Legal education in the United Kingdom
Dundee, in Scotland, is the only university in the UK to offer students a choice of either English/Northern Irish or Scots law LL.B. degrees. It now offers a dual-qualifying LL.B. degree in Scots law and English/Northern Irish law.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Requirements for becoming a lawyer in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland differ slightly depending on whether the individual plans to become a solicitor or barrister. All prospective lawyers must first however possess a qualifying law degree, or have completed a conversion course. A qualifying law degree in England and Wales consists of seven modules drawn from the following subject areas:
- Public law (constitutional/administrative)
- European Union law
- Procedural law (including law of evidence)
- Criminal law
- Law of obligations (contract, restitution, and tort)
- Property law (real property)
- Trusts and equity
Following graduation, the paths towards qualification as a solicitor or barrister diverge. Prospective solicitors must enrol with the Law Society of England and Wales as a student member and take a one-year course called the Legal Practice Course (LPC), usually followed by two years' apprenticeship, known as a training contract. Prospective barristers must first apply to join one of the four Inns of Court and then complete the one-year Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), followed by a year training in a set of barristers' chambers, known as pupillage.
Qualifying law degrees
*Northumbria offers an 'exempting degree' in which the LPC or BVC is combined with the qualifying law degree into a four-year course
**Distance-learning LL.B. offered jointly with the College of Law
When the kingdoms of England and Scotland merged to form the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, the terms of the 1706 Treaty of Union that led to the union guaranteed that Scotland's legal system would continue, separate from that of England and Wales.
Scots law is founded upon Roman or civil law, although today it has evolved into a pluralistic system, using both civil and common law. As in England and Wales, lawyers in Scotland are divided into two groups: solicitors and advocates. Solicitors are members of the Law Society of Scotland, and are only entitled to practice in the lower courts of Scotland, while advocates are members of the Faculty of Advocates and are permitted to appear in the superior High Court of Justiciary and Court of Session. Membership of either (but only one) body can be attained either by sitting that body's professional exams, or by obtaining exemption through the award of a qualifying law degree and successful completion of the Diploma in Legal Practice.
The Diploma in Legal Practice trains students on the practical elements of being a lawyer in Scotland, and consists of a broad range of compulsory modules. The diploma is currently taught at the universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Strathclyde, and the Robert Gordon University.
After completion of the diploma, students wishing to become solicitors undertake a two-year traineeship with a law firm, before being admitted as full members of the Law Society. To become an advocate, students undertake a period of training of twenty-one months with a solicitor, before a further nine month unpaid traineeship with an experienced advocate, known as devilling.
Scottish solicitors and advocates are entitled to practise elsewhere in the European Union, provided that they satisfy the requirements of the relevant EU directives. However, to practise elsewhere in the United Kingdom, further courses and examinations are required.
Schools of law
The following institutions offer qualifying degrees of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.). Those offering the Diploma in Legal Practice are marked with an asterisk (*):
- University of Aberdeen*
- University of Abertay Dundee
- University of Dundee*
- University of Edinburgh*
- Edinburgh Napier University
- University of Glasgow*
- Glasgow Caledonian University
- The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen*
- University of Stirling
- University of Strathclyde*
Alternatives to an (initial) law degree
There are also conversion courses available for non-law graduates, available as an alternative to the full-length LL.B. degree course. The two most common such courses in England and Wales are the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), and Common Professional Examination (CPE), both one year long. Alternatively, a number of institutions are now offering two-year conversion courses, usually at a lower cost with a more distinguished qualification, such as a master's degree.
Scots law regulations usually require a full LL.B qualification. It is possible to complete an honours degree in any subject, whether in Scotland, England, or anywhere else in the world, and subsequently undertake an accelerated two-year LL.B. for graduates degree in Scotland (which is essentially the first two years of the honours LLB), and thus obtain a qualifying LL.B. qualification in Scotland. Universities offering these two-year conversion degrees include Aberdeen, Caledonian, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde and Stirling.
- Law School league table
- Law marks by subject
- Pass rates for GDL, BVC and LPC
- LLB degree inflation
- "The Path of Legal Education from Edward I to Langdell" by Ralph Michael Stein of Pace University Law School
- Information and guidance on qualifying as a solicitor
- "SRA – Academic Stage". Solicitors Regulation Authority. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
- "How to Become a Barrister". Bar Council (UK). Retrieved 4 January 2009.[dead link]
- "SRA – Conversion Course". Solicitors Regulation Authority. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
- "SRA – Training contract information". Solicitors Regulation Authority. Retrieved 4 January 2009.