The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is the next step for an aspiring solicitor after completion of a Law degree (LLB) or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). It is the vocational stage of training required to become a solicitor and as a result, is focused on providing you with the essential skills required to successfully practice as a lawyer.
The LPC is generally taught in two stages, Stage One and Stage Two, as a combined programme. It has a broadly commercial emphasis but allows you to specialise in the second half of the course. This ability to tailor study within a choice of legal practice contexts allows you to focus your energies and enhance your skills in the areas you are going to practice.
All students study the same modules during Stage One, consisting of modules in the three Core Practice Areas:
- Business Law and Practice
- Property Law and Practice
There are also eight Skills and Pervasive Subjects to study throughout Stage One; Solicitors Accounts, Wills and Administration, Conduct and Regulation, Research, Writing, Drafting, Interviewing and Advocacy.
During Stage Two you study three vocational electives which further build on the knowledge acquired throughout Stage One. Course providers will be on hand to assist you with your choice of electives to ensure that you enhance the selected pathway and maximise your chances of securing the right type of training contract.
The options available will differ across different providers but as an example, Kaplan Law School currently offer the following electives:
- Advanced Commercial Litigation/Dispute Resolution
- Advanced Commercial Property
- Commercial Law
- Debt Finance and Banking
- Employment Law
- Family and Child Protection Law
- Private Acquisitions
- Private Client
- Public Companies and Capital Markets
Law firm-sponsored students may find that their firm stipulate the options that they wish their trainees to study. This is usually to ensure that upon completion of the course; their trainees are able to join the firm with a sound knowledge of their specific practice areas and ‘hit the ground running’.
If you’re a self-funding student it is best to study a variety of subjects at Stage Two. This will ensure that you are not limiting your employment options by over-specialising in one area.
Study options for the LPC are becoming increasingly flexible. Whereas previously most providers offered the course on a one year full time basis, some now offer accelerated 7 month options, or 18 month evening/day or weekend options. However, the one year full time option is still the most popular amongst graduates keen to leave study behind and begin their career in the legal sector.
Most institutions deliver the LPC through a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials. These will vary in size and frequency depending on which institution you choose for your studies. An increasing amount of material is now being delivered online, allowing greater flexibility for students; however it is important to choose a study option that suits your individual needs and preferences.
We would always recommend choosing a course that utilises online resources whilst maintaining a focus on face to face tuition and a substantial amount of contact time each week.
Since 2013 there has been a prevailing trend for attaching a Masters qualification to the LPC. The award usually involves some extra work such as a dissertation, or attending extra classes/workshops to gain extra credits.
An LLM LPC is a good opportunity to specialise in a particular area of legal practice that interests you. It may help your chances of applying to a law firm that specialises in say, Shipping Law, if you have written and researched extensively on this area and, coupled with the skills you have developed through your LPC training, will provide you with invaluable practical and commercial insight ready for a successful career in legal practice.
Weekly workload can of course differ between different providers and even different study options. For a full time one year course, you should expect to be in attendance 3-4 days a week, with around 18-20 contact hours per week, plus self study time. With that in mind, whilst some students may need to take on jobs to support themselves throughout their LPC course, it is probably best to wait until a few months of the course have passed before making any plans, that way you can be sure how much time you’ll have free outside of your course commitments.
Whilst assessments on the LPC are set by each institution, they are generally spread across written exams, oral presentations and coursework. Some institutions will run their written exams as closed book (no text books/materials allowed) or open book (texts allowed into exam) but don’t worry, teaching will reflect this so you’ll be well equipped come exam time if your chosen institution prefers closed book exams.
Before applying for the LPC you should check with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to ensure that your degree/GDL is a ‘Qualifying Law Degree’ (QLD). Their website www.sra.org.uk has a useful list of universities that are QLD providers and also has some important information available for any potential LPC applicants.
Applications open in late September for the following year and whilst there are no longer any deadlines for first or second round applications it is recommended that, to avoid disappointment, you apply as soon as you are happy that you’re making an informed decision and are sure that you want to pursue a career as a solicitor. All applications must be made online via the Central Applications Board (lawcabs) and you can make three institution choices. It’s a good idea to draw up a shortlist and visit each institution before you apply. You’ll quickly get a feel for the place and if you can’t picture yourself studying there, it’s probably not the institution for you.
LPC courses can vary in price, with London-based courses being the more expensive option at around £13k-15k. Of course if you’ve gained a training contract before commencing your LPC you don’t need to think about the fees so skip this bit, but for self-funding students, the sheer costs involved can be quite a daunting prospect. You shouldn’t despair though, most institutions offer scholarships that carry discounts (in some cases 50% or more off the total cost of the course) and have flexible payment options designed to help you spread the cost of your course throughout the year.
Another option is the Professional & Career Development Loan (PCDL). The PCDL is a government scheme aimed at offering loans for courses that lead directly to employment. Students can borrow up to £10,000 (for fees or maintenance) at a reduced interest rate and the government pays interest while you’re studying. Currently only Barclays and Co-Op are part of this scheme but you do not have to bank with them to apply for the loan. More information is available here.
At any institution you will have access to a careers service that is there to help support your career aspirations. It’s important to use it regularly but also to trust what they tell you – they do know what they’re talking about! The Kaplan Head of Careers, worked as a Graduate Recruitment Manager for nearly ten years so she has seen many thousands of applications and knows exactly what will make your application stand out, for the right reasons. Most firms receive in excess of 1,500 training contract applications each year and they need to whittle this down to 200-300 for interview. Therefore, recruiters are looking for reasons to reject you so make sure that every application you make is as excellent as it can be.
It’s the job of your careers service to be realistic with you. If you are looking to apply to a top-tier firm or one that specifically requests a 2.1 and grades ABB or higher at A-Level, and you have neither (with no real mitigating circumstances), don’t apply. It really is a waste of time. Most people applying for training contracts have good, if not outstanding, academics; you need to make yourself stand out. Your extra-curricular activities will play almost as important a role in your application.
Law firms want to see that you are a well-rounded candidate who will get on well with their lawyers and staff so think carefully about what hobbies you enjoy and get involved.
Before choosing your LPC provider you should also look into each institution’s Pro Bono activities. These provide students with some invaluable experience working on real life cases and working in the local community and are sometimes ran in partnership with Law Firms, such as Kaplan Law School & Nabarro LLP’s Legal Advice Clinic at St. Luke’s, whereby our students have the opportunity to be involved in the triage and client management of Nabarro’s Legal Advice Clinic. If you are a self funding student there is no excuse not to get involved with such schemes whilst you study and firms will certainly expect you to have some pro bono experience on your application.
At your university there will probably be a wealth of societies for you to join. Make sure you become a member of the law society as they will have great links to law firms and interesting events for you to attend. If there is a debating society this would definitely look good on your applications. Similarly, other clubs where you can demonstrate leadership and other skills will help law firms are keen to know that you are able to balance your academic studies and other commitments as this will be key when you start your training contract.
This article was written by Mark Wall, Marketing & Student Recruitment Manager at Kaplan Law School.