Nearly half of respondents to a Scottish Young Lawyers' Association Survey oppose the new rules allowing trainee solicitors to appear in court after just three months, the SYLA has reported.

The change took effect in November, when the Law Society of Scotland's Admissions Regulations were amended, one of the biggest changes being to allow trainees who have completed three months of their traineeship to apply for admission for a restricted practising certificate if certain conditions are met. 

The survey, which ran between 20 and 31 December 2019, received 83 responses. The majority of respondents were qualified solicitors but responses were also received from first and second year trainees as well as law students. 

Overall, 53% of respondents supported the change to the admissions regulations, including 77% of students and 75% of first year trainees supported the change. However, only a third of second year trainees and fewer than half of qualified solicitors thought the early admission of trainees was a good idea. 

While solicitors in private practice varied in their support for the change between different sizes of firm, by far the most supportive were in-house lawyers, of whom 100% of respondents said they supported the new rules. 

A majority of respondents across all groups were not sure whether their firm or organisation was making or intended to make use of the new regulations. Of those who did know their organisation's position, the majority (57%) believed their firm to be making use of early admission. 

While 69% of first year trainees stated they intended to apply for early admission 31% said they had concerns about the impact of the change on them personally, compared to 17% of respondents as a whole. 

Further, 46% of qualified solicitors and 58% of second year trainees would have applied for early admission had this been available to them. 

Concerns raised included the prospective cost of the advocacy course which is one of the conditions for a trainee to obtain early admission, the impact on the quality of service being received by those represented by these trainees, and trainees being given the responsibility before they are truly ready. Positive comments centred on the hope that the change will increase the number of trainees being employed by smaller firms or organisations for whom it was previously economically not viable to employ a trainee.