Currently, every aspiring solicitor must complete the legal practice course (LPC) – the vocational stage of training. The course is designed to prepare students for working life as a lawyer, and give them an understanding of the law and its application to practical issues. The LPC is due to be replaced by a new method of qualification (the SQE or 'super exam'), which is due to be introduced from autumn 2021.
The legal practice course (LPC) structure
The structure of the legal practice course is laid out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). It is split into two distinct stages: Stage 1 covers the core practice areas and course skills and Stage 2 is made up of three elective modules chosen by the student. Students can complete the different stages at different institutions and may even chose a different institution for each of the three elective modules.
It’s also possible to take a break between stages 1 and 2, for example to start your training contract with a law firm or gain other legal experience in the workplace: you have five years from the completion of your first assessment to finish the LPC course. Full-time courses covering both stages typically last one year (though they may be shorter) and part-time courses take two years.
How the legal practice course is designed to meet your needs as a potential lawyer
This structure gives LPC providers the flexibility to tailor their courses. You’ll need to make sure that the provider and electives you choose are suitable for the sort of work you hope to do. Some firms specify which LPC their future trainees should attend, while others request that they take specific electives. So if you already have a training contract lined up, make sure you check your firm's expectations before you choose your electives.
The training all future trainee solicitors need
There are three elements of the course that will be considered in the context of each of the core practice areas. These are:
- professional conduct and regulation
- wills and administration of estates.
The core practice areas cover three areas of law that all solicitors need to know and understand. These are:
- business law and practice
- property law and practice
- litigation (criminal and civil).
You’ll also develop a range of core skills that solicitors need. These are:
- interviewing and advising
- practical legal research
Tailor your legal practice course to suit your graduate career needs
Stage 2 of the LPC is made up of three distinct vocational electives that you can select from the range available. Each elective is allocated to an elective group and you are required to complete electives from at least two groups to ensure that you cover different areas of practice. Different institutions offer different choices so the option to study each elective at a different institution may be helpful to you.
What do potential lawyers think of the legal practice course?
'The LPC is practical, focusing more on how you actually do something rather than the underlying legal principles. The majority of exams are open book, which required a different approach to revision and exam technique compared to my degree and law conversion course. Within each module you are taught how to perform tasks that a trainee solicitor is likely to be given, as well as how they fit in to the larger picture. On top of that, the skills element of the course involves learning how to interview, advise, present and write letters – all skills that will be useful to a trainee solicitor or more widely in the workplace in general,' explains Emma Sweetman, ex-LPC student at the University of Sheffield.
How to apply for the legal practice course
Applications for full-time courses open in September. You must apply through an online, centralised process at www.lawcabs.ac.uk, where further help can be found. There is no longer an application deadline for submitting your LPC application, but if you have a strong course provider preference, then it's best to apply earlier rather than later.
You can choose up to three institutions for your LPC. You must sell yourself on the application form, giving convincing reasons for choosing a legal career, outlining your aspirations and offering evidence of your commitment to the profession. A referee is also required to vouch for your academic achievements and commitment to law.
Applications for part-time and distance learning courses should be made directly to the relevant institution. Applications for elective modules should also be made directly to the provider.