Entry and training for solicitors in Northern Ireland
The Law Society of Northern Ireland is the governing body of the solicitors’ profession in NI and provides the education and training to qualify as a solicitor. The entire training period is two years for graduates, both of law and non-law disciplines. The vocational course, the Certificate in Professional Legal Studies, takes place at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, Queen’s University Belfast .
Steps to qualification
Applicants must sit an entrance examination in the December prior to the year they wish to take up their course. The application deadline is 15 November each year.
Non-law graduates must satisfy the Law Society that they have an acceptable level of knowledge in the following subjects: constitutional law, law of tort, criminal law, equity, European law, land law and law of evidence. The Master in Legal Science awarded by Queen’s University Belfast is accepted as sufficient evidence.
Applicants without a degree may also apply to the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, provided they are 29 years old or over, have served as an employee of a solicitor for a minimum of seven years, possess a good standard of education, and show sufficient knowledge of legal issues and practice.
Training contracts start in September each year. Students must register with the Law Society two weeks before starting their traineeship. Students are responsible for securing their own training contract, but in certain circumstances the Law Society may help. The traineeship runs as follows:
- September to December: four months full-time in-office training.
- January to December: studies at Institute of Professional Legal Studies (with Mondays spent at your Master’s office).
- January to August: eight months full-time in office training.
On successful completion of their training contract and examinations, solicitors receive a Restricted Practising Certificate. This means they are fully qualified but cannot practise on their own or in partnership for a minimum of two years.