updated on 06 January 2022
Law degrees are offered at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and the 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.
The vocational study and practical training aspects that are found separately in England, Wales and Scotland are combined in Northern Ireland. After completing a written admissions test, trainee solicitors must undertake a two-year apprenticeship under a supervising solicitor (called a ‘master’). The practical component comes first, with a three-month period of office-based training. This is followed by one year studying for the Certificate of Professional Legal Studies. This is then followed by a further eight months of office-based work/training.
There is 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, provide two character references, supply any proofs asked for and pay a fee. The same applies for solicitors who are qualified in Scotland.
In Northern Ireland, trainee 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 are then called to the Bar; but before they can practise, they must enter into 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.