Entry and training for solicitors in Northern Ireland
Training to be a solicitor in Northern Ireland takes two years and differs slightly from the process in the Republic. There are now two training options. The Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen’s University Belfast is responsible for the training and education of both solicitors and barristers. The Graduate School of Professional Legal Education at the University of Ulster now also provides vocational training for solicitors only, through their Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice. Eligibility requirements for admittance to both courses are the same.
Steps to qualification
There are nine steps to qualification:
Submit application for Certificate in Professional Legal Studies by midNovember.
Secure a traineeship with an approved solicitor. It is never too early to start.
Sit a written admissions test, just before Christmas. This comprises two papers: a numeracy test and a second paper to test students’ ability to apply knowledge of law in a practical way, problem-solving skills, communication and organisational skills.
Acceptance of offer of place. First round offers are made mid-March, second round offers from July through the summer.
Register with the Law Society of Northern Ireland. The closing deadline is mid-August and early registration is advisable.
Begin apprenticeship: three months’ in-office training from first Monday of September to end of December
January to end of December: 12 months of attendance and examinations for Certificate of Professional Legal Studies (Tuesday– Friday). Mondays and holiday periods are spent in-office with a Master.
January to August, year two: eight months of further in-office training.
Awarded a Restricted Practice Certificate, enabling newly qualified solicitors to practise. However, they cannot do so on their own or in partnership for three years (this can be reduced to two years by attending a continuing legal education programme run by the Law Faculty).
The situation regarding securing a Master is similar to that in the Republic: the demand is greater than the supply so it is advisable to make as many applications as possible at an early stage.