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.
When should I apply for the PEAT 1 law course?
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 do I need to qualify for entry onto PEAT 1?
Selection for entry to PEAT 1 is based on results in the subjects that map to outcomes required by the Law Society of Scotland. Results are based on marks obtained in the first sitting of each examination. These subjects 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. Once again, check with your university for more information on this. This can then be moderated (up or down) by the class and type of degree obtained, overall number of failed subjects at undergraduate level, other qualifications and special circumstances affecting the academic performance of individual students. Where applicants have extremely similar academic records, an offer of a traineeship at the time of applying for a diploma place may also be taken into account.
What will I learn on the PEAT 1 course?
The timetable for PEAT 1 is very 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 current PEAT 1 course has changed significantly from the former diploma and now comprises up to 50 per cent elective courses (compared to very little flexibility in the past). A significant 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 students have more differences to base their choice of institution on. It may be that firms will start to favour particular courses that fit with their requirements although this is not yet common.
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 information and communication technology (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 I fund my legal training in Scotland?
A loan system is in place by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) and successful applicants to the diploma 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 per year for two years of 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). In addition, eligible full-time students who meet the criteria can also apply for a ‘living cost loan’ of up to £4,500. Part-time students are not eligible for the living cost loan. Up-to-date information about loans and how to apply is available at the SAAS website – see below.
Course fees vary so students should check with individual institutions for exact costs, but UK and European students will be paying between £6,300 and £7,500 for course fees in 2016/17. Costs for materials (from £250 upwards) are sometimes 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 below for more information on grants, the route to qualification, training and CPD.
What will I do post-PEAT 1: the traineeship?
In the practice year 2014/15, 540 traineeships (sometimes known as PEAT 2 but never as training contracts in Scotland) were commenced (compared to 530 in 2013/14). Competition for traineeships has remained high since 2008, when the UK entered a recession. While the number of traineeships registered over the last few years has remained stable, the numbers undertaking PEAT 1 training increased last year with 691 diploma students commencing in academic year 2015/16 compared to 541 in the previous year. This will likely impact the level of competition for traineeships in the current and next year. Beyond the traineeship, the numbers subsequently employed as solicitors have been relatively positive with 88 per cent of trainees from the last practice year employed as solicitors compared with 93 per cent the previous year.
TARGETjobs Law would like to thank Tracey Innes, senior careers adviser at the University of Aberdeen, for her help with this article.