Coordinates: 55°56′50.6″N 3°11′13.9″W / 55.947389°N 3.187194°W / 55.947389; -3.187194

Edinburgh Law School
Old College of Edinburgh University.JPG
Established1707; 315 years ago (1707) (Regius Chair of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations)
Head of SchoolJo Shaw
Academic staff
293 [1]
Administrative staff
50 [1]
Students1,930 [2]
Undergraduates955 [2]
Postgraduates980 [2]
Offer rate2018 undergraduate offer rate by fee status: 23% (Scotland/EU), 29% (rest of UK), 65% (overseas), 89% (graduate entry)[3]
AffiliationsPart of the College of Humanities and Social Science

Edinburgh Law School, founded in 1707, is a school within the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom dedicated to research and teaching in law. It is located in the historic Old College, the original site of the University. Two of the twelve currently sitting Supreme Court of the United Kingdom justices are graduates of Edinburgh, including the current President and Deputy President.

In 2014, the Research Excellence Framework commissioned by the UK government, ranked the University of Edinburgh 1st in Scotland and 4th in the UK.[4] The 2022 league table rankings from The Guardian placed Edinburgh at 10th in the UK.[5] The 2022 Complete University Guide league rankings placed Edinburgh at 8th in the UK.[6] The 2018 The Times league rankings placed Edinburgh at 11th in the UK.[7]


In 1707, the year of the unification of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England into the Kingdom of Great Britain, Queen Anne established the Chair of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations in the University of Edinburgh, to which Charles Erskine (or Areskine) was appointed; this was the formal start of the Faculty of Law. By 1722 the University had four Professors of Law, and classes—in Civil Law, Scots Law and History—were usually given in their respective homes or offices. Numbers grew with the expansion of the legal profession in the 19th century, and by 1830 there were over 200 students attending the Scots Law class alone. Scholarship amongst the academics at Edinburgh continued to grow in reputation, with the work of Muirhead, Lorimer and Rankine achieving international renown.

The Faculty of Law had moved to Old College, built in 1789, and in 1862 the new degree of LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws) was introduced, following the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858. The degree was only open to graduates, usually those who had studied for the M.A.(Arts) at a Scottish University or the B.A. at Oxford or Cambridge. Students of the LL.B. had to attend courses and be examined in Civil Law, Conveyancing, Public law, Constitutional law and History, and Medical Jurisprudence; Edinburgh was the only University to offer this degree for some time. In 1909 Eveline MacLaren and Josephine Gordon Stuart became Scotland's first two female law graduates when they each obtained an LL.B degree from Edinburgh.[8][9] By 1966, the LL.B. had become a full-time undergraduate course, although many would continue to study for an Arts degree beforehand. In 1981, Edinburgh first offered the Diploma in Legal Practice, for LL.B. students wishing to enter the legal profession.

Today, the School of Law is associated both with traditional Scots law and with innovation across a wide range of subjects. The School retains a reputation for scholarship in topics such as Roman Law but is also known as a centre for research in topics such as European law, criminology, commercial law, intellectual property and information technology law, labour law, European private law, medical law and ethics, international law, comparative law, and human rights law. In 2007 the School celebrated its Tercentenary year, marked by a series of events and of lectures by world-renowned legal experts.


National rankings
Complete (2022)[10]7
Guardian (2022)[11]15
Times / Sunday Times (2022)[12]12
Global rankings
ARWU (2021)[13]151-200
QS (2022)[14]22
THE (2022)[15]11

Throughout its history the School (or Faculty) of Law has accommodated some of the leading legal scholars in Europe. James Muirhead's work on Roman Law garnered international praise, Professor Erskine's Principles (1754) became a standard text in Scots Law, as did those of Professor George Joseph Bell. In the 20th-century, the eminent legal theorist Professor Sir Neil MacCormick wrote his seminal texts on legal philosophy as Regius Professor at Edinburgh.

Current members of Edinburgh Law School include current Regius Professor Neil Walker; Lord President Reid Professor of Law Alexandra Braun; Professor of European Union Law Professor Niamh Nic Shuibhne; the academic and novelist Professor Alexander McCall Smith; former Judge at the European Court of First Instance Sir David Edward QC; former Scottish Law Commissioners Emeritus Professor George Gretton, Professor Hector MacQueen, Professor Gerry Maher QC, Professor Andrew Steven, Professor Kenneth Reid and Emeritus Professor Robert Black QC (architect of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial).

Student activity

Students of the School of Law are represented by the Law Students' Council. The University of Edinburgh Law Society, known as LawSoc, provides a programme of social events. In addition, there is a Postgraduate Students' Research Committee for doctoral level students, as well as a Graduate Law Students' Society. The University Mooting Society is active, with two internal competitions and several external competitions running during each academic session, giving students the opportunity to develop the skills of oral legal argument. For graduate-level students there are a number of subject-specific discussion groups which meet on a regular basis. Since 2008, the students have published the Edinburgh Student Law Review.[16]

Research centres

Famous graduates

Notable alumni of Edinburgh Law School include:

Famous faculty


  1. ^ a b "Staff headcount as at September 2019".
  2. ^ a b c "Student Factsheet 2019/20" (PDF).
  3. ^ "Admissions statistics". University of Edinburgh.
  4. ^ "REF 2014 confirms Edinburgh Law School's excellence in research". Edinburgh Law School. University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  5. ^ ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ ((cite news)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ "University Guide 2016 - The Times". Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  8. ^ MacQueen, Hector (4 April 2009). "First women LLBs centenary | Scots Law News". University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  9. ^ "100 Years of Women in Law". Archived from the original on 14 May 2009. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  10. ^ "Complete University Guide 2022". The Complete University Guide. 8 June 2021.
  11. ^ "Guardian University Guide 2022". The Guardian. 11 September 2021.
  12. ^ "Good University Guide 2022". The Times. 17 September 2021.
  13. ^ "Academic Ranking of World Universities 2021". Shanghai Ranking Consultancy. 15 August 2021.
  14. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2022". Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd. 8 June 2021.
  15. ^ "THE World University Rankings 2022". Times Higher Education. 2 September 2021.
  16. ^ "Edinburgh Student Law Review".