The legal practice course is one which is increasingly popular amongst students of a legal and non-legal background. It is essentially a course that forms the vocational stage of your training to become a solicitor; it is compulsory for all wishing to practice and usually lasts for one year. You may be thinking to yourself that the information I am giving you is obvious, however many students are unaware of their options regarding the LPC, and also what it really entails.
Choosing a law school
There are a number of different providers of the legal practice course in the United Kingdom, with the University of Law and BPP being the big names available. Every provider is different and all offer different things, so your own research is extremely important here. You will be parting with a considerable amount of money to study the LPC and therefore ensuring you are enrolled with the provider that best suits your needs is crucial. The core providers apart from the University of Law and BPP are Kaplan Law School and the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice. Not to mention the vast number of Universities such as: the University of Westminster, Nottingham Law School and Bristol Law School that also provide the course.
After researching a specific school you feel you may be suited to, the next thing to consider is its location. For example, if you live in Nottingham and want to stay local, then Nottingham Law School could be the best option for you. Most students find a location that suits them from those offered by the University of Law or BPP. Both have schools in central London, as well as large cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool. However, if you don’t feel studying in the city is for you, the University of Law has schools in a number of smaller locations such as Guildford and Chester. Considering that you may be studying the LPC for up to two years, it is important to ensure you are local to your school of choice, whether you choose to live within the city or nearby and are able to commute.
Finally, if you are lucky enough to already have a training contract lined up, depending on the firm you may be expected to undertake your study from a specific provider and in a specific location. This is therefore, worth considering before you conduct your research.
What does it actually entail?
You will be expected to leave behind all you learned during your law degree, and delve into how the law actually works in practice. This means, putting yourself into the shoes of a solicitor and finding innovative ways to meet the needs of a client. Its all about applying the law to how it would translate in the working legal world. All providers will expect you to take a number of ‘core’ practice areas before you are able to choose your own electives. Taking the University of Law as an example, the core areas of study for all students include business law, civil and criminal litigation, property law as well as a number of ‘skills’ modules to train you in the art of interviewing, advising, research and writing. These core modules are not all taken at once, but usually alongside a few electives of your choice. These electives include employment law, family law, insurance law, intellectual property and immigration law. Due to this enormous choice, I feel it is important for all students considering the LPC to have an idea in their mind of the sort of legal area they may wish to specialise in to make this choice easier.
Teaching methods found for the LPC may bear some similarities to that of the way you are taught at University. However, due to the smaller amount of students, you are likely to be placed within classes for tutorials, but you may still have some larger lectures. Furthermore, you may also be expected to engage in web-based learning, this is a more commonly used method by a number of course providers.
Options for study
A common myth associated with the legal practice course is that you have to complete it within one year. This to many may put them off pursuing this particular career path as they may feel they are unable to keep up with the work load or are unable to finance the course without a part time job.
There are however, a number of options available as a solution to these common problems.
Full time accelerated course (7 months)
This is an intensive version of the LPC which involves you having completed all of your electives and gained your qualification within 7 months. This may suit a number of people, in particular those who may have a training contract lined up to start at a particular point which requires the completion of the LPC. This option is however, very heavy going. Using the University of Law again as an example, this option requires around 50 hours a week of study which is around 12 contact hours per week, totaling five days out of seven. Other providers also offer this accelerated option, with similar contact hours and expected home study. This is definitely therefore, not for the faint hearted. It also drastically limits the days you would have available to work elsewhere in order to raise the funds or living costs that you need. However, if you do feel it fits your needs and funds aren’t a problem, then this could be a sound way of getting the qualification you need to begin your legal career.
Full time course (10 months to 1 year)
This option, though less intensive than the 7 month option, still requires a great deal of study and contact time. You are likely to be expected to spend an average of 40 hours studying, including 10 hours contact at your chosen place of study. The full time course seemingly seems to be the most popular for students, as it allows for more free time and generally suits those with or without training contract lined up. The average length of this course depends entirely on what provider you choose as well as what center of theirs you are to study at.
Part time course (2 years)
The option I feel many students are not aware of is the option to take the legal practice course on a part time basis. This would generally entail the opportunity to study over an average period of two years, and it is specifically designed for those with other commitments such as work or family. For the part time option, you will be expected to be available for approximately five hours’ worth of face to face contact per week. When looking at different providers, each seems to offer a range of options to suit a number of individuals. For example, you may be able to study over the weekend and have the week free to work, or study for one full day in the week. The good thing about this option is its inevitable flexibility. However, you must remember that you are still expected to put in a vast amount of home study and preparation prior to tutorials. Therefore, it may be best to leave some free time to study rather than devoting it all to work or other commitments.
Costs and funding
The final consideration I feel is a crucial thing to be aware of when considering applying to study the legal practice course, is the cost and how you can fund this. In essence, what are you actually paying for? The bigger providers such as BPP and the University of Law will be inevitably more expensive as the competition to gain a place on their courses is tougher. The average price to study within London with either of these is around £14,500 for a standard full time course. This includes your course fees, the solicitors’ regulation authority registration fee as well as your course materials such as relevant textbooks. For smaller providers, this fee may differ. When looking at fees for the standard full time course, provided outside London, the average is around £11,000. It is therefore important to ask yourself whether becoming a solicitor is something you are fully committed to doing, to prevent wasting your money later down the line.
Of course, you are not expected to produce this money upfront; each provider tends to have a scheme which allows you to break your payments into easier instalments. Furthermore, there are a number of scholarships available as well as the option of taking out a bank loan.
For more detailed information on the costs of the LPC and the types of funding available, just search our website for the relevant articles.
After you have conducted your research, the scary part is taking the leap and applying to your provider of choice. Though, less brutal than applications for University, there are still requirements you may be expected to meet before gaining a place. As I stated above, the more popular providers see an increasing number of students applying each year, and therefore inevitably some people are going to be disappointed. General requirements tend to be a second class degree in law, or any other discipline with the GDL as well as an academic and other sound reference. As the LPC is a course based around training you practically, any practical experience you may have in the legal world or elsewhere will of course be invaluable to your application alongside a sound and considered CV.