Skills Assessment 4 – AdvocacyJanuary 29, 2013
Surviving the BPTC – Civil Advocacy and Skeleton ArgumentsFebruary 7, 2013
This week Amy Dimond prepares for the first round of exams for the LPC, discussing notes, questions and advanced materials.
Image courtesy of shutterhacks on Flickr under a Creative Commons Licence
The first round of exams usually take place towards the start of the second term – for September starting courses this will be just after New Year. These are for your core modules and are the biggies. As this time is fast approaching, I thought those of you revising might appreciate some tips for exam prep.
The LPC exams are open book (some providers even have multiple choice format!) and require a different sort of exam preparation to undergraduate exams. In undergrad, you will have spent your revision time cramming, trying to remember all the legislation, case law and opinions you needed to answer the questions, no doubt making increasingly illegible and unorganised scribbled notes in the process. This sort of exam prep will not get you through the LPC exams.
Firstly, there is too much information to be able to cram; you simply won’t remember it all. Just look at the size of the Companies Act 2006 alone! Besides, you don’t need to remember every little thing like undergrad. All you just need are notes in a format that is easy to navigate and the understanding to know what information you should be looking for.
This may sound obvious but well organised notes are the key to a good LPC exam. There is a lot of information you have been given, plus your texts and statute books to get through and not a lot of time to look. If your notes are a mess or you have to resort to indexes and contents pages then you are wasting time that you could spend writing.
For my notes, I amalgamated my reading, workshop and lecture notes into word-processed documents by topic. I then paginated the notes and created a contents table, so that I could quickly find the topic or section that I needed. These notes weren’t particularly long and mostly consisted of bullet points that I could elaborate in my answers. The key to good notes is usefulness; pages of practice essays sure look smart but spending two minutes scan reading to find the right reference is not a good use of your time!
The key to good notes is usefulness; pages of practice essays sure look smart but spending two minutes scan reading to find the right reference is not a good use of your time!
[/one_third_last]How you organise your notes does depend on how much time you have and how your course material is structured; my uber-organised, word-formatted to the hilt, docs may not be for everyone. However, in my opinion it is always much better to do your own organising for the exam. You might have been doing the reading as part of a group or even have a friend who has offered to swap notes. There is nothing wrong with this but remember that it will be you who has to use them in the exam. You might not understand the way their mind works which could confuse you just at the time you need to be clear.
When I say understanding, I mean a general grasp of the area of law that allows you to a) see what the question is asking and b) know where to look to find the information to back up your answer. The understanding allows you quickly identify the relevant legal aspects and therefore aren’t looking in 4 wrong places before you find the bit you need. It doesn’t matter how organised your notes are if you don’t know what you should be looking for in the first place!
…you don’t need to be able to remember every last detail but you do need to be able to explain and understand the legal concepts.
This is where good revision comes in. Unlike undergrad, you don’t need to be able to remember every last detail but you do need to be able to explain and understand the legal concepts. A really useful way I found to do this (provided you can find someone willing!) was to try to explain the concepts verbally to a non-legal friend. If I could get the point across, without overly relying on my notes, without confusing my friend, then I knew enough to get through. I have to say I had to rotate my friends to stop them getting entirely fed up! What you are doing, in essence, is explaining the concepts to a lay client, so it is also good practice.
I would suggest practising answering some papers with your notes and see how you get on. If you get stuck and feel like you are struggling to answer or find what you need, chances are you haven’t quite got the combination right. Better to know now than find out in the exam!
The other aspect of LPC exam prep is the advanced materials. These are snippets of information given to you about which you will have to answer questions in the exam. They might be, for example, historical information relating to a conveyance (e.g. title docs, sale memorandum), the annual return of a company or the disclosed documents for a hearing. This information is designed to allow you to anticipate potential questions and to prepare before the exam. The advanced materials don’t necessarily test your legal knowledge but your ability to analyse information to provide legal advice.
…the best way to tackle the advanced materials is to think of all possible questions you could be asked…
[/one_third_last]I produced fact sheets either listing the relevant information or highlighted the important info on the material itself: for a company’s articles, I listed where it deviated from the statutory norm, what the procedure was to call a meeting, what the directors’ powers were etc; for a title doc, I highlighted and numbered the rights and encumbrances, listing their properties (burdening or benefiting land in question, restrictive or positive covenant, etc.) by corresponding number.
The idea is to be able to quickly answer a question without having to reanalyse the data you were given before. Again, practice this; if you find yourself re-examining the advanced material to answer a question, you haven’t prepared thoroughly enough.
You will know by now that part of your professional conduct marks are gained in your core module exams discreetly. This means that you won’t actually know which questions are professional conduct questions. Although those of you taking the exams now have outcomes focussed regulation as opposed to strict rules as I did, I think ticking the professional conduct box will take a similar approach. Pretty much all of the students in my class answered every question as it had professional conduct aspects. It might not have been required for every question but if there was even a hint of an issue you can be sure it was covered. I remember mentioning some requirements even when it wasn’t directly relevant (‘Of course, before reaching this stage, I would have provided the client with adequate information about costs and would continue to consider throughout the matter whether the client should be updated in this regard’) but this might have been slight overkill!
You will be allowed your OFR texts in the exams. However, I found it useful to put a little professional conduct reference (colour coded, naturally) in my notes whenever there was a particular issue to be aware of (costs in litigation, acting for the seller and buyer in property, proceeds of crime when dealing with unpaid tax, etc.) just as a reminder.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all good luck in your exams and I hope it goes well for all of you!
Next week I will be looking at Insolvency, one of, if not the most, reviled BLP subject.