PEAT 1: the qualification you'll need to practise law in Scotland
In Scotland, both intending solicitors and advocates (the Scottish term for barristers) complete the same vocational qualification and a period of traineeship. This differs from the situation in England and Wales, where the two branches of the profession follow different routes to qualification after the academic stage of training (the BPTC and pupillage for barristers; the LPC and training contract for solicitors).
Which Scottish universities offer the PEAT 1 course?
The one-year academic course (also known as the diploma in professional legal practice or DPLP) is offered by six institutions in Scotland: the University of Aberdeen; the University of Dundee; the University of Edinburgh; the University of Glasgow; Robert Gordon University; and the University of Strathclyde. PEAT 1 is also offered part time over two academic years at the University of Dundee, Robert Gordon University, and the University of Strathclyde in association with Central Law Training (Scotland) Ltd. Since 2009, the number of places available at diploma providers has exceeded the final demand for places. In 2013/14 up to 800 diploma places were available with around 549 places filled.
Applying for the course between February and April
Applications for PEAT 1 will normally open in February of the year that you want to start the course and the closing date is usually in April. Exact dates should be confirmed with the institution to which you are applying. On the application form, you name the institution you wish to apply to and your law school will then forward the application to the relevant institution. If you are a graduate applying for PEAT 1 you should contact the institution at which you studied your LLB to obtain an application form.
Before starting, PEAT 1 students must hold an LLB degree from an accredited Scottish university. Those students currently studying the LLB are required to have secured passes in the professional subjects. Admission to the PEAT 1 is based on results obtained in subjects that are often studied in the first two years of the LLB – so it is vital to hit the ground running in the first year of your degree. Please check with your university if you have any questions in relation to entry to PEAT 1.
What you’ll learn on the PEAT 1 course
The timetable for PEAT 1 is full in comparison with many undergraduate courses. The emphasis is on learning practical skills for the legal profession, so there are a large number of contact hours – many in small seminar groups, workshops and tutorials. In addition, you are expected to spend a considerable number of hours a week on coursework and preparing for participation in practical classes.
The structure of the PEAT 1 course comprises up to 50% elective courses, giving extra flexibility to students. A significant recent change is the subject of tax, which is now taught in relevant contexts across all of the core subjects rather than as a discrete course. It is likely that individual universities’ electives will differ and play to the strengths of each institution so consider their differences carefully when choosing your PEAT 1 provider.
Much of the teaching is designed to simulate transactions and is given by practising advocates, solicitors and accountants who will bring their expertise in current professional practice into the classroom. Teaching methods include a mixture of tutorials, lectures, group-based projects and skills workshops. Some PEAT 1 courses use delivery methods that include the use of multimedia and ICT, or even becoming a member of a mock four-person firm to simulate aspects of the legal working environment. Assessment is by a combination of examinations and coursework. The balance between these will vary depending on modules and the institution.
How can you fund your legal training?
In 2012/13, the Scottish government announced significant changes to the funding of the course as part of a wider review of postgraduate funding. As a result, grants by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) are no longer available and have been replaced by a loan system. Since 2012, successful applicants to the PEAT 1 who meet eligibility criteria now apply through the SAAS for a tuition fee loan towards the cost of fees (maximum loan £3,400 for full-time study and £1,700 for part-time study). The loans are not means tested and must be repaid once you are in employment and earning above the student loan repayment threshold (currently £16,365). Although no official statement has yet been made, the funding position for 2015/16 is anticipated to change with the introduction of an additional living cost loan of up to £4,500. Course fees vary so students should check with individual institutions for exact costs, but UK and European students will be paying between £6,000 and £6,650 for course fees in 2014.
Costs for materials (up to £450) are in addition to this fee. Students tend to make up the shortfall through a variety of means, including career development loans, part-time work, family contributions and savings. Grants and trusts can sometimes be available, eg the Pritchard Educational Trust and the Clark Foundation for Legal Education; students are encouraged to check the Law Society of Scotland website for more information on grants, the route to qualification and training.
TARGETjobs Law would like to thank Tracey Innes, senior careers adviser at the University of Aberdeen, for her help with this article.