The journey to dual qualification
30 Aug 16
Lancaster based Clare Davey explains her route to qualifying into Scotland before being admitted as a Scottish solicitor earlier this year
I practise under my maiden name, Clare Davey, but I am in fact married with a three year old daughter and a little boy on the way. I am also a type one diabetic and dyslexic. You would think that amounts to plenty of challenges and distractions when you’re working full time in a law firm. However, I found that one of my proudest moments so far in my life took place on 18 March 2016 when I attended the Law Society of Scotland Admission Ceremony at the Signet Library in Edinburgh.
Qualifying in England
I am in fact an English solicitor who has been qualified for 12 years in English law and have worked most of my time for JWK Solicitors in Lancaster. I took the traditional route to qualify as an English solicitor and was then recruited to Jobling & Knape Solicitors in December 2004. Some may query why I haven’t moved from the same firm for such a long period of time when there are so many other firms and distractions just outside the door. However, I don’t think enough importance is ever given to the quality of a law firm and the team you work with.
New challenges and client demand
Part of my attraction to law in the first place was to be a problem solver or, as my supervisor has always taught me, to aim to "be a deal maker rather than a deal breaker". I’ve spent most of my career dealing with commercial transactions but I would never say that I know everything about my specialism. Nothing is ever exactly the same and there is always a new challenge to overcome.
In 2014, I decided I wanted a new academic challenge. I looked at the STEP accreditation which some of my probate colleagues were attempting, but it didn’t seem to fit with my work. My decision to qualify in Scots law was ultimately due to client demand. Although we have one solely qualified Scottish solicitor at the firm, it was thought best to have more (especially dual qualified), and so my colleague and I decided to see what we needed to do to qualify as a Scottish solicitor.
The pre-exam requirements
We looked at the Law Society of Scotland website and made a shopping list of exactly what we were required to do in order to be able to sit the exams.
First, we needed to obtain a certificate of eligibility, which caused some issues while we tried to find our birth certificates, complete a Disclosure Scotland form and obtain a certificate from the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (the regulatory body for English solicitors). It almost felt like an exam in itself!
Then there were three papers in order to pass the Intra-UK Transfer Test. Paper I contained conveyancing, trusts and succession; paper II contained Scots criminal law, evidence, civil and criminal procedure; and paper III contained questions regarding European law and institutions.
Although I could confidently say I have been practising conveyancing in England for a number of years, the last time I considered any questions regarding trusts and succession, criminal law, evidence, civil and criminal law procedure was possibly back in the days of university and this filled me with dread! The good news was that there was an application which could mean that you didn’t have to sit the third paper regarding European Union law and institutions.
Digging up the past
Looking further into the requirements, it almost seemed like an impossible task to satisfy what the Society required for the application. This included providing evidence of the syllabus of topics covered at degree level (bearing in mind I sat my LLB exams between 1997 and 2001), and remembering the actual questions asked within the test papers.
I contacted my university and found they no longer held the syllabus or the test papers because it was such a long time ago (!). I managed to find some of my degree level textbooks and photocopied extracts. From memory I confirmed what I had covered at degree level regarding European Union law, which also included my dissertation on the Working Time Regulations.
Luckily, in dealing with conveyancing, but also buying and selling of businesses, I continued to have experience with European Union law in regard to transfer of employees during the sale of a business, energy performance certificates and sex and race discrimination law. Luckily this was sufficient to satisfy requirements, which meant there were "only" two papers to sit.
The past papers which are published on the Law Society of Scotland website were very useful to understand what type of questions may be asked in the exam. The other main source of information was Central Law Training, who provided very helpful handouts for papers I and II in the form of some very heavyweight course notes.
However, substantially amended handouts (about two lever arch files' worth) were sent out just four weeks before the exam. Having studied the previous handouts, this caused some panic as to whether or not the updated work could be learned in time! We also had some guidance from our Scottish qualified solicitor colleague. However, he was very much experienced in conveyancing rather than the other aspects of paper I and the full aspects of paper II.
Study, study, study
At the same time as learning about Scots law, my colleague and I were actually attending a management course to attain our CMI level 5 Certificate in Management and Leadership (QCF) run by the Chartered Management Institute, which finished just after Christmas. Also my colleague was learning Greek at night school at the same time! Therefore we both really needed to focus on our Scots law studies from January 2015 if we were to sit the diet in the following May.
We were lucky enough that work offered us half a day off per week to study, but this was quite difficult to schedule because our supervisor (we had the same supervisor and were in the same department) stated that the time should not be scheduled in but instead taken “when you think it's right”. For many a week this was not at all, as commercial transactions needed to complete! The only other time for study was after work and weekends, although we were both granted one week off prior to the exams.
Juggling family life, work and revision
Finding time to study was particularly hard for me having a young family and working full time. I would leave work on the dot at 5.00pm to pick up a toddler from nursery, feed, bathe and put her to bed. So any studying could only take place after 7.30pm and on top of all of this there was the usual housekeeping, food shopping etc that any adult deals with.
At the weekend my daughter was spoilt rotten on days out with Daddy. However it was also hard on Daddy to find things to do with our daughter at the age of three when the weather between January and May wasn’t at its best. I was exhausted from full days of studying, having spent the week at work. It was difficult and I felt guilty and envious and of missing out on good times and watching my daughter develop. At times, finding the enthusiasm to be a super Mummy on their return was unattainable.
A loss in the family
On top of time constraints and pressures, a close member of family died after a very short illness a week before the exams whilst I was in revision overdrive. The funeral was planned for the day of the diet in May and there was little that I could do. I didn’t want to delay sitting the diet until November, or to miss out on the whole of summer with my family and perhaps the law changing! Missing the funeral made sitting the diet somewhat harder, but I was most grateful to Katy Cameron at the Law Society of Scotland for her empathy and assistance throughout.
Support and understanding
Although it was my hard work which resulted in becoming dual qualified, I am most grateful to my law firm for paying for the CLT handouts, granting me the time off to be able to learn about Scots law and also for paying for the hotel and trains and exams fees etc to sit the exams.
At my admission ceremony, the President of the Law Society of Scotland asked all the newly admitted Scottish solicitors to stand up, turn round to face the audience full of family and well wishers, and say thank you to those who had supported us. The gesture really wasn’t enough! Without the unfailing support of my husband, and my daughter showing rare patience and understanding for a toddler throughout my journey, it is not something I would have been able to attain.
Having now qualified and been admitted as a Scottish solicitor, I have also been promoted to become a director of my law firm. I am looking forward to a long career in Scottish conveyancing and enjoying the benefits of being a member of the Law Society of Scotland.
Clare Davey is a director at JWK Solicitors, Lancaster
More information about qualifying as a Scottish solicitor is available on the Law Society’s website.