Exclusive: Dailly calls on Law Society to review trainee complaints procedures
Mike Dailly, principal of the Govan and Govanhill Law Centres has called on the Law Society of Scotland to review its current complaints procedure to afford more protection to vulnerable trainees.
He also accused the Society of scoring an “own goal” by refusing to take sides in instances where trainees have complained of abuse by their training firm.
“Having ‘your trainee’ spend most of their days picking up parcels, running personal errands, filing, or occupying the same space as the photocopier is contrary to the Post-Diploma Training Contract,” he said.
“The contract provides that ‘The Employer undertakes to provide the Trainee a reasonable training in the work of a solicitor within the scope of the employer’s practice …’. Reasonable training in the work of a solicitor’ does not mean leaving a trainee to run a branch office unsupervised, shouting or bawling at them because of your inadequacies, requiring them to spend all day and night photocopying, or dumping unprepared cases or court appearances on them at the last minute.
"The 2001 Admission as a Solicitor (Scotland) Regulations make provision for intervention by the Council of the Law Society where a trainee is not ‘receiving the benefits’ he or she ‘should receive from the training contract’. And this is perhaps where it all breaks down.”
Dailly was speaking at a debate organised by the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association: “This House Believes that Trainees are there to be exploited.” Dailly, together with Iain Mitchell QC spoke against the motion. Mitchell has recently prepared Counsel’s Opinion for the SYLA which found that trainees cannot be made redundant.
Dailly criticised the Law Society for failing to acknowledge the problem of trainee abuse, pointing out their claim that they had received no complaints of abuse from trainees.
“The elephant in the Law Society’s drawing room was the fact that many trainees had contacted them with serious concerns, but were told that in order for these to be acted upon they would need to make a formal complaint – which would then be disclosed to the firm. The reality was exploited trainees were too frightened to make a formal complaint. For obvious reasons, they feared they might never qualify or have a stain on their future career,” he said.
“Consider this. The Law Society of Scotland says ‘we don’t take sides’ in these matters. So you have to ask yourself why not? Only lawyers dealing with other lawyers could score such an own goal. There is no equality of arms between a trainee solicitor and his or her firm – so there is every possibility that a trainee solicitor would submit a complaint and lose hands down. We all have a professional obligation to stick up for our trainee solicitors and the current system is plain wrong.
“Moreover, we should call upon the Law Society to review its current complaints procedure, and give consideration as to how confidential complaints can be investigated, and how trainees subject to exploitative behaviour can be better supported.”