Training as a lawyer in Northern Ireland
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Law degrees are offered at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and the University of Ulster 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 when training as a lawyer in England, Wales and Scotland are combined in Northern Ireland. Trainee solicitors must undertake a two-year apprenticeship under a supervising solicitor (called a ‘master’). The practical component comes first, with a four-month period of office-based training. This is followed by one year studying for the Certificate of Professional Studies at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at QUB or the Graduate School of Professional Legal Education at the University of Ulster. This is then followed by a further eight months of office-based work.
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, supply any proofs asked for and pay a fee. However, Scottish solicitors are required to take further examinations and complete a period of apprenticeship before they can be admitted in Northern Ireland.
Trainee barristers must 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 less than seven years’ standing.