Publication - Publication

GLSS traineeship: recruitment brochure

Published: 13 Sep 2019

Information for prospective trainee lawyers about a traineeship with Government Legal Service for Scotland (GLSS).

12 page PDF

2.0 MB

12 page PDF

2.0 MB

GLSS traineeship: recruitment brochure
Where will your choices take you?

12 page PDF

2.0 MB

Where will your choices take you?

Why would you choose to be a GLSS lawyer?

"I have been closely involved in the instruction of a Bill in my second seat. This meant scrutinising instructions from policy colleagues and drafting legal instructions so the Bill provisions could be drafted. Being involved in forming future legislation is unique to the GLSS traineeship. We are given a high level of responsibility and I feel our advice is truly valued. The experience also prepares us for having responsibility for a Bill, from start to finish, once we're qualified." Kayleigh Blair first year trainee

The Government Legal Service for Scotland (GLSS) offers lawyers a stimulating and unique career at the heart of government.

Our traineeships provide opportunities to make a difference, and the start to a career in law that cannot be found anywhere else.

We deal with big questions, the answers to which determine the future of Scotland and the UK and have a tangible effect on people's lives.

As part of our team, the essence of your work will be to further the public interest and uphold the rule of law.

Our advice helps shape policies and legislation. Depending on where you are placed, you could be advising on anything from immigration to education, from criminal justice to health, or from transport to the environment, with public law forming a constant backdrop.

If you are passionate about litigation, you could join our lawyers in running some of the most high-profile cases in Scotland, with opportunities to take cases all the way to the Supreme Court.

Our career structure takes lawyers away from narrow specialisation and places an emphasis on a broad range of transferable skills and personal development. In the GLSS our lawyers usually move post every few years, changing subject matter and clients and developing a range of legal skills.

The GLSS is committed to providing a diverse and inclusive government legal service and ensuring that equality and inclusion remains at the heart of how we operate, including how we recruit and train new lawyers.

We want our appointments to reflect the people of Scotland and welcome applications from under-represented groups. We recently ran a "taster day", which was specifically aimed at raising awareness of our traineeships among law students who are disabled or come from minority ethnic or socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and we plan to organise similar events in future.

The government also runs a number of staff networks, including networks for under-represented groups, for colleagues to meet others and share experiences.

What are we looking for?

Due to the ever-changing political environment, the nature of the work can be fast-paced and subject to constant change. That means we need lawyers who are adaptable, flexible and able to respond to the issues of the day.

Highly developed problem-solving and analytical skills are essential for the work that we do. The advice you provide will require you to have an understanding of the devolution settlement, as well as the political environment and the relationship between the various jurisdictions within the UK.

Good team working skills are essential. You will be working alongside other lawyers in the GLSS and often as part of a wider team with policy colleagues working towards a shared goal, whether it is the introduction of a Bill or the drafting of a Scottish Statutory Instrument (SSI). Our lawyers must be self-aware and able to appreciate the wider needs of the team and the wider goals of the government as a whole.

In order to provide effective legal advice to policy teams and Ministers, strong communication skills are important.

Overall, a commitment to working in the public interest and the desire to be challenged are key.

As a GLSS lawyer you are also part of the civil service and your work and experience will reflect the Scottish Government's core values to:

  • treat all our people with kindness, dignity and compassion;
  • respect the rule of law; and
  • act in an open and transparent way.

"Like most trainees, I spent six months on secondment to a commercial law firm. I also spent six months working for Transport Scotland, and another six months with a UK Government litigation department. Moving between these roles has given me a valuable sense of perspective in terms of what practice areas I enjoy, and what career opportunities are out there." Niall Wilson second year trainee

What is the GLSS?

The GLSS is a partnership of government offices in Scotland. This means our lawyers are legal advisers to a range of governmental bodies.

The four core offices of the GLSS are:

Scottish Government Legal Directorate (SGLD)

This is the legal arm of the Scottish Government, providing legal services to the government and its agencies. SGLD lawyers are responsible for instructing Bills and drafting subordinate legislation; litigation and tribunal work; legislative competence and devolution matters; commercial law and procurement advice.

Office of the Advocate General (OAG)

This is the UK Government's Scottish legal team. Lawyers provide legal advice, drafting and litigation services to the UK Government on policy and legislation affecting Scotland and the Scottish devolution settlement. OAG lawyers also support the Advocate General in his role as a UK Law Officer and represent the UK Government in the courts and tribunals in Scotland.

Legal Secretariat to the Lord Advocate (LSLA)

LSLA supports Scotland's Law Officers in their role as the principal legal advisors to the Scottish Government. The Secretariat role includes research, helping to draft legal opinions and providing advice on other matters referred to the Law Officers. The work very often involves complex issues of human rights and constitutional law.

Scottish Law Commission (SLC)

This is Scotland's law reform body. It makes recommendations to the Scottish Government to simplify, modernise and improve Scots law. Lawyers examine areas of law and make recommendations to improve them.

"My first seat as a trainee was with the Office of the Advocate General. I had the opportunity to go to London for a conference and then to work in the Legal Secretariat to the Advocate General's office based in Dover House. This was a really great opportunity to get a different perspective on government work and a true benefit of the traineeship with the Scottish Government is that there are wide opportunities." Ruth Swanson first year trainee

"Looking back at the traineeship, one of the things that stands out for me is the wide range of experience I have had over the different seats I've been in. As well as being involved in drafting contracts, advising on property and family law and assisting with new legislation within the Scottish Government for example, I've had the opportunity to appear in court while on secondment to private practice, and to advise UK government departments while working in the Office of the Advocate General, to name just a few." Martin Brown second year trainee

What is the traineeship like?

The GLSS offers one of the most varied and rewarding traineeships available. We offer unique opportunities for trainees to be involved at the cutting edge of public law.

Your traineeship will comprise four seats each lasting for six months.

Usually two or three of those seats will be based within SGLD, the largest GLSS body, working directly for the government of Scotland. Seats are also available at OAG – one of the other GLSS offices.

Currently the LSLA and SLC do not offer traineeship seats but opportunities for secondment to their offices are available to lawyers after they qualify.

Trainees could have the opportunity to go to the Office of the Solicitor to the Scottish Parliament (OSSP). This seat gives trainees experience of providing legal advice on parliamentary matters.

You could also find yourself spending six months at a private law firm. This is a great opportunity to gain legal experience outside of government and find out more about the operation of a law firm which works closely with SGLD.

Training covers a wide range of legal work, from core professional areas – including contract, litigation and public and administrative law – to specialist advisory work for the government. You can also expect to become familiar with the development, drafting and implementation of new law, which are core elements of the work of the GLSS.

Most trainee seats are based at government offices in Edinburgh, but could also include working in Glasgow, the Scottish Parliament (if based in OSSP) or in private sector offices in a variety of locations.

Every trainee is a valuable member of their team and will be given their own projects to work on, with a strong network of support and training. This could involve giving formal advice to Ministers, drafting subordinate legislation, or working on high-profile litigation. From early on, you will be a point of contact for clients. As a GLSS trainee you will be constantly challenged, making our traineeship one of the best in terms of preparing you for life as a qualified lawyer.

Do you feel strongly about contributing to your community? Staff in the government are encouraged to do voluntary work and the GLSS supports its qualified lawyers and trainees to use their legal training to serve the community in partnership with the Citizens Advice Bureau.

"My current seat in Transport Scotland is the only one based in Glasgow and our small team of legal advisors sits among clients which is a real advantage. There are also plenty of opportunities to maintain contact with Edinburgh colleagues through flexible working, training sessions and socialising. We get involved in various projects from road orders, to railway franchise to land ownership. Our work really affects everyday life of people in Scotland which is the reason I was drawn to the GLSS traineeship in the first place." Ania Grace first year trainee

Being Supported

At the GLSS we place emphasis on management support, mentoring and flexible team working.

Our trainees are responsible for their own work but will never lack support. Each is line managed by an experienced lawyer who offers guidance and supports the personal and professional development of their trainee.

Besides the expertise and experience of our lawyers, we have an extensive legal library including access to a wide range of online resources and a dedicated team of support staff.

We recognise the personal and professional benefits of a good social and family life and offer excellent working conditions and promote flexible working patterns.

As one of the largest legal employers in Scotland, the GLSS offers opportunities to meet new people and get involved in a range of activities, from nights out to hillwalking.

Our main building, Victoria Quay in Leith, offers a 25m heated swimming pool and sauna, a well-equipped gym, an outdoor multi-court and a large number of fitness classes. Childcare is also available for staff through a workplace nursery.

The Practicalities

We usually take on between six and eight trainees per year. Although offers of posts following qualification cannot be guaranteed, in recent years we have retained all of our trainees.

We otherwise recruit lawyers as appropriate and are always looking for people with experience from across the legal profession.

If you would like any further information about any aspect of a traineeship with the GLSS, please email us at