How to qualify as a Solicitor in Ireland

How to qualify as a Solicitor in Ireland

So, I see that you’re interested in qualifying as a solicitor? Well, this isn’t easy to say but there is a long road ahead of you. A long road. But if this is your calling, if you are driven and ready for the long road ahead, then you have chosen a remarkable and worthy profession. I haven’t met one person who has told me that they are not proud of the hard work they have put in to qualify as a solicitor. Yes, there are long nights and tiredness and all of the rest of it but I am a big believer that hard work always pays off in the end.

So back to the topic at hand: how do we actually qualify as a solicitor?

Here is the long and short of it:

The short answer is this:

  • Preliminary Exams – for Non-Law Graduates of Law
  • Final Examinations (Part 1) known as the Entrance Examinations (FE1s)
  • Find a Training Contract
  • Professional Practice Course (PPC 1 AND PPC 2)
  • In Office Training (24months in length)
  • Admission to Roll of Solicitors

The process is simple but the journey towards becoming a solicitor is much more detailed than what you see above. So let’s dive into it.

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Can you tell me – what is a Solicitor?

A Solicitor is a professional legal individual whom is trained to represent clients in litigation. They are professionally trained to provide clients with skilled legal advice and representation on all legal matters. 

In Ireland, there are 2 distinct legal professions: a Barrister and a Solicitor. A Solicitor and a Barrister have separate and distinct roles and duties. A Barrister  does not deal with administrative works. This kind of service is expected from the Solicitor. A Solicitor would seek services from a barrister when preparing for litigation. Solicitors do have a right of audience (the right to appear before a judge to plead a case), but generally the Barrister would present the client’s case before a judge.

Okay, so what kind of work would a Solicitor do?

The work of a solicitor is varied but some of their works include but is not limited to:

  • Mediation
  • Conveyancing
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Commercial contracts
  • and more!

Your duties as a solicitor are so varied, that no two days are the same. You never know who could come to your door and present you with their case. This is part of the excitement of becoming a solicitor!

Okay so I understand all of the above but I’m more interested in learning how to become a solicitor.. tell me more!

Your route towards becoming a solicitor differs slightly if you studied law in university or otherwise. If you did not study law in university but you studied a different discipline, then good news, you are still eligible to pursue the solicitor route! However you will have to sit an additional examination known as the Preliminary Examination. Let’s discuss that now.

1. The Preliminary Examination:

The Preliminary Examination is held once or twice every year in February or March. You must be at least 21 years of age to sit these exams and the pass mark is 50%. The subjects you’ll have to do this exam on are: 

  • English
  • Irish government
  • General knowledge

The crucial thing about these exams is that you must pass all three exams in one sitting… and you have 3 attempts to pass these exams… If successfully completed you can then begin your journey much like any other graduate of law! No pressure guys…

2. Final Examinations (or more commonly known as FE1s):

If you are a graduate of law or if you have successfully passed the Preliminary Examinations, the next step in your journey is to sit the Final Examinations (often referred to as the FE1s). It is held twice a year in Spring and Autumn. There are 8 papers in total, which is a lot but more than doable. They are:

  • Contract law
  • Tort law
  • Criminal law
  • Constitutional law
  • Law of Equity and Trusts
  • Property law
  • European law
  • Evidence law

Yes, 8 exams are a heavy workload to do in one sitting and very recently the rules were change whereby you can sit your exams even during your undergrad degree! The new rule states that you may apply to sit any of the 8 exam papers once you have passed first year of your law degree which eases the pressure of sitting all 8 exams after graduating university. 

When studying for the FE1 exams, I would suggest that you have a look over past exam papers to get a good feel of what kind of questions to expect in the exams. You can order past exam papers from Law Society and check when is the next sitting of the exams on the Law Society of Ireland website

So yes, this is a lot of exams to undertake but guess what? There is an award for the candidate who scores the highest in the FE1 exams. They will be awarded the Overend Scholarship, established by William Overend, former President of the Law Society. That’s a little motivation to keep you going as you power through your revision!

3. The Professional Practice Course (1 and 2):

If you have made it to this stage, it can only mean one thing – that you have successfully passed all 8 exams and well done! That’s an incredible achievement! You’re one step closer towards qualifying as a solicitor!

Now the PPC is a full-time course and it is very practical based. It is not the same as a university degree where you are tasked to answer a theoretical scenario or answering essay questions because.. at the end of the PPC courses, you’ll be dealing with real-life problems. During this course, you’ll learn everything there is to know about the works of a solicitor. 

However, to apply to do the PCC courses, the Law Society has stated that you must have a 2-year training contract with an law firm so that is something to bear in mind when applying to do these courses.

Which brings us to the next heading:

4. Training Contract:

To reiterate, the Law Society’s website has made it clear: before you commence the PPC at Blackhall Place, you must enter into a training contract with a solicitor.

So you have some work to do. However, take care to choose your preferred law firm. You will be working with the firm for 24 months and it would be in your best interest to make sure that the firm that you choose suits the areas of law you are interested in and whose core values and mission statement resonates with you too.

This is a gruelling process that many aspiring solicitors will have to endure. The reality is that it is not easy to obtain a training contract however there are many useful resources to look into that offer tips and advices to aspiring solicitors on obtaining a training contract of your dreams. The Law Society website has a range of excellent resources that you can check out to find more out on same.

If you are only starting to look for firms to work in, here are a few tips that you should consider:

  • Ask yourself what area of law are you are interested in.
  • Search for firms in the region that you want to work in that align with your interest
  • Read up on those firm and ask yourself ‘do we share the same values?’ ‘Can I see myself working in this firm?’ ‘What is the core values of the firm?’
  • Another tip is to connect with a practising solicitor and ask them if they can spare 5-10 minutes to ask them some questions about the firm

These steps will get you started on your law firm research! 

4. Admission to the Roll of Solicitors

After years of studying for your undergraduate law degree, for the FE-1 exams, for the PPC1 and PPC2 courses and having completed your in house training… you have done it. This is the milestone that you have spent years and years working on!

At this point, you can apply to have your name admitted to the Roll of Solicitors. As the Law Society has termed it, you are about to join ‘a profession with a respected history of service to the law and the community as a whole’.

Well what a journey it has been and I wish every success to prospective and aspiring solicitors. the journey is long and demanding and challenging. But it is worthwhile and enjoyable. You have positioned yourself at a point whereby you are a role model in society. To act as the first port of call for society is a position worth respecting and I have no doubt that as you journey through your career as a solicitor or aspiring solicitor, you will see reap the rewards that your hard work has demanded from you.

I thought that I would highlight to you that the Law Society has a number of funding systems in place for applicants who may not be able to bear the financial burden of qualifying as a solicitor. For example, there is a Bursary available for both the PPC1 and PPC2 courses, students can also apply to the SUSI for a grant. More details can be found on the Law Society website so definitely check that out!

I hope that you have obtained much value from this blog post! Im interested to know if you are thinking of pursuing the solicitor route? Let me know in the comments below and let’s have a chat!

If you are interested in learning about how to qualify as a Barrister in Ireland, check out this post which goes over the process of becoming a Barrister in quite some detail!

Until the next time,

Slán!

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