We recently received the following job application from an online job board:
You have received a reply to your ad: "Law Firm Receptionist" posted in Reception & Switchboard Jobs in [a greater London area].
To offer £16,000 p/a you must be either very greedy or not performing well as a company.
I believe that London's living wage is £9.40 p/h. In fact- cleaners earn more in these days.
If I accepted your salary - I would have to choose between either paying my London rent -or buying food. And because I would not be afford to use a public transport to get to work ,- to your office I would fly on a magic carpet. By the way- Would you survive on 16k in London?"
Hello Anna – many thanks for your application, which we agree with completely!! I have written the following response and posted your application and my response onto the Legal Recruitment Blog (your email address has been removed).
We know of a number of solicitors firms in and around London who seem to think that people go to work simply to help the partners keep ailing businesses afloat or maintain a luxury lifestyle they probably can’t afford.
It doesn’t matter how many times we break the news to some clients that Queen Victoria died in 1901 they still act as if she is on the throne. I suppose there is an option to save money by sleeping rough on the streets during the week and then walk home at the weekend, but I guess you don’t fancy pushing things to that extreme.
The Living Wage is £9.40 per hour. If you assume someone on a salary works full time for 7.5 hours per day, 5 days per week, for 48 weeks of the year, this equates to £16,920. Season tickets for travelling in zones 1-6 appear to cost £227 a month.
So yes you are absolutely right – this firm are potentially advertising a role at less than the Living Wage and it would be very hard to work and be able to enjoy any of the income you earned. We had another firm recently doing the same type of thing - offering £14k - but dangling training contract carrots in front of potential paralegals.
In defence of some of the employers – the hourly rate for legally aided work has not gone up a lot since 1991 and in fact for crime has been reduced by 17.5% as crime solicitors are quite clearly earning too much at £53.84 for complex advocacy in the Magistrates Court. Their hourly rates now equate to a lot less than most garages charge per hour for a qualified mechanic to look at a car.
Other areas of law though not dependent on legal aid have no similar excuse – and if a business is undertaking an uneconomical area of work they ought to be seriously considering their own commercial acumen, not trying to get staff to work for next to nothing.
Sometimes we advertise vacancies that offer unbelievably poor salaries to potential candidates but we are bound to do so by the terms of our contracts with our clients. We can express individual opinions on salary levels, but at the end of the day it is up to jobseekers to vote with their feet and avoid vacancies.
We are considering as an agency refusing to advertise anything that is less than the National Living Wage, or indicating that the National Living Wage is not being met on particular vacancies. Your email has provoked us into further thought on this issue so many thanks.
Solicitors firms fall into 3 categories. The first is the city and commercial sector – these firms pay very high salaries in comparison with their counterparts but why not – they earn it and their staff work amazingly long hours. The second is the decent high street sector- firms generating solid profits based on firm foundations with salaries to ensure longevity and loyalty. The third is the not so decent high street sector where staff are a very temporary commodity with no effort made at all to recruit at a level someone can actually afford to work at.
So thanks for taking the time to apply – we like your wit and hope you go far!
Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment
Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and a non-practising Solicitor. Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment provides online Legal Recruitment for Solicitors, Legal Executives, Fee Earners, Support Staff, Managers and Paralegals. Visit our Website to search our Vacancy Database.