PEAT 1: the qualification you'll need to practise law in Scotland

Last updated: 30 Sept 2023, 18:25

Darren Kerr, outreach and engagement manager at the Law Society of Scotland, talks targetjobs through the diploma in professional legal practice (DPLP) − the qualification that all aspiring solicitors and advocates in Scotland need to take.

Bridge of Dee, Aberdeen

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 England and Wales , where the two branches of the profession follow different routes to qualification after the academic stage of training.

The DPLP course structure and teaching

The timetable for the DPLP 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.

DPLP course comprises up to 50% elective courses (compared to very little flexibility in the past). 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.

Many courses will use delivery methods that allow for students to be introduced to several IT packages or use a mock-firm simulation to mimic 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.

Which Scottish universities offer the DPLP?

The one-year academic course 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

The DPLP is also offered part time over two academic years at:

  • the University of Dundee
  • the University of Glasgow,
  • Robert Gordon University
  • University of Strathclyde
  • the University of Edinburgh.

Robert Gordon University also has an online DPLP course, which is available both full and part time.

When to apply for the DPLP

Applications for the DPLP generally open in February, with the closing date towards the end of April. For exact dates, confirm with the university you are applying to. You apply for the DPLP in the year that you want to commence the course; it is not possible to defer a place but you can reapply in a future year without this disadvantaging you in any way.

Applications are dealt with centrally by the diploma providers and the process usually involves completing a standardised form, although some universities may have additional information you need to complete. We recommend you check with your LLB provider for clarification about this. We also issue an annual guidance note on the Law Society of Scotland website containing the up-to-date information.

All places for the DPLP will be offered on the condition that you hold an LLB from an accredited provider, which will usually be a Scottish university (except those who have undertaken a pre-PEAT traineeship). Allocation for DPLP places generally work the same way for each provider and is based on the results obtained in the core subjects required by the Law Society of Scotland. You can confirm with your LLB provider what these subjects are. Results are based on marks obtained in the first sitting of each examination. These subjects are most commonly 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. Some providers also consider other factors. You should check the admission process with each university.

Special circumstances affecting the academic performance of individual students are taken into consideration (only if not already taken into account by the undergraduate institution). 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.

You will be asked to choose up to two diploma providers to apply to. Should you receive more than one offer, you must accept only one offer and reject the others.

Funding the DPLP

A loan system is provided 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. For those commencing the DPLP in 2023, the Scottish government has confirmed that loans of up to £11,500 are available for any full-time taught postgraduate courses. This comprises a tuition fee loan of up to £7,000 and a non-income assessed maintenance loan of £4,500. These loans must be repaid once you are in employment and earning above the student loan repayment threshold (currently £27,660). Up-to-date information about loans and how to apply is available from SAAS .

Course fees vary so students should check with individual institutions for exact costs, but UK students will be paying between £7,930 and £10,735 for course fees in 2023/24. Costs for materials (from £200 upwards) are sometimes in addition to this fee. Students tend to make up the shortfall through a variety of means, including part-time work, family contributions and savings. Grants and trusts can sometimes be available including bursaries available at the university you are studying at; students are encouraged to check the Law Society of Scotland website for more information on grants and the route to qualification at

PEAT 2: the traineeship

An award of the DPLP means you are eligible to commence a traineeship, provided you also meet the Law Society of Scotland’s ‘fitness and properness’ requirements. However, a DPLP does not guarantee a traineeship and the application process often commences as early as third year during the full honours LLB degree.

Competition for traineeships

The Law Society publishes traineeship statistics each year to provide an indication of the employment market for those embarking on the path to the DPLP and traineeship.

Traineeship numbers have generally grown since 2011; however, the registration numbers over the last few years have painted a more unusual picture. The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a 26% drop from the previous years, but 2020/21 and 2021/22 figures almost recovered that loss. In our 2021/22 cycle we had 787 traineeships, which was a 6% increase from 2020/21. By calculating an average over the last five years, we know that 80% of diploma students went on to secure a traineeship.

While the number of traineeships registered over the past two years has increased, the number of students undertaking the DPLP has remained high, increasing competition. In the practice year 2021/22 when 787 traineeships were registered, 765 students commenced the DPLP. Our statistics show that as a five year average, the number of traineeships is around 80% of the number of DPLP places, which gives us a good idea of the proportion of DPLP students who obtain a traineeship.

Find out more about getting a traineeship (completing PEAT 2) in our companion article.

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This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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