Recently, there has been a lot of discussion regarding pupillage allowances. Most legal practitioners recognise that pupils should receive an allowance. The issue, rather, is how much the said allowance should be.
It cannot be denied that there are various factors which come into play when determining how much allowance a pupil should be given.
In order to contribute to the all-important discussion in a more constructive and concrete manner, I would like to propose the following formula as a guide in determining a pupillage allowance sum:
Pupillage Allowance = Pupil’s Key Expenses (A) + Top Up (B)
Formula for (A): Monthly Rental (if any) + Food* + Transportation + Loans (if any)
The purpose of (A) is to ensure the Pupil’s core needs and expenses are met.
*at a reasonable sum based on the average cost per meal in the locality
Formula for (B): Approximate total number of hours the Pupil works in a month x a chosen multiplier**
The purpose of (B) is to, inter alia:
i. compensate the Pupil for his/her qualification;
ii. compensate the Pupil for time spent working for the firm;
iii. compensate the Pupil for experience gained; and
iv. provide some room for savings by the Pupil
Application of the formula to me (when I was a pupil):
|Food||RM560.00 (only for lunch & dinner)|
|Transportation||RM300.00 (for petrol & car maintenance for a daily commute of 60 to 80 minutes to and fro work)|
|Approximate total number of hours worked in a month||220 (11 hours per day x 5 days a week x 4 weeks in a month)|
|Proposed Pupillage Allowance based on the formula [(A) + (B)]||RM2,129.40|
Application to X (a current pupil in the Klang Valley):
|Rental||RM850 (including utilities of RM150)|
|Food||RM750 (low) to RM1,000 (high)|
|Transportation||RM100 (for petrol & car maintenance for a daily commute of 60 to 90 minutes to and fro work)|
|(A)||RM1,700 (low) / RM1,950 (high)|
|Approximate total number of hours worked in a month||200 (10 hours per day x 5 days a week x 4 weeks in a month)|
|Proposed Pupillage Allowance based on the formula [(A) + (B)]||RM2,854.00 (low) / RM3,104.00 (high)|
The following benefits arise from the proposed formula:
i. The pupillage allowance is adjusted based on the costs in a given locality;
ii. The pupillage allowance is adjusted based on a Pupil’s circumstances;
iii. It attempts to balance the Pupil’s need to have his/her needs met, reasonable compensation for the Pupil, and the Firm’s need to keep its operating expenses at a reasonable figure; and
iv. The pupillage allowance scales up based on the number of hours worked by the Pupil
Having said that, admittedly, the proposed formula will have its deficiencies. The proposed formula is not intended to be the be all and end all formula or the authoritative formula which must be adopted as it is.
Rather, the proposed formula is intended to be a starting point for further discussion and can be refined further to account for its weaknesses.
 E.g. Facebook posts by Mr. Mathew Thomas Philip (the founder and Managing Partner of Messrs. Thomas Philip) on 18th November 2020 [https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10160555257589126&id=534664125] and 21st November 2020 [https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10160563524539126&id=534664125]; the #Tough Talk webinar which was conducted by Messrs. Calvin Khoo on 4th December 2020 (https://www.facebook.com/messrscalvinkhoo/videos/1102214960237537)
 See e.g. Mr. Fahri Azzat’s article titled, “A Pupil’s Remuneration” (https://fromthebarstool.life/2020/11/23/pupils-remuneration/), Mr Donovan Cheah’s LinkedIn post (https://www.linkedin.com/posts/donovancheah_legalprofession-activity-6735533715948220416-yduS). Most (if not all) of the panelists of the the #Tough Talk webinar which was conducted by Messrs. Calvin Khoo on 4th December 2020 (https://www.facebook.com/messrscalvinkhoo/videos/1102214960237537) agreed that pupils should be remunerated
 E.g. the pupil’s past experience, the pupil’s competency, the fact that pupillage is a form of mandatory apprenticeship, the fact that practitioners are not required to take in pupils, the extent to which pupils can contribute to the firm, how much the firm can afford given its current revenue and operating expenses
 Reference could be made to websites such as Numbeo (https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Kuala-Lumpur) and Expatistan (https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/country/malaysia)
 This figure reflects the minimum hourly rate introduced by the Minimum Wages Order 2020 (P.U. (A) 5/2020) [https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/MONOGRAPH/109409/135721/F-1288800926/MYS109409_MW%20Order%202020.pdf]
 This figure reflects the minimum hourly rate introduced by the Minimum Wages Order (Amendment) 2018 (P.U. (A) 305/2018) [http://www.federalgazette.agc.gov.my/outputp/pua_20181128_P.U.%20(A)%20305.pdf]