The Legal Practice Course
L2B Guide to a Career in Law 2009-2010
The Legal Practice Course forms the vocational stage of your training to qualify as a solicitor. The compulsory year-long course is designed to equip you for practice.
The Legal Practice Course is not assessed centrally, so to apply you must go through the Central Applications Board (CAB) (www.lawcabs.ac.uk). You need to submit your application in the autumn prior to the September in which you wish to start your LPC. You are permitted to apply to three law schools and the closing date is usually in early December.
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. 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. Also, do not forget that you will also be asked to provide an academic reference.
There are 29 institutions that offer the LPC, most of which are part of a university. There are also three non-university-affiliated providers: BPP Law School, the College of Law (CoL) and Kaplan Law School.
The LPC was overhauled recently and from September 2009 it is being delivered and studied in two stages.
Stage 1 covers the three essential practice areas of Business Law and Practice, Property Law and Practice and Litigation; and the course skills comprise Professional Conduct and Regulation, Taxation, and Wills and Administration of Estates.
Stage 2 will be made up of three vocational electives. It is possible to take the electives at the same law school at which you complete Stage 1, or with one or more other law schools. The range of electives on offer is huge, so we suggest that you choose the subjects that fit most closely with the area of law you eventually want to specialise in. For instance, if you want to work in the City, then there is no point in choosing the criminal or family law electives.
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 an embryonic stage and not all law schools had received clearance from the Solicitors Regulation Authority to split their LPCs into two. We therefore recommend that you speak to individual providers about what courses they offer.
Teaching methods on the LPC usually include small classes and larger lectures and tutorials, although many providers, most notably the CoL, are increasingly making use of web-based learning.
Another trend that is sweeping the postgraduate legal education market is topping the LPC up into a Masters in Law. This is being offered by a number of law schools.
The CoL and BPP, meanwhile, also have the power to award students who complete their law conversion course and LPC with an LLB.
Choosing a law school
The LPC is run by a number of dedicated law schools and universities throughout England and Wales. As with qualifying law degrees, the course varies from one institution to the next.
Teaching methods, class sizes and the range of electives will differ. Therefore it is important to find an institution offering 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 closer to the City, especially if you need to look for a training contract while on the course.
Many of the major law firms also specify which institution you should attend or they may have preferred LPC providers (see below).
How much will it all cost?
Course fees for the LPC vary enormously depending on where you choose to study and can be more than £12,000. 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 these fees yourself.
Thankfully there is a number of options available. The most attractive is undoubtedly to persuade a law firm to shell out the cash for you. But this will only happen if you secure a training contract in advance. Sponsorship typically includes payment of the LPC fee itself plus a maintenance grant of up to £10,000 to cover living costs.
Law schools: firm choices for the LPC
College of Law:
Allen & Overy
Baker & McKenzie
Barlow Lyde & Gilbert
Berwin Leighton Paisner
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
Denton Wilde Sapte
Stevens & Bolton
Weil Gotshal & Manges
Wragge & Co
BPP Law School:
CMS Cameron McKenna
Dewey & LeBoeuf
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Reynolds Porter Chamberlain
Simmons & Simmons
Slaughter and May
Kaplan Law School:
Bird & Bird
Bates Wells & Braithwaite
Field Fisher Waterhouse
Mills & Reeve
Trowers and Hamlins
Name: Ed Thomson-Glover
Degree: 1st class with honours
A-levels: English Literature, Politics, Geography, Art
University: Durham Law school: College of Law, York (GDL) and Moorgate (LPC)
Hobbies: Travelling, rugby, squash, scuba diving
Why did you decide to convert to law?
At the end of my degree, I took some time out to consider what I wanted to do next. Looking at the elements I had enjoyed in my academic life, combined with what I saw as my strengths, converting to law seemed the best way forward.
Why do you want to become a solicitor?
When I decided to convert to law, I did this with the intention of pursuing a career as a City solicitor. There are many aspects of this job that I believe I am suited to, and more importantly, will enjoy - the teamwork, the interaction with clients and the satisfaction of solving business problems.
What were the best parts of university life?
Having the freedom to be spontaneous.
What are your future career plans?
I have just completed the LPC and am going travelling for six months to South America before taking up my training contract at Ashurst in March 2010. I think it is important to keep an open mind, so in the immediate future I am focused on performing as well as I can over the two years of my training contract, discovering which area I would like to qualify into, and hopefully securing a job at Ashurst on qualification.
What are the LPC and GDL like?
I completed the GDL at the College of Law, York. Compared with my university life, I found there was a lot less independent learning, although this was necessary because of the amount you are required to cram in in one year. The one thing that I remember is that the examination period at the end of the year is very intense - seven exams in a row is mentally draining, but everyone survives it! The LPC, by comparison, was more evenly balanced throughout the year because you have completed half of your exams by February and there are continuous skills-based assessments.
How did you fund the LPC/GDL?
I was fortunate enough to be sponsored through both the GDL and the LPC by my firm, Ashurst.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
Take some time to consider if it is truly what you want to do and also whether it is best to achieve that by the traditional route of a law degree, or whether you will gain more personally from studying something else first.
What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career?
Deciding on the career path too soon. Employers want to see that you have had an open mind and thought about various career options because only then can you make a well-informed decision about why a legal career is for you. Once you have the confidence and conviction in yourself that this is the career for you, it will shine through in interviews and application forms.
What top tips would you give to someone who is thinking about applying to study a law degree?
As I have said, studying a law degree is not necessary if you want to become a lawyer. However, from talking to other people who did study a law degree, I am told it is one of the most academically challenging degrees you can undertake but it is at the same time, massively rewarding.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
In the current climate, the biggest challenge is the sheer number of people competing for places within law firms, which can make it hard to stand out. Therefore I would say it is extremely important to do as many varied and interesting extra-curricular activities as possible and ensure you have a good deal of work experience, both legal (if you can) and non-legal, to boost your CV. I spent a lot of time working for free for various companies to do this.