NI Law Society consulting insurers on publication of trainee pay legal opinion

NI Law Society consulting insurers on publication of trainee pay legal opinion

The Law Society of Northern Ireland has said it is consulting with its insurers before deciding whether to publish a legal opinion on trainee solicitors’ entitlement to the national minimum wage.

Last month, Irish Legal News reported how solicitor firms were shocked to be told they owed up to tens of thousands of pounds in back pay to trainee solicitors and faced HMRC enforcement action if they failed to pay up.

The issue relates to the widespread practice of trainee solicitors not being paid by their firms during the period they spend studying and sitting exams at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies (IPLS).

The Society told firms it had negotiated a “grace period” with HMRC giving them until March 2024 to make payments covering the last six years.

However, senior lawyers including Jonathan McKeown of JMK Solicitors have questioned the legal basis for the U-turn on trainee pay and called on the Society to provide clarity and support.

In an email sent to members last week, the Society said its ruling Council had “considered the matter of releasing the opinion obtained from senior counsel on the national minimum wage issue as it applies to trainee solicitors”.

It continued: “Whilst wishing to be as open and transparent as possible with its members, Council considered that it would first be necessary to confirm that the Society’s insurers have no objection to the release of the opinion.

“The chief executive has therefore written to our insurers to clarify this point and a further update will be provided upon receipt of reply.”

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