminal, litigation or real estate work.
  • The average gender pay gap has increased slightly. Even taking account other factors such as the type of firm worked in, female trainees are still on average earning slightly less than males. The data did not provide evidence as to why this might be the case.

Read more about the SRA’s findings: Download Report

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