updated on 28 November 2023
Are law firms still recruiting Legal Practice Course (LPC) graduates? I’ve completed the LPC but I'm worried I won’t be able to get a training contract?
Reading time: five minutes
First things first, the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) and its crossover with the LPC is the root cause of a lot of worries for students we speak to – so, you’re unlikely to be the only person with this question. Students are voicing concerns over whether they should be completing the SQE instead of the LPC or vice versa (where eligible), and whether firms will still recruit candidates who’ve completed the LPC onto their training contracts. These are all valid concerns but hopefully we can ease some of your worries with the information below.
Find out whether you meet the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) transitional arrangements via our SQE Feature.
For those eligible to choose between the LPC or SQE, researching how shortlisted firms will be recruiting before you enrol onto either pathway is key to calming those nerves and one of our favourite pieces of advice to dish out – start at the source and work your way back.
If you’re a graduate applying for training contracts, the decision is made for you with law firms specifying the course provider and course they want you to complete ahead of taking the SQE assessments and starting your training contract. However, if you’ve completed the LPC and are worried about how it’ll be received alongside the SQE, read on for insights into the SRA’s conditions and firms’ plans.
"There’s no doubt that the legal landscape is changing but there’s no one definitive path being taken by legal recruiters. The common theme in my conversations with employers as they wrestle with the transition is their desire to recruit ‘the top talent’. This means that both LPC and SQE students are very much in contention" - John Watkins, director of employability at The University of Law
The answer to this question really depends on the firm. If you’ve already finished the LPC, you’ll be glad to know that many firms will continue to recruit LPC graduates (likely with additional requirements in place) for the time being. That said, other firms have overhauled their training programmes to adopt the SQE and will be solely recruiting future trainees who’ll complete SQE preparation and sit the SQE assessments using firms’ preferred training providers (eg, The University of Law or BPP University Law School). We’ve provided examples of what specific firms are doing later in the article to give you a clearer idea of what the above means in practice.
The SRA has explained that candidates who’ve passed the LPC can also qualify as solicitors by passing the SQE2 assessment and completing two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE), which is likely to be a route that many firms will take for future trainee cohorts. The LPC can be used as an ‘exemption’, but only for lawyers who are already qualified; for those who’ve passed the LPC, SQE2 and QWE can be used as an ‘equivalent’ to a period of recognised training (ie, a training contract).
If you’re an LPC graduate whose goal is to qualify as a solicitor by building up QWE outside of a training contract, as well as passing SQE2 (ie, using SQE2 and QWE as an equivalent), you must let the SRA know – there are forms on the SRA’s website for this.
To qualify in this way, you’ll need to:
Find out more about using SQE2 as an equivalence via the SRA website.
For those hoping to land a training contract (the route that’s likely to remain the most popular into the profession), you should conduct research to find out which firms are still recruiting LPC graduates.
While some will continue to recruit candidates who’ve already taken the LPC, they might require you to pass either SQE1 and SQE2, or just SQE2. As an example, Norton Rose Fulbright, which is part of the City Consortium, has said that candidates with the LPC (fewer than four years since completion) will need to complete the City Consortium Solicitor Training Programme diploma route, which involves a 15-week plus programme and eight weeks of SQE prep and exams.
RPC and Burges Salmon LLP have also confirmed that they’ll still accept applications from candidates who’ve successfully completed the LPC – these trainees won’t have to complete SQE1 but will have to do SQE2. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Legal Cheek earlier this year, one-fifth of graduate recruitment and learning and development teams said that LPC graduates will be required to pass parts or all of the SQE.
Meanwhile, Ward Hadaway says that it’s still recruiting for both SQE and LPC routes, stating that applicants who’ve not yet completed or started the LPC will receive sponsorship for the SQE and complete their training with The University of Law, while those who’ve started or completed the LPC won’t be required to complete the SQE as part of the firm’s training contract.
While law firms will likely continue to recruit LPC candidates for now, Legal Cheek’s survey also found that 36% of the 33 law firms surveyed said they’ll fully transition to the SQE from 2023 and 42% said they’d fully transition from 2024.
For instance, magic circle firm Allen & Overy LLP is one of the firms holding off on the switch to the SQE, having confirmed that trainees who join the firm in or before March 2024 will qualify via the firm’s accelerated LPC with LLM qualification with BPP (non-law graduates will take the post-graduate diploma in law first). The firm’s trainees from September 2024 will then train via the SQE.
What’s the difference between training contracts and QWE? Find out in this Oracle.
The above examples highlight the various ways that firms are moving forward with the LPC and SQE between now and when the LPC will eventually be phased out by 2032. So, in short, yes there are firms that’ll continue to recruit LPC graduates – you’ll just need to do some research to find the best firm for you and your circumstances because not every firm is taking the same approach.