The Legal Practice Course
18 October 2013
The Legal Practice Course (LPC) forms the vocational stage of your training to qualify as a solicitor. The compulsory course is designed to build on your academic study of law so that you are better equipped for practice
Rather than just identifying a legal problem and describing or 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 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 vary between LPC providers, with some allowing you to take certain materials in with you while others operate a ‘closed-book’ policy.
What’s on the course?
The LPC was overhauled in 2009 to allow for greater flexibility, with courses being tailored to suit the needs of both employers and students. 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.
Many providers, most notably the University of Law (ULaw) are increasingly using web-based learning.
Another trend that has swept the postgraduate legal education market in recent years is topping up the LPC into a Masters in Law. This is being offered by a number of law schools.
BPP Law School, ULaw and Kaplan Law School can also award students who complete their law conversion courses and LPCs or Bar Professional Training Courses (BPTC) with an LLB (Bachelor of Law).
Professional conduct and ethics: 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: 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 students 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 EU 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 on 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)
- EU law
- Human rights
- Revenue law
- Practical legal research
- Writing and drafting
- Interviewing and advising
These are extra modules that you can choose from depending on what sort of lawyer you want to be. Typical electives include commercial litigation, commercial property, criminal law, employment law, personal injury law, private client law and family law. Many more are available, including specialist ones such as ‘law and the elderly client’, run by Northumbria University.
The electives that are available vary between institutions, so it is important to research what is on offer when applying for your LPC place and decide whether it is relevant for the area of law you eventually want to specialise in. There is no sense in picking electives relating to family or immigration law if you want to train as a commercial lawyer. It is also 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 an LPC provider list and a specimen application form.
You can apply to three law schools and will be asked to explain why you have chosen each 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 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.
Choosing an LPC provider
There are about 30 institutions that offer the LPC, most of which are part of a university. The biggest providers are BPP and ULaw, 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 more expensive, there are 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 boxes above).
Course fees for the LPC vary enormously depending on where you choose to study, and in London can be more than £13,000. Do not forget, you will also need money for living expenses such as food, rent and transport. Unless you are lucky enough to have 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 so will be unable to pay such fees yourself.
Thankfully, most of the large commercial firms pay your LPC fees, provided you secure a training contract with them before starting the course. They also pay a maintenance grant to cover living expenses.
However, if you opt for the high-street/legal aid route it is unlikely a future employer will make a financial contribution towards the LPC. In the absence of help from family, your options may be limited to taking out a professional studies loan, although such loans are difficult to obtain.
In recognition of this, BPP has teamed up with Investec to provide a loan exclusively for its Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), LPC and BPTC students. However, as is the case with all forms of borrowing, read the smallprint before signing on the dotted line and think very seriously about whether you can afford the repayments.
Other potential sources of funding are bursaries and scholarships 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 works out for you then you may want to consider doing the LPC part-time so you can combine it with a part-time job. Part-time courses vary, with some running in the evenings while others require you to attend classes only at the weekend. Some providers offer distance learning options. Also, 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 you will need to apply to the individual institutions directly.
Another option is the fast-track course, which lasts only seven instead of nine months. This means you will be ready to move to the final stage of your training and start earning a little bit sooner. This route is offered by both BPP and ULaw.
Or you could always take on a temporary job, so you can save up for the fees.
“I haven’t managed to secure a training contract. Should I self-fund the Legal Practice Course?”
The first thing to do is ask yourself why you have not secured a training contract. If you have made a number of unsuccessful applications make sure you ask for feedback on your performance wherever possible. You may find that the areas you need to develop further would be difficult to work on while also studying for the LPC, in which case you may have more success by taking some time out from your studies.
Evidence also suggests that there are now more students completing the LPC on an annual basis than there are training contract places. This means you need to be honest with yourself and ask whether becoming a qualified solicitor is a realistic goal. This is also the perfect opportunity to reflect on whether you have been applying to the right kind of firm for you.
Finally, it is worth asking for some impartial advice on how you might fund your studies. Alongside this, you should consider whether to study towards the LPC on a full-time or part-time basis. Self-funding is not seen as a negative by potential employers. In fact, you could use your experience to demonstrate qualities such as commitment and an ability to multitask.
Edward Walker, graduate recruitment partner, Pinsent Masons
Law firms’ preferred LPC providers
University Of Law
Allen & Overy
Baker & McKenzie
Berwin Leighton Paisner
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
CMS Cameron McKenna
Cripps Harries Hall
Dundas & Wilson
Harbottle & Lewis
Morrison & Foerster
Stevens & Bolton
Weil Gotshal & Manges
Wragge & Co
BPP Law School
Bircham Dyson Bell
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer*
Herbert Smith Freehills*
Simmons & Simmons
Slaughter and May*
Squire Sanders (UK)
*Consortium firm with bespoke accelerated LPC
Kaplan Law School
Bates Wells & Braithwaite
Bird & Bird
Clyde & Co
Farrer & Co
Field Fisher Waterhouse
Holman Fenwick Willan
Ince & Co
Mills & Reeve
Shearman & Sterling
Trowers & Hamlins
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 the profession
- Opportunity for pro bono work
- Requirements of future employer
- Cost/value for money
- Materials provided
- Teaching and assessment methods
- Choice of electives
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
- EU 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