Jul 13, 2022

Written By Francesca Evans

Can English solicitors act in Scotland?

Jul 13, 2022

Written By Francesca Evans

Many people often assume that the requirements to qualify as a solicitor are the same across the UK. Here, we discuss how being a solicitor in Scotland differs from England but also how English solicitors are able to transfer their legal skills to qualify to act in Scotland.

Being a solicitor in England vs Scotland

In England, the typical route to becoming a solicitor is completing a three-year undergraduate degree, followed by two years qualifying work experience and the SQE exams. Alternatively, some individuals go down the apprenticeship route.

Meanwhile in Scotland, to qualify as a solicitor, individuals must complete a four year undergraduate degree in Scots law, followed by a further one year course: the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice. Individuals then go on to complete a two-year traineeship at a law firm.

The right to practise as a solicitor in Scotland is governed by the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 and is much more extensive than in England, especially as in England you are no longer required to hold a law degree to qualify under the new SQE process.

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Can an English solicitor act in Scotland?

An English solicitor can act in Scotland, but not before completing further qualifications.

To qualify in Scotland, English solicitors can apply to take the Qualified Lawyers Assessment.

In order to do so, those qualified in another jurisdiction must hold a Certificate of Eligibility. The Law Society of Scotland advises individuals to do this at least four months ahead of their first examination of the Qualified Lawyers Assessment (QLA). Although, certificates are usually issued within 6 weeks of application.

The Law Society of Scotland provides very useful and detailed guidance on how to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility and how to ensure all forms are completed correctly.

As for the assessment process, typically you must pass 11 subjects: Legal systems and Legal method, Public Law, Obligations, Criminal Law, Evidence, Procedure, Conveyancing, Trusts and Succession, European Law and Institutions, Professional Conduct, and The Accounts Rules.

However, English solicitors are partially exempt and do not have to sit exams in Public Law, Obligations, European Law and Institutions, or Professional Conduct. English solicitors are therefore only required to pass seven exams to qualify. These are open book.

After passing these exams, you can apply to be admitted to the Roll of Solicitors. You must do this within five years of passing the QLA. Once admitted, you can finally get your Practising Certificate and officially act in Scotland!

How much does it cost to requalify in Scotland?

It costs £500 to get a Certificate of Eligibility and £25 is required for the Disclosure Scotland Form, which is required to verify your identity and check your record. 

What are the benefits of practising in Scotland?

Working within another jurisdiction is always great experience and an excellent addition to your legal skills. It shows adaptability and versatility, which are certainly qualities respected by law firms.

It will also help to enhance your understanding of different legal concepts and how they differ across jurisdictions.

Are solicitors paid more in England or Scotland?

Typically, English solicitors are paid more and English law firms offer a larger salary for trainees and newly qualified solicitors.

Those working at English big city firms, especially those based in London, are generally paid much more than those based in Scotland’s capital Edinburgh. This can be surprising considering that the cost of living in Edinburgh is high, although not as high as London.

Whilst the average Scottish trainee is paid around £20,000, English trainees average closer to £25,000, not forgetting large city firms which offer close to £50,000.

Interestingly, even those working for the same law firm can see huge disparities in pay when based in Scotland, rather than England. For example, CMS Cameron McKenna offers trainees based in Bristol 42% more than those based in Edinburgh!

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