What do I have to do to become a solicitor in Scotland?
Following completion of an undergraduate LLB, or the professional exams of the Law Society of Scotland, aspiring solicitors must then take two stages of a qualification known as ‘PEAT’.
As of 2011, the Law Society of Scotland has introduced a new means for training solicitors in Scotland. This is known as professional education and teaching, or PEAT, and is described as covering the postgraduate stages of becoming a solicitor. The training breaks down into two stages: PEAT 1, the diploma in professional legal practice, and PEAT 2, the traineeship.
PEAT 1: The diploma in professional legal practice
The diploma is the academic legal study toward becoming a solicitor. The focus of the diploma will be practical training alongside seminars and workshops. Assessment is normally through a mixture of coursework and exams, with courses often taught by currently practising solicitors. Entry criteria varies depending upon the university you are studying at, as do the fees for the course.
Only six universities in Scotland currently deliver the diploma:
- Robert Gordon University
- University of Aberdeen
- University of Dundee
- University of Edinburgh
- University of Glasgow
- University of Strathclyde.
The content of the diploma varies depending upon the institution. All candidates will study some core modules and are then given a list of elective modules to choose from. Below are the options on the course at Robert Gordon University.
- Business finance and practice
- Private client.
- Advanced civil litigation
- Commercial conveyancing
- Company and commercial
- Employment practice
- Negotiation, arbitration and mediation
- Oil and gas practice
- Public administration.
The diploma takes one year to complete if taken full-time. The Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde offer the course on a two-year part-time basis as well, and Robert Gordon University does also consider this in some individual cases.
The diploma must be completed before traineeship begins. It is valid for two years following completion (as of the 1 January following your award of the diploma), meaning that would-be solicitors get two bites at the cherry when applying for their traineeship. This has been extended in some cases due to the current economic climate, though the Law Society of Scotland, through whom candidates apply for traineeships, will want to see evidence that you’ve kept up to date with Scottish law during the interim period.
PEAT 2: The traineeship
A traineeship lasts for two years and is the practical application of the knowledge that you have developed from your studies up to this point.
The content and structure of traineeships varies considerably from firm to firm. Many are held in private practice solicitors’ firms, though a few are available in other firms employing their own in-house solicitors. They are based all over Scotland, so applicants will also have to consider the geographical implications of their choice.
Some traineeships are rotational, allowing the trainee to conduct their work in different ‘seats’ over the two years. A seat is essentially a department focusing on a particular area of law. Other traineeships are more generalised, so this is something you’ll need to take into account when considering how and where you wish to train.
Trainees are allocated a supervising solicitor with whom they meet quarterly to discuss their progress. Trainees must also keep a weekly log of their work, with 60 hours dedicated to continuing professional education also needing to be completed over the two years (at least 40 hours of which will be delivered by an authorised provider, rather than in-house). Once all these requirements are met, you will legally qualify as a solicitor and may practise your trade in Scotland.