THE Law Society of Scotland is recommending a 3% increase in the wages of trainee solicitors.

The move, the first rise for two years, sees the professional body suggesting a salary of £16,700 in the first year and £20,000 in the second. Although the recommended rate is not binding, most law firms or companies which employ trainee lawyers use it as a benchmark. The Law Society says typically seven out of eight trainees are paid its recommended rate or higher.

Christine McLintock, convener of the Society's education and training committee, said the organisation was trying to strike the right balance.

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She said: "Trainees are the future of our profession and we want to see them being paid properly for the work they do. Equally, we know the fragile state of the economy means firms and companies are having to carefully control their costs, including salaries.

"The reality is that today's law graduates have more choice than ever before in terms of where to work after leaving university. Around half choose not to go into the solicitors' profession, and new roles, such as legal analyst positions, are now opening up.

"We need to try and maintain competitive rates of pay so we can continue to attract the brightest and the best in becoming Scottish solicitors."

Ms McLintock acknowledged the economic problems in the sector, particularly in those firms where legal aid makes up a large degree of fee income.

She said: "Reduced rates of pay have left margins so tight that paying the recommended rate is often not feasible."