Qualifying for Legal Practice
How to qualify for legal practice with an Irish law degree
In Ireland to qualify for legal practice, you must qualify as a Solicitor with the Law Society of Ireland https://www.lawsociety.ie/ or qualify as a Barrister with the Honourable Society of the King’s Inns https://www.kingsinns.ie/
The essential difference between being a solicitor and a barrister is that the former will practice in direct contact with clients in all sorts of areas of law ranging from Family law, to Property law, to Commercial and Company law and so on; and the latter specialises in advocacy in the courts (litigation) or operates by providing specialist advice in particular areas of law. The Barrister’s practice relies to a large extent on being briefed by Solicitors acting on behalf of clients, whereas the Solicitor’s practice involves providing advice directly to clients. These are your steps towards a successful career with an Irish law degree:
How to become a solicitor in Ireland
The Law Society is the educational, representative and regulatory body of the solicitors' profession in Ireland. It is located in Blackhall Place in Dublin 8 so you will hear students referring to it colloquially as ‘Blackhall Place’.
While there are no subject-specific pre-requisites to gain entry to the Law Society’s solicitor training course, graduates who wish to qualify as a solicitor must first pass an entrance examination, also known as the Final Examination - First Part (FE-1).
This examination is held twice a year, normally in April and October. It consists of the following eight papers:
Law of Contract2
European Union Law3
Law of Tort
All of these examinations consist of a 3 hour examination on a comprehensive syllabus in each subject. Once a candidate has obtained an undergraduate degree, they can apply to the Law Society for the forms necessary to take these examinations. A candidate has five years from the date of their degree to apply for the entrance exam. Once a candidate has passed the FE-1s they move on to the next steps which require a candidate to:
1. Secure a training contract
The School of Law at UCC attracts a great deal of interest from firms all over the country wishing to recruit our students to training contracts. You can also arrange your own training contract with a smaller firm or indeed a family firm.
2. Attend the Professional Practice Course I and pass the course examinations.
This course and examination period takes place over 4 months (approx.). The Law Society charges a fee for this course. Sometimes a training contract with a larger firm will cover these fees.
3. Spend a period of 11 months as a trainee solicitor in the training solicitor's office.
This is usually a paid period of employment.
4. Attend the Professional Practice Course II and pass the course examinations.
This takes another 3 months. The Law Society charges a fee for this course.
5. Serve 6 more months in the training solicitor’s office
Following successful completion of the Professional Practice Course II.
How long does it take to become a solicitor in Ireland?
The process takes 24 months in total.
For further information on qualifying as a solicitor please contact The Law Society of Ireland,
Blackhall Place, Dublin 7; http://www.lawsociety.ie
- 1The syllabus for Company Law is similar to the syllabus for the two Company Law course taught at UCC i.e. Company Law: Fundamental Concepts and Doctrines (LW3345) and Company Law: Finance, Management and Insolvency (LW3346)
- 2Similar to Law of Contract (LW1154) as taught in UCC
- 3 This syllabus is similar to the syllabus for Constitutional and Institutional Law of the European Union (LW1112) and Economic Law of the European Union (LW2204) taught at UCC
- 4This syllabus is similar to the syllabus for Law of Equity: Doctrines and Remedies (LW3303) and Law of Equity: Trusts (LW3305) taught at UCC.
How to become a barrister in Ireland
Graduates (with approved law degrees) who would like to practise as a barrister must complete the Barrister-at-Law degree course in the Honorable Society of the King’s Inns. Applicants for this degree must first have passed certain ‘core subjects’ in their law degrees and must pass an entrance examination.
To be eligible to apply for Kings Inns, students must have passed the following subjects during their degree:
UCC Administrative Law: Grounds of Judicial Review (LW2264)
UCC Jurisprudence (LW3367)
King’s Inns will also require entrants to sit and pass an entrance examination involving the following five subjects:
Law of Contract
Irish Constitutional Law
Law of Torts
Law of Evidence
Final year Law and Language students must take up to 40 credits of law modules in order to meet the requirements for Kings Inns. For details of module choices please see http://www.ucc.ie/academic/calendar/law/index.html.
King’s Inns agree to accept jurisprudence/philosophy of law subjects studied as part of the year Law and French abroad for entry purposes. A sentence to this effect must be shown on your academic transcript. If you wish to apply to King’s Inns please contact the Law FacultyOffice with regard to informing Exams Records to request a transcript with the relevant information included. Law and French students wishing to study at Kings Inn should discuss their module choices with Dr Bénédicte Sage-Fuller at firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: (021) 490 3812 or the Law Faculty Office at email@example.com Tel: (021) 490 3249.
On successful completion of the course, students are admitted to the degree of Barrister-at-Law. One must then commence pupillage (‘devilling’) with a qualified barrister for a year in Dublin. This is similar to an apprenticeship where a junior barrister learns by shadowing a more senior member of the profession. It is the responsibility of the newly qualified barrister to secure a master. On completion of the first year, if a barrister wishes to practice on circuit outside Dublin, he or she must undertake further pupillage for another year with a master who practices on that circuit. It is often the case that barristers who wish to practice in Dublin will also undertake pupillage for a second year, perhaps in a different area of practice. All members of the Law Library are independent contractors and the period spent as a pupil is usually unpaid.
For further information relating to entry requirements, examinations, and details on becoming a Barrister-at-Law, students should contact The Honorable Society of the King’s Inns, Henrietta Street, Dublin 1. http://www.kingsinns.ie
Telephone (01) 874 4840; Fax (01) 872 6038; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to become a solicitor in England and Wales
Students who wish to train as a solicitor in England and Wales must apply to one of the Colleges offering a Legal Practice Course (LPC). For Legal Practice Course providers see http://www.sra.org.uk/students/courses/lpc-course-providers.page
Each LPC/CPE course provider will adjudicate to what extent your law degree will receive exemptions. There is no longer a central approval of Irish law degrees by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
If you decide to have your degree recognised in England and Wales, you will be requested to show evidence that you meet the legal education requirements of the SRA, in other words, you need to show “equivalent means”:
Regulation 2.2 of the Training Regulations 2014 allows us to recognise that the knowledge and skills outcomes (and the standard at which they must be acquired) may have been achieved by an individual through other assessed learning and work-based learning. Where this is the case, we may grant exemption from all or part of the academic or vocational stages.”
Necessary documents to become a solicitor in England and Wales
In order to satisfy this test and gain exemptions for some or all of the areas of law, you may be required to present any or all of the following:
- Original degree parchment
- Original transcript of results
- *Module descriptors for the modules you are presenting for assessment correct for the year you studied them (i.e. it is not adequate to present a module descriptor for LW1153 from 2006/7 if you registered for it in 2004/5).
- *Reading lists for each module presented for exemption
- *The syllabus of each module presented for exemption
*It is your responsibility to retain copies of these when they are distributed while you are taking the module, as tracking down this documentation at a later date may not be possible. Therefore you are advised to keep copies, be they hard or soft copy, in case you need to refer to them in the future. These are indicative requirements only and depending on the course provider you may be required to provide additional information.
If you require assistance in making an application please contact your Programme Director.
The system in England and Wales is changing. From autumn 2021, there will be a single, national licensing examination that all prospective solicitors will take before qualifying. We will update this page with further information shortly, but in the meantime you can find out more at https://www.sra.org.uk/sra/policy/sqe/solicitor-persona/.
How to become a lawyer in the US with an Irish law degree
Your BCL or LLB degree from University College Cork is recognised by the State of New York as an eligible law degree permitting you to sit the New York State Bar Examination.
Please note that the regulation of access to sit a state bar exam is conducted on a state by state basis in the United States. Therefore if you wished to take the California Bar Exam you may be required to take additional modules or credits at a US law school. Having passed the New York State Bar you may be eligible to sit other state Bar exams. For example, once you have passed the New York State Bar you are entitled to practise in Washington D.C. The New York State Bar Exam has been sat by a large number of our graduates over the years. Each application is taken on its own merit and the application process can be long and involved. Interested graduates should study fully Section 520.6 of the rules for the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law and their information on the eligibility of Foreign Legal Study http://www.nybarexam.org/foreign/foreignlegaleducation.htm
If you require assistance in making an application, the School of Law is happy to provide what assistance it can. For a local alternative, the Irish American Bar Association of New York, http://www.iabany.org, is a very good source of relevant information. Established in 1987, the IABANY is a professional organisation dedicated to connecting, serving and celebrating New York’s legal professionals who are Irish born, of Irish heritage or simply interested in all things Irish. Their website contains advice for Irish law graduates contemplating a US legal career. Once you have obtained permission to sit the Bar Exam students usually take a Bar Exam preparation course which is available in Ireland. We also have our own network of alumni who are willing to advise you. Please contact the School of Law at UCC for guidance as to which member of staff can direct you to the relevant alumni.
How to become a lawyer in Canada with an Irish law degree
Canada is a bijural country, defined as the existence of two legal traditions within a single state. The province of Quebec practises civil law while other provinces practise the common law system. Licensing processes of each Bar in the provinces differ from one another, thus lawyers can only practise within the limits of the authority of the Bar of which they are a member. Gaining a law degree in Ireland does not mean that you have a recognised law degree in Canada. However, UCC BCL and LLB graduates can go on to seek a Certificate of Qualification from the Canadian legal authorities which will entitle them to sit the Bar exam in their preferred common law province or territory.
In order to obtain a Certificate of Qualification you must demonstrate your competence to the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA). The NCA is a committee working under the National Requirements of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. The assessment of whether or not foreign law graduates can be accredited in Canada is carried out exclusively by this institution. The NCA will assess the legal qualifications you have obtained outside of Canada, taking into account your educational and professional backgrounds. After reviewing your application, the NCA will issue you with an assessment result that lists any subjects and/or legal education that you are required to undertake to ensure that your legal knowledge and skills are comparable to that of someone who got their law degree through an approved Canadian law school program.
The NCA measures the existence of this competence in the following subjects. As a common law graduate, who has studied outside of Canada, you may be able to satisfy one or more of the substantive legal knowledge requirements, on top of the five mandatory subjects.
Mandatory subjects which all applicants who have studied outside of Canada must complete:
- Foundations of Canadian Law
- Canadian Criminal Law
- Canadian Constitutional Law
- Canadian Administrative Law
- Canadian Professional Responsibility
Once assessment by the NCA is complete, there are three ways NCA applicants may demonstrate competency in assigned subject areas in order to receive a Certificate of Qualification:
- by successfully completing NCA challenge exams (for which there is available a program of self-study with the NCA);
- by completing assigned subjects at a Canadian law school (e.g. by completing an LLM); and
- by a combination of option 1. and 2., that is meeting some assigned requirements by writing NCA challenge exams and the remainder by completing the courses at a Canadian law school.
For up-to-date information on the NCA Certificate of Qualification – including requirements and exam schedules – and to apply, visit: https://nca.legal/process/
How to practice law in the European Union with an Irish law degree?
Most commonly you can practice law in other countries of the European Union with a degree from University College Cork or other Irish universities in two steps:
- Qualify as either a Solicitor or Barrister in Ireland
- Apply for recognition of this qualification to the regulatory body for legal practice in the relevant member state.
If you wish to practise as a lawyer in a member state of the European Union there are two relevant Directives on the recognition of professional qualifications across the EU. Usually, your first step would be to get a professional qualification as described above and qualify as either a Solicitor or Barrister in Ireland. Then you can apply for recognition of this qualification to the regulatory body for legal practice in the relevant member state. The following advice from the EU available at the link below will be a starting point. This allows you to translate your Irish qualification for a particular member state.
In addition, some European firms will be willing to hire you as an Irish qualified lawyer and allow you to qualify in the relevant member state at a later date. We can also put you in touch with alumni who have followed this route to practise in Europe.
Changes in regulation
Please note: The information on this page is intended as a guide only and is subject to change. Students interested in pursuing the career paths briefly described above are advised strongly to contact the appropriate bodies to verify and obtain further up to date information. Students are also advised strongly to follow developments in relation to the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, which may bring significant changes in the future. This is not an exhaustive list of all of your career options.