Special Qualifications / Experience Route
The Law Society of Northern Ireland, as the governing body of the solicitors' profession in Northern Ireland, has in exercise of its statutory powers, prescribed the legal education and training necessary to qualify as a solicitor in Northern Ireland.
The Special Qualifications/Experience Degree Route is covered under Regulation 8(5) of the Solicitors Admission and Training Regulations 1988 (as amended). A copy of these regulations can be downloaded below.
An applicant using this route must, before being accepted as a student of the Society, establish to the Society's satisfaction:
- "that he/she satisfies the Education Committee that he/she has acquired such special qualifications and/or experience as to render him/her suitable to be accepted as a student"
Applicants using this route should note that the standard of general education required is matriculation standard i.e., the general standard required for admission to Queen's University Belfast or the equivalent thereof.
Please note, if you do not have the core subjects you will be asked to successfully complete these subjects before starting a course at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. A list of the core subjects can be downloaded below.
Please note there is a closing date for applications under Reg. 8(5) and you should refer to the Application Process header below for details.
The Solicitors Admission and Training Regulations 1988 stipulate that an applicant under Reg. 8(5) must be:
“a person not less than 30 years of age"
Please note that this is no longer the case and any applicant under this route is not presently required to have attained the age of 30 years.
THE INSTITUTE OF PROFESSIONAL LEGAL STUDIES (IPLS)
The organisation in Northern Ireland which offers the vocational training route to become a solicitor is the Institute Of Professional Legal Studies (IPLS) part of Queen's University in Belfast. Under this route you will complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Legal Studies, also known as the Solicitor Course, at the IPLS in addition to your in-office training.
If successful under this route we will write to the IPLS to advise that you have been accepted as a student of the Society.
The application process for 2024/2025 is now OPEN.
Please refer to the application form EF4 and accompanying guidance notes EG3, available for download below.
Please find below a copy of the judgement in the case of Burns. We would ask that you refer to page 6 where the then Lord Chief Justice stated that:
- "it should require a truly exceptional case to be established before [the Society] should allow registration under Regulation 8(5)."
Please be aware that applications under Reg. 8(5) will be considered with this judgement in mind.
The following Society fees apply to applications received under this route:
- Application Fee: £150.00
- Petition and Indentures Registration Fee: £187.50
- Admission Fee: £50.00
THE TRAINEE SOLICITOR PROCESS
The underlying principle of the professional education of a solicitor is that it involves a combination of practical in-office training and formal academic instruction. The solicitor training runs for two-years from the Date of Commencement. This is the uniform date at which all trainees will commence their training. The date is typically in September in the January before the trainees commence at the IPLS, but is updated each year and applicants should refer to the registration pack for details.
The two-year training runs as follows:
- September - December: Trainee in-office with their Master
- January - December: Trainee completes studies at IPLS (with Easter, Summer and Christmas periods spent in-office)
- January - September: Trainee in-office with their Master
The Society would advise that arrangements to enter an apprenticeship should be made at as early a date as possible and would emphasise that anyone who fails to lodge the Apprenticeship Contract by the due date will not be considered for registration as a student of the Society.
As part of your studies, you will also be required to complete the following Law Society modules:
- Professional Conduct Course
- Solicitors Accounts Course
- Regulatory Obligations
- Client Complaints
We will invite you to attend these courses and any subsequent examinations upon registration.
ELIGIBILITY TO ACT AS A MASTER
It should be noted that the applicant's proposed Master must also be acceptable to the Society. The acceptability of Masters is governed by separate regulations. The principal requirements of these regulations is that the proposed Master must have been admitted for at least 7 years and must have been a principal for at least 3 years and must provide satisfactory opportunities for adequate training of apprentices.
Further details as to the requirements of these regulations can be obtained from the Society. [Solicitors Admission and Training (Qualification of Masters) Regulations 1988 and (Solicitors Admission and Training (Qualification of Masters) (Amendment) Regulations 1992].
Both Master and Apprentice must co-operate with the Society should the Society require an assessment to be made of the quality of training during apprenticeship.
CHARACTER AND FITNESS
Please note that applicants must satisfy the Society's Education Committee as to their suitability to be accepted as students of the Society and produce for that purpose such evidence as to character and fitness as the Committee may require.
No applicant will be registered if he/she is an undischarged bankrupt or if he/she has been convicted of a criminal offence of such a nature as to make his/her registration undesirable or if for any other reason he/she fails to satisfy the Committee as to his/her fitness to be a solicitor.
In order to be eligible for admission all trainees must have completed the following:
- Passed the Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Legal Studies at the IPLS;
- Passed all requisite Law Society Modules;
- Provided satisfactory evidence of the completion of the two-year Indentures, to include sworn documentation from the trainee and their Master;
- Submitted all requisite fees
The Society's Admissions Officer will write to all trainees near the end of the Indenture period to advise on the next steps.
These notes are intended to be a guide only. It is the personal responsibility of each intending applicant to acquaint himself/herself with the relevant provisions of the Society's Regulations and requirements.
Please direct any queries with respect to traineeships and registration to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any queries regarding the Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Legal Studies should be directed directly to the IPLS.