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Training as a lawyer in Northern Ireland

updated on 12 March 2024

Undergraduate study

Law degrees are offered at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and Ulster University in Northern Ireland. However, law degrees from a number of other institutions in England, Wales and Ireland are also accepted as qualifying law degrees for the purposes of passing on to the next stage: apprenticeship.

Non-law graduates must complete a two-year master's in legal science at QUB before they can progress to their apprenticeship.

Vocational study/training


The vocational study and practical training aspects that are found separately in England, Wales and Scotland are combined in Northern Ireland. Before being accepted as a student of The Law Society of Northern Ireland, trainee solicitors must show that

  • they have an acceptable law degree or a non-law degree that’s “acceptable to the society’s education committee”;
  • they have been offered a place in the Institute of Professional Legal Studies (IPLS); and
  • have secured a ‘master’ – a solicitor with whom the applicant will serve their apprenticeship.

The practical component of the trainee solicitor process comes first, with three months of office-based training with their ‘master’. This is followed by one year studying for the Certificate of Professional Legal Studies (Easter, summer and Christmas will be spent in the office). This is then followed by a further eight months of office-based work/training with their ‘master’.

There’s a reciprocal arrangement whereby English and Welsh-qualified solicitors may transfer to Northern Ireland without taking further qualifications or examinations. They need only complete an application form, as well as provide several evidence documents, including:

  • two character references, a certificate of good standing demonstrating that the applicant is a “fit and proper person” to practice as a solicitor in Northern Ireland; and
  • a copy of the applicant’s original admission certificate.

They’ll also need to pay an application and admission fee. It’s a very similar process for solicitors who are qualified in Scotland and looking to transfer to Northern Ireland (although three character references will be required in this instance).


In Northern Ireland, pupil barristers must complete a qualifying law degree, undertake the Bar Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Legal Studies at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at QUB. They’re then called to the Bar; but before they can practise, they must complete one year of pupillage with a practising barrister of not fewer than seven years’ standing.

That said, the path does differ depending on where the aspiring lawyer studied, qualified and completed pupillage training.

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