Investigating Becoming an Advocate


  • What is an advocate? 


Advocates are specially trained lawyers who are independent (self-employed) and objective. As well as initially having trained as solicitors they have to undergo further training (devilling) and examinations before they can call to the Scottish Bar. 

Advocates come from a diverse range of backgrounds but all have an incisive, intelligent interest in the law and a determined approach when it comes to assessing their client’s position. They specialise not only in legal analysis but also in the presentation of legal arguments. They can represent clients in the highest courts in the land. 

As well as being excellent thinkers and presenters, they are excellent negotiators. While advocates are often brought into more difficult cases as they develop, in most situations it is wiser to involve an advocate from the very beginning. Their specialism and independence allow them to provide frank opinions and advice in the very best interest of the client. All advocates belong to the Faculty of Advocates - Scotland’s independent referral bar.


  • What subjects do I need to have studied at university?


The usual route to a career at the Bar involves completing an undergraduate degree in Scottish Law, and the Diploma in Legal Practice at one of the following universities: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde, Dundee, Aberdeen or Robert Gordon.  


  • How far in advance do I need to start thinking about becoming an advocate?


Ideally you should think about this before starting your degree so that you can avoid having to sit additional examinations at a later stage. However, this is not strictly necessary as in most instances Faculty can assist candidates to make up any shortfalls through its own examinations programme.


  • Where should I look for information about the process of becoming an advocate?


Faculty’s Admission Regulations, which govern the process of becoming an advocate, can be found here. If you have any questions please contact the Dean’s Secretariat on who will be glad to assist you. 

You can also reach out to members of Faculty as most advocates will be happy to have an informal chat about life at the Scottish Bar. You can find advocates through the ‘Find an advocate’ search function at 

Law students can also chat with Faculty members at the law career fairs at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde, Dundee, Aberdeen and Robert Gordon universities.


  • What sort of person is the ‘right sort of person’ to be an advocate?


There is no ‘right sort of person’. Granted there is a ‘traditional path’ to a career at the Bar – where a solicitor has spent several years at an established litigation firm or working in the criminal courts before starting devilling. But others come to the Bar straight after their traineeship at a solicitor’s office, while others practice outwith Scotland for several years or follow careers outside of the law before joining Faculty. It is one of the Bar’s many strengths that its members come from diverse backgrounds.   

There are pressures that come with life at the Bar that you may feel more keenly if you have not followed the ‘traditional path’ as it might take you more time to build your practice. 

However, all advocates are self-employed, so if you are motivated, driven and disciplined you should be able to manage your time and work effectively.


  •  How is life as an advocate different from life as a solicitor?


A solicitor's role tends to be more client focused. The work an advocate will do broadly falls into three categories: advocacy work representing clients in court or tribunals; drafting legal documents such as court pleadings; and providing opinions on points of law or the prospects of cases. An advocate would generally have more varied but less consistent work to do than a solicitor. Being self-employed has both benefits and challenges. A solicitor, unless a senior partner, is less likely to be involved in procuring work. An advocate is responsible not only for completing their workload but also for developing their individual practice. This gives more control over the work that an advocate would be doing but also has a risk of less consistency of work.

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