The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is the vocational stage of training to be a solicitor. It is a one-year, full-time (or two-year, part-time) course designed to provide a bridge between academic study and training in a law firm. It is both knowledge and skills-based, and it aims to ensure that you are able to do the work of a trainee solicitor under proper supervision when you begin your training contract.
The LPC is practical in nature and the focus is firmly on mastering relevant skills. The emphasis is on workshops, continuous assessment, independent research and group discussions. It also allows you a certain amount of specialisation through a range of optional subjects. You will find that the LPC provides a good practical foundation for your early years of practice at a law firm.
Worth noting is that 2009 was a year of change for the LPC. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) now expects course providers to split the LPC in half, separating the compulsory subjects from the electives (which would be completed during the training contract). Those universities and law schools wishing to teach the two halves of the LPC simultaneously must now justify their rationale to the SRA. As things stand, the following is a description of the way a typical one year, full-time course is taught.
What you learn
The majority of courses are delivered in two stages. Stage one is the compulsory study of core areas of law and practice, while stage two is comprised of three vocational electives.
This covers are the foundations of legal practice.It comprises of ethics (including professional conduct and client care), skills (advocacy, interviewing and advising, writing, drafting and research), taxation, trusts and tax planning, principles of EU law, and probate and administration of estates. Stage one also covers the three essential areas of business law, property law and litigation, including the teaching of practical skills to ensure all-round competence in these areas.
Students are required to study three optional courses from a range of subjects in the areas of private client (working for individuals) and corporate client (working for companies). These options are usually studied in the final term of the course. While many courses try to avoid over-specialisation at an early stage, the ability to provide as broad a base as possible from which to enter a training contract is important. Some firms will stipulate which options their future trainees should take. These specific options might include commercial law and practice, employment, landlord and tenant, consumer, housing, family, client in the community (including legal aid, welfare, youth and childcare), advanced criminal practice, advanced litigation and corporate finance.
The skills element usually comprises about 25% of the course and includes legal research, drafting, interviewing, negotiating and advocacy, all of which will be developed throughout stages one and two. These skills are assessed through various different techniques. For instance, oral skills are often assessed via video, while written skills tend to be assessed by practice-based exercises.
Teaching methods for the LPC obviously vary from institution to institution and from subject to subject. Most providers use a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials as the basis of the course. More technologically advanced teaching methods, such as the extensive use of DVD lectures, are increasingly common.
Assessment of the LPC is the responsibility of the teaching institutions. It will undoubtedly comprise a mixture of written exams, course work and the assessment of skills.
Where to study
If you have completed the GDL, the chances are that you will stay on at the same provider to do the LPC. If you are a law undergraduate, you should be looking for as much information as possible about the various schools before applying. You should try to find out about not only the academic programme, but also any links with the profession, the level of individual career guidance, the facilities available and any relevant extra-curricular activities. It would also be helpful to get an idea of the provider's reputation among both students and the profession. Use our Course search as a starting point.
When to apply
Law undergraduates should apply from September onwards in their final year, while non-law graduates should do so from September onwards in their GDL year. The application system has recently been changed so that there is no longer a closing date for applications; rather, applications are dealt with as they are submitted and institutions are notified weekly of new submissions.
How to apply
Applications for almost all institutions that offer the LPC course are managed by the Central Applications Board - contact it for an application form or apply online.
Before you can commence the LPC, you must become a student member of the SRA and obtain a certificate of completion of the academic stage of training. If you’re applying for admission to a full-time LPC programme, you will automatically be sent an application form in March. You must complete the form and submit it along with an £80 fee to the SRA by no later than one month before the start date of your LPC course. However, you must submit your application and your £80 fee six months before your courses is due to start if you have character or suitability issues that require consideration, such as criminal convictions or cautions, evidence of cheating in exams or any county court judgments against you.
If you haven't received a student enrolment application form six months before you intend to commence the LPC, contact the SRA (firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.sra.org.uk/contact-us/ or 0870 606 2555).