Scotland has its own legal system separate to that of England and Wales, follows its own procedures and uses its own terminology. When England and Scotland were politically unified in 1707 and Great Britain was born, Scotland maintained its own legal system. It therefore follows that Scotland has a separate qualification route for its lawyers.

Solicitors in Scotland play a very similar role to their English counterparts, giving legal advice to clients, acting on their behalf in legal matters, and even representing them in court. Barristers are known as advocates in Scotland. They are experts in representing clients in court and the majority are self-employed and based at Parliament House in Edinburgh. Others occupy roles in industry or are employed by local government.

It is useful to note that a number of changes have been made to the legal education system in Scotland recently. In 2011 the rules changed so that all those wishing to be a solicitor must complete a Foundation Programme. At the moment, this means that they must complete an LLB at a Scottish University, but leaves room for some variation in the future. The Diploma in Professional Legal Practice (DPLP) has been renamed the Professional Education and Training Stage 1 (PEAT 1). The traineeship is now known as the Professional Education and Training Stage 2 (PEAT 2). We will use the new names for each stage in this article, however ‘DPLP’ is still commonly used.

To give you a thorough overview of how to qualify as a lawyer in Scotland, we’ve split our article into the three stages of qualification: university, vocational training, and the training contract.

University:

There are several routes to qualify, however, if you don’t do a law degree it can be a little more difficult than in England and Wales as there is no equivalent to the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion qualification.

The usual route starts with a four-year law degree (LLB) at one of ten Scottish universities:

If you wish to practice as a lawyer in Scotland, it is important to note that an LLB from an English or Welsh university isn’t recognised as part of the qualification system in Scotland. This also applies in reverse as a Scottish LLB is not recognised in England and Wales. However, if you study at either the University of Dundee or the University of Strathclyde, you have the option of taking some modules in English law which will earn you a dual-qualified law degree. This will allow you to take the next part of your training in either Scotland or England and Wales.

There is an alternative to the LLB. This involves completing a three-year training contract with a Scottish solicitor which will include instruction in certain compulsory areas. At the end of your contract, you will sit the Law Society of Scotland’s professional exams. There can be a lot of competition for these training contracts as not many solicitors’ firms offer them.

Vocational training:

The next step is to take the 26-week PEAT 1 course. This is the equivalent of the Legal Practice Course (LPC) in England and Wales. You can take this course at six universities in Scotland:

Qualified solicitors carry out a lot of the training and it covers much of the practical knowledge and skills that will be useful as you start your career.

Training contract:

The training required for solicitors and advocates starts to differ at this stage.

Solicitors:

The final stage of qualification for solicitors is PEAT 2. This is a two-year paid training contract with a practicing solicitor. Throughout the contract you will need to meet several requirements:

  • Complete 60 hours of trainee continuing professional development (TCPD)
  • Attend eight quarterly performance reviews (PQPR) to assess your progress with your supervisor
  • Maintaining your own Law Society of Scotland’s own PEAT 2 diary,
  • Achieve competency in the PEAT 2 outcomes
  • Be approved as fit and proper to practice as a solicitor by your supervisor

If you meet all of these requirements, you can be admitted as a fully qualified solicitor, by the Law Society of Scotland. To maintain this status, you will need to complete 20 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) every year.

Advocates:

Once they have completed PEAT 1, trainee advocates must also complete a period of paid training in a solicitors’ office. This is only 21 months but is followed by nine-months ‘devilling’ as a pupil to a qualified advocate. Once this has been completed, the final stage is an exam on oral and written advocacy before the candidate can be accepted by the Faculty of Advocates as a fully qualified advocate.

 

If you are already qualified as a solicitor or a barrister in another part of the European Union, there are transfer tests which will allow you to practice in Scotland. For example, solicitors in England and Wales can take the Intra-UK test and qualify as a Scots solicitor.

 

Want more information on what being a solicitor involves? Read our job description which takes you through day-to-day responsibilities as well as explaining what skills you’ll need. Looking for how to qualify as a lawyer in England and Wales? This guide will tell you all you need to know.

 

Take a look at the vacancies we currently have in Scotland.

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