Advocate - Scotland

Advocates in Scotland (sometimes known as counsel) perform similar roles as barristers in England and Wales but undertake a rather different training process.

What's it like...

Advocates specialise in the preparation and presentation of court cases and receive such cases from solicitors. Advocates also provide legal advice but are only involved in litigation generally of a more complicated nature. So, in the criminal sphere it will be the High Court of Justiciary; in the civil sphere it will be in any court, but largely the Court of Session. Advocates will be involved in more complicated cases in the Sheriff Courts.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • Having their own expertise in certain areas of the law.
  • Building a rapport with the relevant solicitor and client.
  • Examining all the documentation which has been referred to them and becoming familiar with any witness statements.
  • Being prepared for lengthy appearances in court, often high profile. Some cases in the High Court/Court of Session can last for many weeks or months.
  • Cross-examining (questioning) witnesses and clients in court when required.
  • Acting as mediators in arbitration cases.

The majority of advocates are self-employed and are based at the Advocates Library in Parliament House, Edinburgh. Advocates belong to “stables” which are effectively different teams within the Advocates Library.

However, some advocates are not self-employed but employed directly by the Procurator Fiscal Service. These advocates are called Crown Counsel and prosecute cases in the High Court.

Advocates may also become involved with the Scottish Government or Scottish Parliament in terms of drafting legislation.

How do I become an advocate?

You must obtain the following:

1. LLB Scots Law honours degree (or an equivalent)

If you’ve undertaken the LLB and haven’t done the LLB with Honours, you would have to do an LLM that would make up for the lack of Honours.

If you have undertaken the two-year accelerated Scots Law degree and you have come from a previous degree with Honours, then the Honours in the previous degree will count for the need to have Honours. However, if your previous degree was not with Honours, then you would still need to have some form of advanced study such as an LLM.

Additional requirements

As well as those steps that would get you to practise as a solicitor, the Faculty of Advocates requires a couple of academic subjects that the Law Society of Scotland doesn’t require. Most importantly, those are in Roman Law or Civil Law and International Private Law; which have to be passed before you start at the Faculty.

Can you take these additional subjects e.g. Civil Law in third or fourth year of the Scots Law LLB?

The Faculty of Advocates doesn’t make any requirements as to when you pass Civil Law etc. – you can take it whenever it works for you:

  • You can take it in third or fourth year of your Scots Law LLB


  • You can take it during the Diploma

If you haven’t studied these subjects at university, and you can’t go back to university at some point to obtain these subjects, then the Faculty offers examination on these subjects – the Faculty only requires that you pass these before you start “Devilling”.

2. Professional Education and Training Stage 1 (PEAT 1)

This is also known as the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice. This focuses on the practical skills and knowledge required and is available at one of six universities in Scotland.  

3. A two-year traineeship, also known as Professional Education and Training Stage 2 (PEAT 2)

This is paid, work-based training with a practising solicitor.  

After completion of the traineeship, law graduates can either decide at this point to become an advocate or once they have gained experience as a practicing solicitor. The Faculty of Advocates provides guidance for Scottish solicitors who are interested in transferring to the bar:

Faculty of Advocates - Information for Scottish solicitors

If law graduates decide to become an advocate as soon as their traineeship has finished, they must start the process of joining the Faculty of Advocates and apply as an “Intrant” with the Faculty of Advocates.

4. “Devilling”

The next stage is to start the nine-month unpaid apprenticeship period, known as “devilling”. This starts late September/early October through to June with an experienced advocate, known as the “devilmaster”. Devilling comprises a combination of classroom-based work of about 10 weeks, cross-examining witnesses and giving submissions. It also involves shadowing qualified advocates who show you what life is like at the bar.

Devilling is a self-contained process: it is not done whilst you’re doing other work. You can undertake some part-time work whilst doing it, e.g. tutoring at university, writing articles, or other work of that type but you can’t do it whilst undertaking a traineeship. You need to make sure you have sufficient financial resources to fund yourself for 10 months.

The Faculty runs a scholarship application process and runs a number of scholarships that allow you to at least have some financial resources if you don’t otherwise have them for the period of devilling. These are put in place before you have to make the decision to start devilling. The application for scholarships runs about a year in advance for the application process for devilling. More information on training and scholarships is provided by the Faculty of Advocates:

Faculty of Advocates - The training course

5. Pass Faculty examinations

The “devil” has to pass the Faculty examinations before being admitted to membership of the Faculty of Advocates.

Consideration: do aspiring advocates practise as a solicitor straight before “devilling”?

It really depends on how confident you are; how happy you feel about the prospect of going straight to the Bar or whether you feel you would benefit from practising as a solicitor.

Do what feels right for you. Many people do, particularly if they come from other jobs and perhaps have done the two-year accelerated Scots Law degree but many people come straight from the traineeship.

Skills development and work experience

  • Students can seek careers support and advice directly by contacting the Faculty of Advocates at
  • The Faculty runs an annual 'Open Day' for school and university students interested in becoming an advocate. Check their events page to stay up-to-date:

Faculty of Advocates - Events

  • Exposure to a wide range of legal experience is useful; students might explore debating, mooting, court visits, mediation and networking during their undergraduate years.
  • Our Solicitor - Scotland webpage provides further information on skills development and gaining legal work experience: 

Solicitor - Scotland