United Kingdom (Scotland) International Trade in Legal Services

United Kingdom (Scotland) International Trade in Legal Services


Is there legislation governing the legal sector

Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980, Council of the Law Society of Scotland Act 2003, The Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2010, Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010

Under what title do lawyers practise?

Solicitor or advocate

How does an individual lawyer obtain a "licence" to practise law? How often must this be renewed?





Solicitor -  In order to become licensed as a solicitor in Scotland a candidate will usually undertake the following: 1) The LLB degree in Scots Law (which can be studied at 10 universities in Scotland); 2) The Diploma in Professional Legal Practice (the Diploma) (which can be undertaken at six universities in Scotland); 3) A two year traineeship in a solicitor's practice.
Advocate - In order to become an advocate an individual must have 1) completed a LLB degree at a Scottish University or have completed a post graduate Diploma in Legal Practice 2) Have undertaken  the 21 month training requirement in a solicitor's practice 3) Have passed the Faculty of Advocates' examination 4) Have completed the required period of pupillage/devilling to train as an advocate.

Does this entitle the holder to practise throughout the country? If the law license only permits one to practice on a sub-national level, please explain the jurisdictional limits

The United Kingdom is made up of three separate jurisdictions: England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and lawyers must be licensed separately for each jurisdiction.

Are there certain activities that are "reserved" to those who are licensed to practise law in the jurisdiction?




Activities that are reserved by statute to Scottish qualified solicitors (S32 of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980) include: Conveyancing of land and/or buildings; litigation (civil or criminal); and obtaining confirmation in favour of executors (the Scottish equivalent of probate). Scottish solicitors also have rights of audience in most courts. Advocates have rights of audience in the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary (the supreme criminal Courts of Scotland), and in the other Courts (such as the Lands Valuation Appeal Court) whose judges are Senators of the College of Justice.

Do you need to hold local nationality to be eligible to practise law?


What legal forms can lawyers work in? (e.g. self employment, partnership, limited liability partnership, multi-disciplinary partnership, incorporation)

Solicitors may work as sole practitioners, as members or directors of incorporated practices which may either be companies or limited liability partnerships; or as a member of a multi-national practice. From mid-2013, solicitors will also be able to work in Scottish Alternative Business Structures.  Advocates may only be self-employed.

What other ethical or regulatory requirements must a licensed lawyer comply with? 

Law Society of Scotland Rules and Guidance, available at http://www.lawscot.org.uk/rules-and-guidance

Do law firms need to receive a "license" (or permission/approval) to practice law?

Solicitors must notify the Law Society when setting up a new practice and must comply with rules relating to accounts, guarantee fund and indemnity insurance. Firms which take the form of incorporated practices or multi-national practices require prior approval by the Council of the Law Society.

Which authority issues licences? Are there different authorities for individuals and firms? 

Law Society of Scotland licences and regulates solicitors in Scotland - www.lawscot.org.uk; The Faculty of Advocates licences advocates www.advocates.org.uk



Are there any explicit rules or restrictions other than visas on fly in fly out practice of law? Ie. Do you need to obtain a licence for temporary practice?

There are no explicit rules or limitations on temporary practice outside of the reserved areas of work.

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a visa to visit clients or to market but not to practice?

Foreign lawyers may obtain a visa to visit clients but may also obtain special 'permitted paid employment' visas which are valid for up to one month without the need to obtain a work permit. 

Can a foreign lawyer obtain a licence to establish and practise as a foreign legal consultant and what is the scope of this limited licence?

There is no requirement for a foreign lawyer to obtain a licence to practice as a foreign legal consultant in Scotland. The only licensing requirements are on EEA lawyers (who must become Registered European Lawyers - a status which entitles them to practise in the areas reserved to Scottish solicitors and advocates.  Non-EEA foreign lawyers do not need to register with the Law Society unless they wish to become partners in multinational practices.

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled once a foreign lawyer has been granted a limited licence (e.g. residency requirement)

Registered European Lawyer status is only required of EEA or Swiss lawyers resident in Scotland.

Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled for a foreign lawyer to qualify for a limited licence? (e.g. prior practice)

European Lawyers must demonstrate that they have complied with the Law Society's requirements on insurance and the guarantee fund before they can be registered. There are no other prior conditions on other (unregistered) foreign lawyers wishing to practise in Scotland.

Are foreign lawyers permitted to undertake arbitration and mediation?


Are foreign lawyers allowed to appear in court under any circumstances?


EEA and Swiss lawyers may appear in Scottish courts if introduced by a Scots lawyer. 

Can foreign lawyers requalify as local lawyers?


EU lawyers may fully requalify as Scots lawyers (solicitors or advocates) following the European Establishment Directive 98/5/EC, either by examination or by assimilation over a three year period of continuous and effective practice in Scotland.


Can a foreign law firm obtain a licence to open an office?

Foreign law firms do not require licences to open offices to practise law in Scotland, provided they are not practising reserved areas of work and are not fee sharing with Scottish solicitors or advocates.  Foreign law firms who do wish to have Scottish solicitor partners and practise reserved areas of work need to obtain authorisation from the Law Society of Scotland as a Multi-National Partnership.

Even if a foreign law firm does not require a legal licence must they register in some form in order to set up an office? (e.g. with a ministry of company affairs etc)

 No special permission is required to set up a business in the UK. 

Are there different types of foreign law firm 'licence'  (e.g. Joint Law Venture, stand alone foreign licence etc)

There are no separate foreign law firms licences but if it chose to practise in reserved areas, a foreign law firm could establish either as a recognised body or as an alternative business structure.

Is there a quota on the number of licences available?


Are there geographical restrictions on foreign firm licences or on the number of branches a foreign firm can have?

There is no limit on the number of branches a foreign firm may have in the UK but if it wishes to practise reserved areas of work, separate authorisation would be required in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and different requirements and rules would apply.

Are there "scope of practice" rules that apply directly to foreign law firms (as opposed to lawyers themselves)? (e.g. home, host, international law), if so, what are they? There are no scope of practice rules that apply to firms as opposed to individual lawyers.
Are there restrictions on the corporate form a foreign law firm can take? No, unless that foreign law firm becomes licensed as a Scottish Multi-National Partnership.  If it is a European law firm it can only take one of the corporate forms permitted to Scottish solicitors.
Are there rules about the name a foreign law firm can take? There are no specific rules for the names of foreign law firms beyond the general naming provisions governing all businesses.  
What entity grants a 'license' to a foreign law firm? If that entity is on the Internet, please provide the URL There is no specific foreign law licence but EEA firms and foreign law firms wishing to obtain licences to practise reserved areas of work in Scotland through qualified Scottish solicitors should apply to the Law Society of Scotland (www.lawscot.org.uk)


Are there restrictions on the ownership share of foreign lawyers in a law firm?


May a domestic lawyer be employed by a foreign lawyer or law firm?

An advocate may not be in partnership with, or be employed by  a solicitor or other professional person entitled to instruct Counsel directly on behalf of clients in Scotland or elsewhere.

Can a domestic lawyer enter into partnership with a foreign lawyer?

Solicitors may enter partnership with foreign lawyers who are from foreign legal professions that are 'so regulated as to make it appropriate for the applicant to be registered for the relevant purpose'. (Law Society of Scotland Rule D.7.3.1). Advocates are not permitted to form partnerships.

Can a domestic lawyer or domestic law firm employ a foreign lawyer?




Other useful sources or comments or links

For Law Society of Scotland: www.lawscot.org.uk; For Faculty of Advocates: www.advocates.org.uk/