To become a successful solicitor, you'll need much more than classroom-taught theory. The LPC fills the gaps between academic knowledge and practical skills
What is the Legal Practice Course?
The LPC is a postgraduate course that is intended to bridge the gap between academic study and training in a law firm. It's where you get down to the basics of how to conduct client meetings, complete watertight contracts, and much more. One of the features of the course is its intensity and the volume of material that students must deal with.
To take the LPC you must have studied a law undergraduate degree or have done the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) to convert an unrelated undergraduate degree.
The route to qualifying as a solicitor in Scotland is different to the UK. In Scotland the equivalent of the LPC is the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice (DPLP), the one-year course is available at six Scottish universities. Find out more about qualifying as a solicitor in Scotland.
What does the LPC involve?
The course is broken into two free-standing stages:
Stage one covers the three essential practice areas:
- business law and practice
- litigation, including civil and criminal
- property law and practice.
Then there are the skills of:
- advising and advocacy
- practical legal research
- writing and drafting.
In addition are the areas of:
- professional conduct and regulation
- solicitors' accounts
- wills and administration of estates.
Stage two is made up of three vocational electives. This includes choices for those heading to City firms:
- private acquisitions
- public companies
There is also a range of choices relevant to small and medium-sized firms, such as commercial property, commercial law and employment, and family, immigration and welfare law.
Most courses use a mixture of workshops, lectures and private study. This is often combined with online tests and tutorials. You may be assessed through open and closed book knowledge assessments, written assignments, oral presentations and coursework.
To find a course in your area, search for Legal Practice Courses.
How long does the LPC take?
Courses generally start in September and take around 10 months if studied full time and almost two years if taken part time. The electives can be taken over a longer period, either studied together or separately. Stage one must be studied with one course provider, but stage two may be studied with more than one authorised provider.
Where can I study?
If you've already secured a training contract then you may have been instructed where to study. If not, there are more than 20 institutions that offer the LPC in various forms and you need to choose the one that's right for you. To see what's on offer take a look at the Solicitor Regulation Authority's list of approved LPC providers. To make your decision you should find out about the institution’s reputation, how much the fees are, what electives are on offer and how the course is taught.
Where you've studied shouldn't affect you when applying for a training contract as firms will operate an equal opportunities policy and want to recruit from the widest pool. However if you have a particular firm in mind you may want to find out which universities their last intake came from.
When do I apply?
Applications for full-time courses go through the Central Applications Board (CAB) starting from September onwards. Prospective part-time students apply directly to their chosen provider.
There is no closing date and applications are processed as they're submitted. However, each institution may have its own admissions procedures so you need to check individual providers for course start dates and application deadlines as they may not consider late applications.
Going through the CAB you can rank three choices of law school. There are no interviews, so success hinges on the application form.
Applications are only released to the course providers once the form has been submitted, references received and the £18 application fee has been paid.
Student enrolment with the SRA is no longer required. They do however require disclosure of issues relating to character and suitability before you start your training contract. If you do have any issues you need to apply to the SRA at least six months before you start training.
Do I need to secure a training contract before applying?
Many students start the LPC without having a training contract in place and then go on to secure one during the course or shortly after graduation.
To see what's available, search for a training contract.
How much does the LPC cost?
Fees vary depending on where you choose to study and whether you take the course as a whole or as two separate stages.
For example, the University of Sheffield charges £11,000 for both stages while Anglia Ruskin University charges £9,500. You must contact the institution if you wish to study the stages separately.
Is funding available?
The firm you’re doing your training contract with may pay your LPC fees. You will need to check what this involves as it could mean you’re tied into the firm for a number of years.
If your fees aren't being paid you will need to use other sources including:
- a scholarship from your chosen institution
- self-funding through savings or part-time work
- schemes such as The Law Society Diversity Access Scheme.
You could also get a Professional and Career Development Loan (PCDL), worth between £300 and £10,000. The commercial loan can be used towards tuition fees, study costs and living expenses - but you must provide evidence of what you're borrowing the money for.
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