updated on 28 May 2019
The LPC is the vocational stage of training to be a solicitor and is the next step for aspiring solicitors after the completion of a law degree or GDL. It focuses on providing you with the essential skills required to successfully practice as a lawyer.
The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is generally taught in two stages, Stage One and Stage Two, as a combined programme. It has a broadly commercial emphasis, but allows you to specialise in the second half of the course. This ability to tailor study within a choice of legal practice contexts allows you to focus your energies and enhance your skills in the areas you are going to practice.
All students study the same modules during Stage One, consisting of modules in the three core practice areas:
There are also eight skills and pervasive subjects to study throughout Stage One; solicitors accounts, wills and administration, conduct and regulation, research, writing, drafting, interviewing and advocacy.
During Stage Two you study three vocational electives which further build on the knowledge acquired throughout Stage One. Course providers will be on hand to assist you with your choice of electives to ensure that you enhance the selected pathway and maximise your chances of securing the right type of training contract.
The options available will differ across different providers, but as an example, could include any and all of the following:
Law firm-sponsored students may find that their firm stipulates the options that they wish their trainees to study. This is usually to ensure that upon completion of the course; their trainees are able to join the firm with a sound knowledge of its specific practice areas and ‘hit the ground running’.
If you’re a self-funding student it is wise to study a variety of subjects at Stage Two which will ensure that you’re not limiting your employment options by over-specialising in one particular area. Of course it goes without saying that you should choose the areas of law that you are interested in.
Study options for the LPC are becoming increasingly flexible. While most providers previously offered the course on a one-year full-time basis, some now offer accelerated six or seven-month options, or 18 month evening/day or weekend options. However, the one-year full time option is still the most popular among graduates keen to leave study behind and begin their careers in the legal sector.
Most institutions deliver the LPC through a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials. These will vary in size and frequency depending on which institution you choose for your studies. An increasing amount of material is now being delivered online, allowing greater flexibility for students; however it is important to choose a study option that suits your individual needs and preferences. There is also an increase in modules about legal technology, including AI, blockchain and automation which might appeal to forward-thinking students.
It is always recommended to choose a course that utilises online resources while maintaining a focus on face-to-face tuition and a substantial amount of contact time each week.
Since 2013 there has been a prevailing trend for attaching a master’s qualification to the LPC. The award usually involves some extra work such as a dissertation, or attending additional classes/workshops to gain extra credits.
An LLM LPC is a good opportunity to specialise in a particular area of legal practice that interests you. It may help your chances of applying to a law firm that specialises in say, shipping law, if you have written and researched extensively on this area and, coupled with the skills you have developed through your LPC training, will provide you with invaluable practical and commercial insight ready for a successful career in legal practice.
Weekly workload can of course differ between providers and even different study options. For a full-time one-year course, you should expect to be in attendance three to four days a week, with around 18-20 contact hours per week, plus self-study time of around 37 hours. With that in mind, while some students may need to take on jobs to support themselves throughout their LPC courses, it is probably best to wait until a few months of the course have passed before making any plans – that way you can be sure how much time you’ll have free outside of your course commitments.
While assessments on the LPC are set by each institution, they are generally spread across written exams, oral presentations and coursework. Some institutions will run their written exams as closed book (no text books/materials allowed) or open book (texts allowed into exam), but don’t worry – teaching will reflect this so you will be well equipped come exam time if your chosen institution prefers closed-book exams.
Before applying for the LPC you should check with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to ensure that your degree/GDL is a ‘Qualifying Law Degree’ (QLD). The SRA website has a useful list of universities that are QLD providers and also has some important information available for any potential LPC applicants.
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. While there are no longer any deadlines for first or second-round applications, it is recommended that to avoid disappointment, you apply as soon as you are happy that you are making an informed decision and are sure that you want to pursue a career as a solicitor. All applications must be made online via the Central Applications Board (CAB) and you can make three institution choices. It’s a good idea to draw up a shortlist and visit each institution before you apply. You will quickly get a feel for the place and if you can’t picture yourself studying there, it’s probably not the institution for you.
LPC courses can vary in price, with London-based courses being the more expensive option at over £16,000. Of course if you have gained a training contract before commencing your LPC, you don’t need to think about the fees and can skip this part, but for self- funding students, the sheer costs involved can be quite a daunting prospect. Don’t despair though – most institutions offer scholarships that carry discounts (in some cases 50% or more off the total cost of the course) and have flexible payment options designed to help you spread the cost of your course throughout the year. You can see firms that offer law school sponsorship on the LPC page of the Courses section. For more information on self-funding options for the LPC, go to our Finances section.
At any institution you will have access to a careers service that is there to help support your career aspirations. It’s important to use it regularly, but also to trust what they tell you - they know what they’re talking about! Many law school careers advisers have worked as graduate recruiters or solicitors themselves, so they know what makes a good impression and will certainly be able to help you improve yours. Most firms receive in excess of 1,500 training contract applications each year and they need to whittle this down to 200-300 for interview. Therefore, recruiters are looking for reasons to reject you so make sure that every application you make is as excellent as it can be.
It’s the job of your careers service to be realistic with you. If you are looking to apply to a top-tier firm or one that specifically requests a 2.1 and grades ABB or higher at A level, and you have neither (with no real mitigating circumstances), don’t apply. It really is a waste of time. Most people applying for training contracts have good - if not outstanding - academics; you need to make yourself stand out. Your extracurricular activities will play almost as important a role in your application.
Law firms want to see that you are a well-rounded candidate who will get on well with their lawyers and staff, so think carefully about what hobbies you enjoy and get involved.
The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) is due to be introduced in 2021 and will replace the GDL and LPC with all solicitors having to pass the SQE in order to qualify. Anyone who commences the LPC before September 2021 will still be able to qualify through the old system. The LPC will officially expire in 2031, although many firms are likely to expect candidates to take the SQE long before that. For more information, head to our SQE page.