Advocate (Scotland)

The Job and What's Involved

Advocates in Scotland give specialist legal advice to solicitors and other professional clients, and represent individuals and organisations in court or at tribunals. They are sometimes called counsel, and are similar to barristers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

As an advocate your work would include:

  • Meeting solicitors and other professionals who consult advocates on behalf of their clients.
  • Researching points of law from previous similar cases.
  • Giving written opinions on cases or legal matters.
  • Advising solicitors and other professionals.
  • Preparing cases for court, by reading witness statements and reports.
  • Preparing legal arguments to use in court or at tribunals.
  • Representing clients in court or at tribunals or public enquiries.
  • Presenting a case to the judge and jury, cross-examining witnesses and summing up.

The amount of time that you spent in court would depend on the type of case you were working on. Criminal work would involve you spending a lot of time preparing cases and representing in court, whilst in chancery law (advising on wills, trusts, estates and company law) or civil law, your role would be more office-based.

Your working hours would often be long and may include evenings and weekends.

As an advocate in private practice, you would be based at the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh in a group or 'stable' of advocates, and divide your time between the stable and court.

Alternatively, you might work for one employer such as the Procurator Fiscal Service or a corporate company, based at your employer's offices and attending court, tribunals and meetings as necessary.

When in court you would wear formal dress including a wig and gown, otherwise smart business dress is expected.

Most advocates are self-employed, so pay can depend on reputation and the number of cases taken on.

Trainee advocates earn at least £10,000 a year during the 'devilling' stage. Practising advocates can earn between £25,000 and £300,000 a year.

Salaries in the Procurator Fiscal Service range from £26,000 to £56,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most advocates are self-employed and based in Edinburgh.

Alternatively, you could choose to work as a specialist legal adviser for a corporate company or in local or central government (known as the 'employed Bar').

This is a competitive profession to enter and there are usually more applicants than places at each stage of training.

Education and Training

To become an advocate, you must meet the Faculty of Advocates' academic standards and also complete vocational training.

Before you start your vocational training you must have one of the following qualifications to join the Faculty as an 'Intrant' (trainee member):

An honours degree in Scottish Law from a Scottish university, at class 2:2 or above.

An ordinary degree in Scottish Law from a Scottish university, plus an honours degree (2:2 or above) in any other subject from a university elsewhere in the UK.

An ordinary degree with distinction in Scottish Law from a Scottish university.

To get onto a Scottish law degree you will need at least five S grades (1-3), plus five Highers with good grades, usually including English. Alternative qualifications may be accepted, so you should check exact entry requirements with individual course providers.

Most advocates start their vocational training straight after getting their law degree, but this is not essential.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

After you have completed the academic stage, you must take further vocational training to qualify to practise as an advocate.

For this, you must pass:

The Diploma in Legal Practice, a one-year full-time postgraduate course at a Scottish university.

A 21-month period of work in a solicitor's office (this could be reduced to 12 months if you have a first or second-class honours degree).

Nine and a half months' pupillage with a member of the bar (called 'devilling'), which includes ten weeks of intensive skills training.

The Faculty of Advocates' exams in Evidence, Practice and Procedure.

Once you have qualified, you must keep your skills and knowledge up to date throughout your career. You can continue your professional development by taking part in the Faculty's continuing education programme of seminars, courses, workshops and conferences.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An advocate needs:

  • Excellent communication and advocacy skills.
  • Good research and writing skills.
  • Confidence at public speaking.
  • The ability to analyse large amounts of information.
  • A logical approach and a high degree of attention to detail.
  • The ability to work well under pressure.
  • Discretion, for working with confidential information.
  • The ability to avoid becoming emotionally involved in cases.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, you could become a sheriff or a depute in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

After around ten years of practice, you could apply to 'take silk' and become a Queen's Counsel (senior advocate), or become a judge.

Get Further Information

Faculty of Advocates, Parliament House Edinburgh EH1 1RF
Tel: 0131 226 5071

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