Legal Practice Course
1 February 2013
L2B Guide to a Career in Law 2009-2010
8 January 2008
23 March 2011
7 January 2008
The Legal Practice Course forms the vocational stage of your training to qualify as a solicitor. The compulsory nine-month course is designed to build on your academic study of law so that you are better equipped for practice.
So, for example, rather than just identifying a legal problem and describing/criticising the relevant area of law, LPC students will be required to advise a client on a specific course of action or range of options.
The teaching methods on the LPC are also considerably different to what you may be used to on your undergraduate degree, with some providers having a heavy emphasis on online learning instead of lectures. You will also be expected to spend a significant amount of time preparing for workshops, which are typically referred to as small group sessions. In addition to being tested on your knowledge of the law, the key skills necessary for practising as a lawyer, including drafting, negotiating and client interviewing, will also be assessed. Examination methods also vary between LPC providers, with some allowing you to take certain materials in with you while others operate a closed-book policy.
The LPC was overhauled in 2009 to allow for greater flexibility, with courses being tailored to suit the needs of employers. The new-look LPC, which can be studied either full-time or part-time, is delivered in two stages:
Stage One covers the three essential practice areas of business law and practice, property law and practice, and litigation. Course skills comprise professional conduct and regulation, taxation, wills and the administration of estates.
Stage Two is made up of three vocational electives. It is possible to take the electives at the same law school at which you complete Stage One, or with one or more other providers.
The idea behind splitting the LPC into two stages is to enable students to spread the cost of the course, as it will no longer be necessary to complete the electives immediately after the compulsory subjects.
The changes described above are still at a relatively early stage, with new courses being launched all the time. We therefore recommend that you speak to individual providers about what they offer.
Teaching methods on the LPC usually include small classes and large lectures and tutorials, although many providers, most notably the College of Law (CoL), are increasingly making use of web-based learning.
Another trend that has swept the postgraduate legal education market in recent years is topping the LPC up into a Masters in Law. This is being offered by a number of law schools.
BPP Law School, CoL and Kaplan Law School also have the power to award students who complete their law conversion course and LPC or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) with an LLB (Bachelor of Law).
LPC providers have a degree of flexibility in the way they structure their courses. Saying that, most follow the structure outlined below (please note that this is a very simple overview and we recommend that you refer to individual law school websites for further information).
These are necessary to set certain contexts for the course (or, in the case of Probate and Administration of Estates, to cover an area of practice ‘reserved’ to solicitors). The core areas are likely to be covered early in the course to allow you to develop the topics. Some institutions introduce Probate and Administration of Estates at an early stage, whereas others leave it till later in the course.
Professional Conduct and Ethics: the principles of professional conduct and client care, including the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules and the Financial Services and Markets Act.
Skills: assessed skills (practical legal research, writing and drafting, interviewing and advising, advocacy).
Taxation: the principles of taxation, trusts, and tax planning.
European Law: an introduction to the principles of EU law.
Probate and Administration of Estates: distribution of personal property after death, whether testate or intestate (someone who dies without a will, and the procedure of obtaining grants of representation and winding up an estate.
Business Law and Practice (BLP): a significant part of the BLP course focuses on partnership, company and insolvency law. The LPC is designed such that some of you may have not studied these areas of law before. It is, however, assumed you have knowledge of, and the ability to apply, contract law (including agency and misrepresentation), equity and trusts and European Union law, as these are relevant to many elements of BLP.
Property Law and Practice (PLP): PLP is concerned with the transfer of land as well as interests in land. This can be in business and residential contexts, for example, an office or a house. PLP rests upon the three foundation stones of land law, contract law, and equity and trusts.
Litigation and Advocacy: this module includes civil litigation, criminal litigation and advocacy. You will be expected to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of many of the substantive law concepts that you have studied on your law degree or conversion course.
Accounts (solicitors’ accounts and business accounts)
Professional Conduct and Client Care (including financial services)
European Union law
Practical legal research
Writing and drafting
Interviewing and advising
These will vary between institutions. It is important that you research what is on offer when applying for your LPC place, and consider whether it is relevant for the area of law you eventually want to specialise in. For instance, there is no sense in picking electives relating to family or immigration law if you want to train as commercial lawyer. Also, as explained previously, it is now possible to complete your electives with different providers.
How to apply
You need to submit applications in the autumn prior to the September in which you wish to start the LPC. Applications for the full-time course are made via the Central Applications Board (www.lawcabs.ac.uk), where there is a LPC provider list and a specimen application form.
You are permitted to apply to three law schools and will be asked to explain why you have chosen that particular provider. You will also have to provide the usual information asked for on an application form, including your exam results and the name of an academic referee. The deadline for applying is early December and offers are sent out the following February. Any applications that are made after December will be looked at by LPC providers from March.
Despite the fact that you will have to pay thousands of pounds to take the course, having the cash does not guarantee you a place on the LPC, nor a job afterwards. Providers usually expect a 2:1 degree (although it is not impossible to get a place with a lesser degree class), so you will have to sell yourself.
Choosing an LPC provider
There are around 30 institutions that offer the LPC, most of which are part of a university. The biggest providers are BPP and CoL, followed by Nottingham Law School, which also runs a London campus in conjunction with Kaplan Law School.
As with all qualifying law degrees, the course varies from one institution to the next. Teaching methods, class sizes and the range of electives also differ. Therefore it is important to find an institution offering the electives that fit your career interests.
It is also important to think about location. Although studying the LPC in London is inevitably going to be more expensive, there are certain advantages to being close to the City, especially if you need to look for a training contract while on the course. Many major law firms also specify which institution you should attend, or have preferred LPC providers (see box).
Course fees for the LPC vary enormously depending on where you choose to study, and in London can be more than £13,000. And don’t forget, you will also need money for living expenses such as food, rent and transport. Unless you are lucky enough to have wealthy parents willing to fund you, the chances are that after completing your degree, you will not have this kind of money in your bank account and so will be unable to pay such fees yourself.
Thankfully, most of the large commercial firms will pay your LPC fees, provided you secure a training contract with them in advance of starting the course. Additionally, they will also pay you a maintenance grant to cover your living expenses.
However, if you opt for the high-street/legal aid route then it is unlikely that a future employer will make a financial contribution towards the LPC. And in the absence of help from your family, your options may be limited to taking out a professional studies loan, although such loans are very difficult to obtain.
In recognition of this fact, BPP has teamed up with Investec to provide a loan exclusively for its BPTC, Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and LPC students. However, as is the case with all forms of borrowing, always read the small print before signing on the dotted line and think very seriously about whether you can afford the repayments.
Another potential source of funding are bursaries and scholarships on offer from the LPC providers or other charitable organisations (check out Lawyer2B.com for information).
Also, think seriously about entering relevant law-related competitions such as the annual Herbert Smith advocacy competition, which as well as carrying cash prizes also look great on your CV.
If none of the above options work out for you then you may want to consider doing the LPC part-time, as you then can combine it with a part-time job. Part-time courses vary, with some running in the evenings while others only require you to attend classes at the weekends. Some providers also offer distance learning options. Also, don’t forget that it is now possible to take time out between completing the compulsory stage of the LPC and your elective subjects. If you decide to go down the part-time route then you will need to apply to the individual institutions directly.
Another option might be to opt for the fast-track course, which lasts just seven months instead of nine. This means you will be ready to move to the final stage of your training and therefore start earning a salary a little bit sooner. This route is currently offered by both BPP and CoL.
Alternatively, why not take on a temporary job, so that you can save up for the fees?
BPP Law School
Bircham Dyson Bell
Davies Arnold Cooper
Simmons & Simmons
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom
Squire Sanders Hammonds
College of Law
Allen & Overy
Baker & McKenzie
Barlow Lyde & Gilbert
Steen & Hamilton
CMS Cameron McKenna
Cripps Harries Hall
Dundas & Wilson
Harbottle & Lewis
Morrison & Foerster
Stevens & Bolton
Weil Gotshal & Manges Wragge & Co
Kaplan Law School
Bird & Bird
Clyde & Co
Farrer & Co
Field Fisher Waterhouse
Holman Fenwick Willan
Ince & Co
Mills & Reeve
Shearman & Sterling
Trowers & Hamlins
*consortium firm with bespoke accelerated LPC
Six key components of the LPC
- Contract law: formation, formalities, express and implied terms, obligations, operation, termination, remedies, action for negligent misstatement, misrepresentation, agency, retention of title, Sale of Goods, Unfair Contract Terms Act
- Crime: Major offences, non-fatal offences against the person, theft, defences, basic criminal penalties
- Equity and trusts: nature and uses of various types of trust, formation, fiduciary relationships, rights and obligations, remedies
- European Union law: institutions, general principles, sources and areas of regulation, relationship with national law, interpretation
- Property law: legal estates and interests, equitable interests, easements, freehold covenants, leasehold covenants, joint ownership, registered and unregistered title, mortgages
- Tort: general tortious principles: negligence, damages, defences, contributory negligence
Factors to consider when choosing an LPC provider
- University or commercial provider
- Location, accommodation and quality of facilities such as careers service and library
- Reputation and links to profession
- Opportunity for pro bono work
- Requirements of future employer
- Cost/value for money
- Materials provided
- Teaching and assessment methods
- Choice of electives