Time to ditch the LPC?

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  • Catrin - couldn't agree more. I had various vacation scheme students sit in our group this summer, and with 1 hour of explanation, or a group lecture, none of them performed appreciably below the level of a 1st seat trainee. I look back on my own LPC and realise how little I learned there that I couldn't have learned just by working and looking at in-house memos etc.

    I think there may be some room for specialist course provision by the current LPC providers, but there is no need for an LPC. Of course, that would mean dealing directly with law firms as sophisticated consumers of services, which would end, one hopes, the predatory gouging of hopeful students and force the providers to actually add value.

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  • I read your Leader today with particular interest. I am myself a Legal Executive with the ultimate aim of becoming a solicitor.

    Your Leader appears to suggest that the ILEX route to qualification exempts one from the LPC however, unfortunately, this is not generally the case. Unless the SRA can be convinced to the contrary, despite being qualified lawyers, Legal Executives still do have to complete the LPC in order to qualify as solicitors. In my opinion, this acts as a significant barrier to those who do not, as you correctly say, "don't fit the fresh-faced graduate mould" and have already invested many long years studying via the ILEX model whilst progressing in their careers at the same time.

    I would however like to thank you for bringing the ILEX route to qualification to the attention of readers of The Lawyer in a positive light. It is a common frustration amongst us that we are often viewed as poor cousins, despite having gone 'the hard way round'.

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  • Well done for raising this debate.
    I am training partner at Wansbroughs and share your view that it is time for a review.
    There are two issues for us; firstly the lack of understanding of basic legal concepts and secondly the broader feeling that LPC institutions continue to churn out LPC graduates with no regard for demand. We recruit 2 or 3 trainees each year and I presently expect to see over 200 applications for those places.
    In terms of optimizing their learning journey I consider that trainees need at least some academic legal grounding before being released into practice. I would favour a much shorter course with then a mix of practice and learning and with a freer salary market. The downside to this model may be that the cost/benefit ration of short courses tends (in my experience of the PSC) to be much poorer ie high costs for short courses. There would need to be some shift on the part of learning institutions for this to pay off. As an aside I expect to see more paralegalling work and opportunities over the next few years.

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  • I couldn't disagree more. I finished the LPC a year ago and found it more helpful than I can possibly say! The problem is there are too many LPC places and not enough jobs. Whilst I have been lucky enough to find a 1 day a week work experience, I am having great difficulty in finding full time (or even part time or even free) work because there is so much competition.

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  • Nonsense.
    The problem is not the LPC but the training contract - which all too often forms little more than a barrier to entry.
    Scrap them both if necessary, but make sure you scrap the training contract first.
    Replace this all with a standardized but really tough set of exams. Pass the exams and you become a lawyer; fail and you don't.

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  • I've just finished the LPC part time. Most of the other students were, like me, experienced paralegals. It was a nice knowledge-sharing opportunity but the course itself was largely a waste of time, particularly for those of us who have been in business for ten years or more and know how to write a letter. There are things that need to be taught in a classroom, for instance the SARs, but when it comes to day to day legal work, on the job experience is far more valuable and relevant than anything taught on the LPC. More exams are not the answer - the problem is with the training contract itself. All the difficulty lies in obtaining one but it is difficult to fail once that hurdle has been jumped. I would be interested to hear from training managers how often candidates who appeared perfect in their application turned out to be mediocre at the job itself.

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  • The legal services business model for the future appears to be a small number of partners and a small number of qualified lawyers overseeing compliant unqualified staff on humble pay. Candidates for "paralegal" jobs, which will significantly increase in number, with law degrees/equivalent and the LPC might be seen as over qualified and potential trouble makers.
    It is common knowledge that secretaries, many of whom with no academic qualification in any subject, have been doing fee earners jobs. Such people must have the ability to do the job but have not had to study many years developing their intellect.. Nevetheless secretaries and other unqualified staff will continue to be employed doing the job of a lawyer because they don't cost as must as a qualified lawyer.
    Perhaps fewer people should be studying the law and the LPC in its current format is probably out of date.

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  • Firstly, thank you Catrin for bringing the ILEX route to the attention of the Lawyer readers.

    Your comment from a Legal Executive is correct that the ILEX route can be also be used towards qualifying as a solicitor. If you are a Fellow of ILEX before you complete the LPC you should be exempt from the two-year training contract, although that is at the discretion of the SRA.

    However, a career as a Legal Executive is a rewarding and fulfilling career in its own right, and is on an increasingly level playing field to that of a solicitor. The latest rights given to Legal Executive lawyers, including the right to become a partner in a firm; become a judge or be an advocate, means that the role and standing of Legal Executive lawyers is now pretty much the same as that of solicitors anyway.

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  • The training contract is the one big barrier to the profession. Until then students have no problems raising finance for their degree and the LPC. Unfortunately they then find that they cannot gain a training position whilst having to start paying back tens of thousands of pounds in career development loans and watching interest accrue on student loans.
    Many otherwise excellent candidates are permanently lost to the legal profession through lack of training contracts. The Ilex route is an alternative but how many students know of it before being sold the LPC.

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  • Huh? Barry's comment makes no sense to me. Is he saying the LPC is fine because students can borrow money to pay for it? But that we should distort the market by offering more training contracts? There can only be as many training contracts as the market allows, Barry. And the answer to this is not to give a TC to anyone who has stupidly borrowed money to pay an LPC provider. If an LPC is a requirement (which I don't think it should be) I don't think you can put caps on places - again the market. Saying that the TC is a barrier to the profession is like saying "the need to practice flying a plane is a barrier to the pilot profession. OF COURSE IT IS! That is exactly what it is there for. And for competent candidates, it is the first step in the profession, rather than a barrier.

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