A new policy statement by the Bar Standards Board states that pupil barristers will receive an award equivalent to the Living Wage. This is a significant victory for all who have expressed concerns that many cannot afford to make a career in law in sectors such as social welfare.
After completing legal studies, aspiring barristers usually undertake one year of training known as pupillage. Pupils currently receive a minimum award of £12,000, including at some chambers in central London. This policy statement from the barristers’ regulatory body means that this minimum will increase to £17,212.50 per year in London, and £14,765.63 outside London.
Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) is an organisation of aspiring and junior lawyers committed to areas of law that have traditionally been publicly funded. In March 2018 they published their Social Mobility Report, demonstrating the substantial difficulties young lawyers who want to work in sectors such as social welfare. They found that 53% of respondents earn less than £25,000 per year, with 30% earning below £20,000. They found low pay to be the biggest challenge facing young lawyers in the legal aid sector, followed by debt, stress, and the need for unpaid work experience.
“Unfortunately, I no longer work in legal aid. The junior criminal bar became too much; the financial anxiety was overwhelming. Working ten hour days when you didn’t know if you were going to be paid or not became too much.” – From YLAL’s social mobility report
Earlier this year, GMLC’s own Craig Holmes co-presented YLAL’s social mobility report in Manchester. Supporting the next generation of social welfare lawyers is a crucial aim for GMLC. One of the key recommendations of the social mobility report was to raise the minimum pupillage award in line with the Living Wage Foundation’s requirements, so we welcome this important step.