How to become a lawyer in Scotland

Written by patricia coldiron | 13/05/2017
How to become a lawyer in Scotland
Scottish courts operate the law independent of English law. (column image by astoria from Fotolia.com)

If you're interested in becoming a lawyer in Scotland, you can choose between being a solicitor or an advocate. As a solicitor, you work in an office, as well as the courtroom, and your duties include appointments with clients, taking phone calls, and defending clients in court. An advocate works in the courtroom, arguing matters of complicated law. By satisfying educational, practical experience and training requirements, you'll be ready to start your career as a lawyer in Scotland.

Education

Aspiring solicitors and advocates who graduate from one of 10 law schools with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree, are eligible for direct entry into the Diploma in Legal Practice.

If you're interested in practicing law in England or Wales/Northern Ireland, you can obtain law degrees in Scottish and English law from Dundee Law School, and an accelerated program is offered, allowing you to graduate in two years.

Aspiring solicitors who haven't graduated from law school, can take professional examinations offered by the Law Society of Scotland, before studying for the Diploma in Legal Practice. Before you can take these examinations, you must train with a qualified solicitor for three years.

Legal practice

After graduating from law school, aspiring solicitors and advocates must complete the Diploma in Legal Practice, which is offered by seven Scottish universities. This 26-week course serves as a bridge between your law degree and practical training with a solicitor, and though most of the course will take place at a university, practicing advocates and solicitors will do most of the teaching. You'll study required courses such as civil and criminal court practice, financial services, accounting, private client and professional responsibility, as well as choosing to study either company and commercial or public administration.

Solicitor training

Once you receive your Diploma in Legal Practice, as an aspiring solicitor, you must complete a two-year training contract with a solicitor. During the contract period, you must maintain a logbook, and performance reviews must be submitted quarterly to the Law Society. Fulfilling these requirements, combined with a statement from your employer that you're suitable to enter the law profession, completes the Assessment of Professional Competence for an aspiring solicitor.

You're required to attend a two-week Professional Competence Course at some point during your training. This course must be offered by an accredited member of the Law Society, such as a law firm or university.

Advocate training

Advocates, also known as devils, spend eight to nine months training and working with a devil master. You start with a seven-week foundation course in the autumn, with core skills classes taking place in January, March and May. These core skills usually begin with a lecture, followed by a demonstration, and then advocates can practice skills they've learnt. "There are no passing or failing grades, and instructors immediately review performances," according to the Faculty of Advocates.

Subjects covered in training include communication skills, cross examination of witnesses, motions, judicial review, vulnerable witnesses, professional responsibility and personal ethics.

Once your training ends, you'll be assessed by your devil master in both written and oral advocacy, as well as your work experience. If she thinks you're competent, you'll be eligible for admission to the Faculty of Advocates.

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