Article: Employing politically displaced lawyers in the Scottish legal profession


In January, we had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion dedicated to the topic of employing politically displaced lawyers in Scotland, where we shared our experience with leading Scottish law firms; outlined the advantages of employing Ukrainian lawyers in the Scottish legal profession; and discussed the prospects of professional development through the requalification process according to the Scottish qualification system. The event was hosted and chaired by the Law Society of Scotland.

Since 24 February 2022, the international armed conflict in Ukraine has forced more than 8 million people to leave their homes in search of safety and protection.[1] This undoubtedly influenced the Highly Skilled Migration among Ukrainian lawyers, advocates, legal consultants, as well as students who moved abroad to continue obtaining their degrees under higher education mobility programs.

Currently, the Law Society of Scotland (LSS) provides its support to approximately 70 Ukrainian lawyers in Scotland who are deeply interested in continuing their professional activities and development in the legal services sector. There are quite a few people who have already started their requalification process. Nonetheless, the vast majority of the displaced lawyers all over the country have been trying to continue working for Ukrainian and European law firms or in private practice remotely.

Taking into account that three Ukrainian lawyers, myself included, have joined Morton Fraser (MF) last year, it was a pleasure for all of us to be part of the initiative that supported the Ukrainian professional community and to influence employment accessibility for displaced lawyers across Scotland.

The panel discussion started with a general overview of legislative requirements for employment in the legal sphere, including an employment process which involves recruitment of Ukrainian lawyers. Existing ways and key aspects of continuing their career in Scotland were also considered.

At this moment, there are a great deal of career opportunities for Ukrainian professionals in Scotland, such as work in supportive capacities and paralegal roles; either under their home-country title (e.g., advocate, Ukraine qualified) or non-reserved title (e.g., legal advisor). All of them provide access to the legal profession in Scotland and help Ukrainians become familiar with the Scottish legislative framework, solicitors’ work, and the legal business process lifecycle. Moreover, there are no strict barriers or special requirements which might complicate the hiring process.

As part of this meeting, the LSS also discussed the scope of the support given to politically displaced Ukrainians in the legal community in Scotland. Apart from requalification assistance, the LSS, since September 2022, has also been actively involved in organising free language courses, lectures on the Scottish law basics, as well as providing access to local libraries. It should be noted that there are some Scottish legal associations, including the WS Society[2] and SYLA[3], that have provided free membership for all representatives of the Ukrainian legal profession.

All panellists had the opportunity to share their own experience, answer questions such as “why is the recruitment of Ukrainian lawyers/students crucially significant these days?”, “what is it like to be a Ukrainian lawyer in Scotland?” and “how much effort does it take for both parties to find a common work balance?” as well as “how to be effective in a completely new professional environment?”.

Martin Glover, HR Director at MF, spoke about the social and professional values ??that influenced the company’s decision to employ Ukrainian lawyers. Martin also emphasised the importance of commitment to the global legal community, especially Ukrainian lawyers at such a difficult time for the entire world.

For me personally, it was essential to show that Ukrainian lawyers have not only learned to react quickly to legislative changes, but also to adapt to the hard conditions of providing legal services in today’s war circumstances, while maintaining their high-quality services and driving business forward at the same time.

We believe the event has encouraged other Firms to employ great talent from Ukraine!

[1] According to the official statistics of NHCR, 31 January 2022.

[2] The Society of Writers to His Majesty’s Signet (known as the WS Society) (Scottish charity SC050987) is the incorporated body of Scottish lawyers known as Writers to the Signet or “WS” with over 500 years of heritage. We are one of the oldest incorporated bodies in Scotland for public benefit.

[3] The Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association (SYLA).