Northern Ireland Professional Regulation
Often referred to as a province since its creation by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, Northern Ireland is also a separate legal jurisdiction within the United Kingdom.
Like the other countries within the UK, Northern Ireland has formed its own set of courts and thus maintained its own jurisdiction. This means that not every law and regulation you find within the UK necessarily apply to the rules and regulations of Northern Ireland, although sometimes there is overlap.
Since Brexit, it also occupies a unique status in international law: a province of one country being in the customs union and market of another body.
Accountant: An accountant is a qualified individual who prepares, audits, and finalises the accounts of companies, individuals, and other entities. They are similar to auditors in the sense that both roles are responsible for the accounting of companies, but auditors usually have the added responsibility of reviewing the work of accountants and the remaining business. A general accountant in Northern Ireland is different to a chartered accountant. Chartered accountants are specialist in services and businesses, whilst possessing greater job experiences and a higher academic degree.
General accountants are expected to have completed the Advanced Diploma in Accounting (AAT) as a minimum requirement. The AAT is a degree for individuals wanting to start out a career in accounting, and it consists of three levels. The first level is the Foundation Certificate, a course that takes between 6-12 months to complete and is considered a level 2 qualification in the UK. The second stage is the Advanced Diploma course which also takes 6-12 months to complete, and is considered a level 3 qualification in the UK. The third stage is the Professional Diploma course which takes between 9-18 months to complete, and is considered a level 5 qualification in the UK.
In Northern Ireland, all accountants must adhere to the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA). The IAASA is an independent body in Ireland tasked with adopting auditing, ethical and internal quality control standards for auditors. As such, all accountants in Northern Ireland must adhere to the IASSA Ethical Standards.
Chartered Accountant: To be considered a qualified chartered accountant in Northern Ireland, an individual must have completed either an undergraduate or masters degree at university, become a member of the Accounting Technicians Ireland (ATI), or been a member of another professional accountancy body.
Chartered accountants in Northern Ireland are regulated by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).
Lawyer: A lawyer is a generic term used to identify and individual who is a licensed legal practitioner qualified to give legal advice in one or more areas of law. They are either known as barristers, solicitors, or legal executives. Depending on the type of lawyer, all lawyers within Northern Ireland are regulated by a particular organisation. This reassures employers, clients and the public that they can trust organisational members as safe and competent legal practitioners.
Barrister: Barristers (in Northern Ireland) are lawyers specialised in advocacy, representing individuals or organisations in court, and providing reasoned opinions on complex areas of law. They are usually self-employed who come together with other barristers in ‘chambers’. They are more often instructed through solicitors for specialist work, rather than directly by clients.
Solicitor: A solicitor (in Northern Ireland) is a qualified lawyer responsible for preparing legal documentation, representing and/or defending a client’s legal interests. Usually working in firms, they are the first port of call for most clients, and will instruct barristers on their clients behalf where necessary.
Legal Executive: Legal executives (in Northern Ireland) are a form of trained legal professional in certain jurisdictions. They often specialise in a particular area of law. The training that a Legal Executive undertakes usually includes both vocational training and academic qualifications.
Legal executives practicing in Northern Ireland are regulated by the Law Society of Northern Ireland (LSNI).
Legal Adviser: A catch all term which includes regulated and unregulated lawyers.
Tax Adviser: Another catch all term, a tax adviser is an individual specialised in tax legislation. Tax Advisers include tax lawyers, tax accountants and unqualified consultants. They provide advisory and consultancy services to their clients. They ensure that their clients pay taxes in the most efficient way and benefit from any tax advantages and exemptions.
Representative body for lawyers
Within Northern Ireland, there are two representative body for lawyers. The Law Society of Northern Ireland (LSNI) is the representative for solicitors, and The Bar of Northern Ireland is the representative for barristers.
Regulatory body for lawyers
Lawyers in Northern Ireland are mainly regulated by two bodies.
Solicitors are regulated by the Law Society of Northern Ireland (LSNI), and barristers are regulated by the The Bar of Northern Ireland. These two groups serve as both the representative and regulatory bodies for each profession.
However, both solicitors and barrister are also regulated by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA), which is an independent regulator for legal services in Northern Ireland.
Lawyers Code of Conduct
The Solicitors Practice Regulations applies to solicitors within Northern Ireland.
The Bar of Northern Ireland’s Code of Conduct applies to barristers.
Obligations and requirements to practice law
To practice law within Northern Ireland as a solicitor, individuals are required to have completed the following:
The law degree route. This requires the individual to possess an acceptable law degree and have been offered a place in the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. Then they must have obtained a Master (a solicitor with whom the applicant proposes to serve his/her apprenticeship).
The non-law route. The individual must satisfy the society that they have a satisfactory knowledge of several fields within law found here. They must then be able to prove that they have been offered a place in the Institute. Finally, they must be able to prove that they have obtained a Master (a solicitor with whom the applicant proposes to serve his/her apprenticeship).
Alternative route. This requires the individual to prove they can satisfy the Society that having attained the age of 30 years. They must have acquired such special qualifications and/or experience as to render them suitable to be accepted as a registered student.
Apprenticeships/Traineeships. Information regarding this route can be found here.
To practice law within Northern Ireland as a barrister, individuals are expected to have completed the following:
Complete a qualifying law degree.
Complete the Bar Post-Graduate Diploma in Professional Legal Studies at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, Queen’s University, Belfast (IPLS).
Call to the Bar of Northern Ireland and complete a 12-month pupillage.
Rules regarding referrals and commissions for lawyers
The Solicitors Practice Regulations set out the degree of professionalism expected from solicitors practicing in Northern Ireland.
Information regarding referrals and commissions can be found here.
The Bar of Northern Ireland’s Code of Conduct highlights the degree of professionalism expected from barristers practicing in Northern Ireland.
Information regarding referrals and commissions is in section 32 of the code of conduct found here.
Solicitors within Northern Ireland can be found on the LSI directory.
Barristers within Northern Ireland can be found on the Bar of Northern Ireland’s directory
Representative body for chartered accountants
Within Northern Ireland, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) is considered to be the main representative body.
Regulatory body for chartered accountants
There are four main regulatory bodies that regulate chartered accountants in Northern Ireland:
Chartered accountants’ Code of Ethics
The applicable code of ethics is provided by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting Northern Ireland (CIPFA).
The code of ethics can be found here.
Obligations & requirements for accountants
Obtain a previous qualification that enables you to become a chartered accountant. This could be obtained via college/university, being an Accounting Technicians Ireland (ATI) member/student, or being a member of an applicable professional accounting body.
There are then three academic levels in the Chartered Accountancy programme. CAP1 is the first academic level of the education programme it provides the essential foundation knowledge. CAP2 builds on the foundation knowledge studied at CAP1 and follows the cumulative knowledge principal. The Final Admitting Exam is the last stage. FAE is designed to integrate the knowledge, skills and values derived from earlier studies and the work environment.
Securing an apprenticeship, or obtaining work experience. Although, accountants will often be expected to have gained previous experience from working within an appropriate industry.
Rules regarding referrals and commissions for accountants
There are a number of different professional accountancy organizations (PAOs) within Northern Ireland that establish ethical requirements for their members. All PAOs base their ethical requirements in conjunction with the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) Code of Ethics.
The essential rules regarding referrals and commissions are illustrated within sections 330 and 410 of the CIPFA code of ethics found here.
The Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA) register can be found here.
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting Northern Ireland (CIPA) can be found here.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) register can be found here.
The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) register can be found here.
The Certified Public Accountants Association (CPAA) register can be found here.
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) register can be found here.