Professional Practice column: advice on who is entitled to call themselves an associate


I have been with my firm for several years and have a full practising certificate. I am about to be promoted to associate, but understand that there are some restrictions around certain professional titles. For example, I have a friend who came off the Roll of Solicitors while she took several years out to have children. When she went back to work she was advised that she was not immediately eligible to resume her previous associate status? Can you confirm the position please?


“Lawyer”, “solicitor”, “legal adviser” are just some of the labels applied to those in the profession, and whether particular titles are appropriate in terms of the practice rules is a question frequently asked of the Professional Practice team. Strictly speaking, such matters also require liaison with the Registrar’s team in the Society, but the Prof Prac team are happy to discuss issues on a confidential basis, particularly in the first instance where members may have concerns or worries.

In relation to your situation, the fact that you are on the Roll of Solicitors and hold a current and full practising certificate means that you can present yourself as a “solicitor”, “partner”, “consultant”, “associate” or “qualified assistant”, depending on your individual status within the firm.

The Society’s glossary of terms defines “associate” as a “regulated person, holding an unrestricted practising certificate who is in the employment of a practice unit whether full time or part time and who has been afforded the status of ‘associate’ by that practice unit”. The key issues here, therefore, are that you have an unrestricted certificate and are in the employment of your firm. That being the case, congratulations on your promotion; you are entitled to be called an associate.

The example you provide about your friend is different. Having left the profession for a number of years without retaining her practising certificate or position on the Roll, nor having maintained the CPD requirements, this puts her in a different category. In light of being off the Roll and not practising as a solicitor, your friend was only eligible for a restricted practising certificate when she returned to work. This is a standard policy of the Practising Certificate Subcommittee for those returning to the profession after an absence of more than 12 months.

This restriction applies for 12 months, and because the rules require that an associate must hold an unrestricted certificate, your friend will not have been entitled to call herself an associate during the first 12 months after her return.

The Author
Coral Riddell, Head of Professional Practice, Law Society of Scotland
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