Solicitor - Scotland

The Scottish legal system is separate from England and Wales, with its own legal rules, courts and professions, giving rise to different entry and training arrangements.

Introduction

A solicitor provides expert legal advice and support to individuals, corporate clients or public sector organisations. Solicitors may work in private practice, or in-house in areas such as central and local government, the Crown office and other commercial organisations:

How do I become a solicitor?

There are three routes as follows:

in session 2021/22, demand from applicants exceeded the number of spaces available on the course, meaning unfortunately some applicants were unsuccessful in securing a place on the 2021/22 Diploma course.

Note: A Master of Laws (LLM), a taught Master’s degree offers an academic, rather than a professional, qualification, and as such does not provide the specific subjects designed to meet the Law Society of Scotland’s requirements.

How do I become a practising solicitor? 

You can apply for admission to the Law Society of Scotland to have your name put on the roll of solicitors within the following timeframes:

  • After at least three months of training but before your first year is complete. You must complete a mandatory advocacy course and 20 hours of sitting-in training.
  • After at least one year of training.
  • At the end of your traineeship.

The Law Society of Scotland provides further guidance on the admission process:

Law Society of Scotland - Admission to the roll of solicitors

How can I gain work experience?

As the legal profession is a competitive field, it is advisable to gain experience in order to develop the skills and competencies sought by employers. Look at our information on building legal work experience:

Legal work experience

Exploring the traineeship in more depth

With who can I do a traineeship?

Three types of firms are available:

  • Big law firms; tend to be large commercial firms.
  • Smaller, medium sized firms; high street firms; family, property, conveyancing, private client firms and criminal defence firms.
  • In-house organisations; private or public sector. Examples are the Scottish Government Legal Service, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, NHS, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Standard Life.

You can practise in any area of law e.g. you may have a traineeship in a conveyancing practice but once you have finished your traineeship, you will be a fully Scottish-qualified solicitor so you can work in any area of law.

Is the type of traineeship right for you?

Make sure that the employer you are applying to is the right one for you. Here are some questions to help you consider:

  • Is it the right size of company?
  • Do they have the sort of client base you would be interested in working with e.g. public sector versus corporate?
  • Do you feel motivated by perhaps a commercial environment?
  • Do you get to specialise or get more exposure to different areas of law within your traineeship?
  • Can you see yourself with that employer once your traineeship has finished?

When should I apply for a traineeship?

  • The onus is on the individual to find a traineeship.
  • Although a traineeship will not commence until the autumn after the completion of PEAT 1, many large commercial firms tend to recruit two years in advance so it’s important to bear this in mind. This could be as early as the end of your third year of your Scots Law LLB and for those students on the accelerated LLB, this can mean applying for traineeships in the summer between your first and second year of your course.
  • Smaller firms usually recruit as and when they need a trainee; these opportunities usually become available closer to when you have completed the Diploma or even after you complete.
  • In-house organisations are slightly different; can offer anything from current vacancies up to one - two years in advance.

Where can I find a Traineeship? 

  • Access MyCareerHub and search for opportunities using keywords such as “legal traineeship” or “traineeship”. It’s worth looking at the expired opportunities function to find firms who have advertised vacancies in the past and who may be worth approaching speculatively:

MyCareerHub - opportunities

  • Become a Student Associate at the Law Society of Scotland free of charge and get up-to-date advice and traineeship application information:

Law Society of Scotland - Student associates

  • View the University of Edinburgh Law School alumni webpages, which provide details of traineeships under the career opportunities section:

Edinburgh Law School - Alumni - career opportunities

  • Check out Lawscotjobs, the recruitment website from the journal of the Law Society of Scotland, which advertises legal vacancies including traineeship providers:  

Lawscotjobs

  • Sign up for daily alerts to Scottish Legal News to keep abreast of news, developments and vacancies in the sector:

Scottish Legal News

  • Search for solicitors by area or law or location at solicitors.com:

solicitors.com

Considerations for international students

The Law Society of Scotland advises:

“Overseas students studying with the intention of securing employment thereafter in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK are advised to make enquiries that they can satisfy any visa requirements.

The traineeship constitutes a period of work, rather than study, so students need to be aware of the change in their requirements prior to qualifying...If this affects you, please visit the UK Government's website for further information.”

As a solicitor qualified in another jurisdiction, how can I requalify into Scotland?

The Law Society of Scotland advises:

All solicitors re-qualifying from another jurisdiction can apply to undertake the Qualified Lawyers Assessment. This is a universal set of exams, which will attract various exemptions for solicitors already qualified in certain countries.

View the Law Society of Scotland website for further guidance on the application process (obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility) and the Qualified Lawyers Assessment:

Law Society of Scotland - Requalifying into Scotland