What is the legal practice course (LPC)?
Any aspiring solicitor will need to study for the legal practice course (LPC). They will qualify to take this either by a) having a law-based undergraduate degree, b) having passed their common professional examination (CPE) or graduate diploma in law (GDL), or c) having studied another degree in law following their non-law undergraduate degree.
All LPC courses are accredited by The Law Society, a professional body providing training, bursaries and advice to new solicitors. All applicants to the LPC must register with The Law Society before applying for their course. Applications for LPC courses are made via www.lawcabs.ac.uk, and prospective LPC students must first register with the regulators of solicitors in England and Wales, the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA).
What does the LPC involve?
The LPC is the vocational stage of solicitor training, meaning that it builds on academic knowledge and puts it into practice. The course typically runs for two years, though some providers now offer fast-track courses that mean the LPC can be completed in as little as seven and a half months. Broken down into two stages, it provides the backbone for further practical training as a trainee solicitor.
In addition to lectures and assessed coursework, students will find that a considerable amount of group work constitutes much of their study – often group discussions of cases.
The first stage of the LPC covers the core practice areas of law (professional conduct and regulation; taxation; wills and administration of estates), and the course skills that any solicitor requires to do their job. The core practice areas require all candidates to develop some grounding in three primary areas:
- Business law and practice
- Litigation (criminal and civil)
- Property law and practice.
The course skills are the solicitor-specific skills that will allow students to fulfil the requirements of their future role. These are:
- Interviewing and advising
- Practical legal research
The second stage allows students to select three electives from a larger prescribed list. Electives are put into separate groupings, with students required to select electives from at least two of those groups (ie. your electives cannot all be from the same group). These groupings may differ between institutions.
The example groupings below come from the LPC course at The University of Law:
Group 1 electives:
- Acquisitions and mergers
- Banking and debt finance
- Private client: wills, trusts and estate planning
- Public companies and equity finance.
Group 2 electives:
- Advanced criminal practice
- Advanced property law and practice
- Commercial dispute resolution
- Housing law and practice
- Personal injury and clinical negligence litigation
- Insurance law.
Group 3 electives:
- Commercial law
- Employment law and practice
- Family law
- Immigration law and practice.
Electives allow students to specialise toward particular areas of law, especially important when considering which area of law and which firms you want to apply to in the longer term. Students have the option of undertaking electives at different institutions if they wish.
Who provides the LPC?
The LPC is provided by academic institutions across England and Wales. However, depending upon which legal firm your training contract is with, you may be given a list of one or two preferred institutions that they expect you to study at. Some firms require you to undertake a tailored LPC that covers electives relevant to their practice area.
Don’t worry if you haven’t secured a training contract by the time you being the LPC: you have five years from the date of your first assessment to complete your LPC. This allows you greater flexibility when it comes to studying, meaning you do get part-time jobs that will help develop your experience and fund your studies while you work towards your final LPC qualification.
Will I need funding for my LPC?
You’ll certainly need a source of money, as LPC courses can cost anywhere between £7,800 and £15,500. While taking the course part time over two years can help with juggling part-time work, it will still be a stretch to cover both course fees and living costs.
Ideally, you will secure a training contract before beginning your LPC. Most large firms will pay some (if not all) of your LPC tuition fees. Research whether firms pay LPC fees by using our Employer Insights, independent reviews of law firms. Some LPC providers also run scholarship schemes, which you’ll find by investigating the institutions individually.
If these routes don’t work out for you, there are other ways to find funding. Bank loans are an option, as is parental support if you’re fortunate enough to have that resource. Part-time work alongside your study is useful, especially if it helps develop transferable skills. Work experience does not necessarily have to be in the legal sector: law firms are looking for commercial awareness and client-facing skills that can be developed in many industries, such as retail.
Alternatively, The Law Society provides two options in the form of its Diversity Access Scheme (DAS) and DAS PLUS awards.
The Diversity Access Scheme was created in order to assist a small number of students who have overcome exceptional obstacles that make qualifying as a solicitor especially difficult. Circumstances are assessed on a case-by-case basis. The DAS is broken down into a work placement, a bursary and further mentoring.
Applications for the schemes normally open in early February each year.