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.
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.
How to choose an LPC course provider
Theoretically, you could complete your LPC at up to four providers; the way the course is structured means that you are able to complete the two stages (and even the three elective modules) at different institutions. However, it's important to think carefully about where you complete your LPC before you send off your application. Each provider must meet standards set by the SRA, but each course has the freedom to be unique and tailored in its content and teaching methods.
Many firms will have relationships with course providers and will work with the provider to run teaching sessions:
- If you already have a training contract lined up, it's best to select the provider and electives that the firm prefers (take a look at the table of providers below and the list of electives).
- If you've not secured a training contract yet, choose electives that interest you and which you are likely to get the best grades in. Look at providers' prospectuses, talk to current and previous students, and visit campuses to get a sense of what the provider is offering.
Law firms with preferred LPC providers
The X marks the provider that the firm would prefer its trainees to have completed the LPC at.
|Law firm||BPP||University of Law|
|Addleshaw Goddard LLP||X|
|Baker McKenzie LLP||X|
|Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP||X|
|Clyde & Co LLP||X|
|DLA Piper LLP||X|
|DWF Group Plc||X|
|Kirkland & Ellis International LLP||X|
|Latham & Watkins LLP||X|
|Mayer Brown International LLP||X|
|Norton Rose Fulbright||X|
|Osborne Clarke LLP||X|
|Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP||X|
|Sidley Austin LLP||X|
|Slaughter and May||X|
|Travers Smith LLP||X|
|Trowers & Hamlins LLP||X|
|Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP||X|
DAC Beachcroft and Howard Kennedy LLP have both indicated that they do have a preference, but advise future trainees to contact the firm for further details.