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Can a US attorney practise in the UK?

There are several ways to practise law in the UK as a US attorney. Find out more about your options to qualify as a lawyer in the UK.

For assistance with obtaining required work and residence permits allowing you to live and practise in the UK, call our lawyers on 0333 305 9375.

Does the UK have a Single Legal System?

The UK is made up of several separate jurisdictions.

Scotland and Northern Ireland all have their own legal systems and courts, while there is only one jurisdiction system for England and Wales. Therefore, if you wish to practise in the UK, you need to decide where you want to be based as there is no single unified legal system UK judicial system.

In most cases, however, the Supreme Court is the final court of appeal for all of these jurisdictions.

legal system

How to requalify as a lawyer in England and Wales?

For the time being, the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) allows lawyers from various countries, including the US to qualify as solicitors in England and Wales. The QLTS consists of two assessments:

  • Multiple Choice Test (MCT) – there are 180 questions, which test the knowledge of English and Welsh law.
  • Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) – the part covers three legal practice areas: Business Law and Practice, Litigation and Property Law.

Exam fees are £588 + VAT for the MCT part, and £3,042 + VAT for the OSCE part.

From September 2021 onwards, however, QLTS will be replaced by the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), which is a two-part exam that needs to be taken by foreign attorneys who aspire to practise in England and Wales.

After SQE is put in place, all qualified US attorneys will need to meet the following criteria:

  • Have a university degree or relevant qualification or experience
  • Pass the SQE1 and SQE2 assessments, which are two parts SQE is composed of
  • Have two years of qualifying work experience
  • Meet character and suitability requirements.

The two stages of the SQE assessment test different aspects of legal knowledge. SQE1 focuses on functioning legal knowledge, while SQE2 focuses on practical legal skills and knowledge. Moreover, SQE takes place over two non-consecutive days, and SQE2 includes oral assessments that take place over two consecutive half days, and written assessments over three consecutive half days.

The total fee for SQE is £3,908, with SQE1 costing £1,558 and SQE2 costing £2,422.

Before applying to qualify as solicitors in England and Wales, candidates from the US have to hold a professional qualification in the US jurisdiction.

Do you need help applying for a Skilled Worker Visa? Our lawyers can assist you.

How to requalify as a lawyer in Scotland?

In order to be able to practise in Scotland, an attorney qualified in US jurisdiction has to apply to requalify as a Scottish solicitor via Qualified Lawyers Assessment (QLA). This is a set of exams that cover 11 subjects. Nevertheless, attorneys that can prove their qualifications and experience in some areas can be eligible for exemption.

In addition to passing the exams, candidates must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility. To do so, they need to provide supporting information that includes:

  • Application form available online
  • Certificate of Good Standing from Home Bar Association
  • Disclosure Scotland application
  • A fee of £500 and a further £25 for your Disclosure deck
  • Learning Portfolio application form that covers the details of candidates’ qualifications and experience.

How to requalify as a lawyer in Northern Ireland?

US attorneys who want to practise in Northern Ireland need to meet the following criteria:

  • Have been admitted as a solicitor, which requires completing training
  • Obtain a solicitor’s practising certificate
  • Have their name on the roll, which is a list of all solicitors of the Court of Judicature in Northern Ireland.

Practising certificates are issued to candidates who wish to requalify by the Law Society of Northern Ireland. In order to get one issued, US attorneys need to fill in an application form and pay a fee. They need to renew their registration each year that they intend to practise in Northern Ireland.

How can IAS help?

If you are a US attorney and you want to move to the UK to work, our immigration lawyers are here to help. IAS is a law firm based in the UK, but we have a team dedicated to US-related immigration issues who can help you.

Our lawyers can answer any questions you may have about moving to the UK and can tell you what work permits and visas you need to apply for. They can also discuss the availability of various UK work visas with you and can guide you through the complex process of requalifying as a lawyer in the UK.

Our team will assist you with filling out any required forms, gathering necessary documents and explaining each step of the process of moving to the UK.

For more information about how our lawyers can help you, call us on 0333 305 937.

We can help you if you need help with your Skilled Worker Visa application.

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