What is the legal practice course and do I need to take it?
The legal practice course (LPC) is one the qualifications you can take to develop your practical skills and legal knowledge, and get a graduate job in law as a trainee solicitor.
The legal practice course (LPC) is one of the routes you can take towards qualifying as a solicitor and working for a law firm. However, it’s being phased out as a new route, the solicitors’ qualifying examination (SQE), is introduced. We’ve answered some common questions about the transition period.
If you’re planning to become a solicitor at a law firm, you may already have discovered that the route into the profession is changing. There is now a new method of qualification, the solicitors qualifying examination (SQE), which was introduced in autumn 2021. However, if you started your conversion course or qualifying law degree before September 2021, the LPC will remain one of the ways in which you can qualify until 2026, and there are transitional arrangements for firms hiring trainee solicitors in the meantime. This means that some firms are still accepting applications from students who are completing or who have completed the LPC.
We answer some questions about the LPC and the transitional arrangements that firms will apply while the new route to qualification is established.
What is the LPC?
The structure of the legal practice course was laid out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the organisation that regulates solicitors in England and Wales. The course is split into two distinct stages: stage 1 covers the core practice areas and course skills while stage 2 is made up of three elective modules that you choose between.
You can complete the different stages at different institutions and even opt for a different institution for each of the three elective modules. You can also take a break between stages 1 and 2, for example gain legal experience. Full-time courses covering both stages typically last one year (though they may be shorter) and part-time courses take two years.
Do I still need to do the LPC?
In a word – no, although you will still need to take some form of qualification to prepare you for work as a trainee solicitor. It depends on your situation as to which one you should take.
If you started an LPC, a law degree (or, for non-law students, a graduate diploma in law (GDL)), completed the course, accepted an offer of a place or paid a deposit for the course before 1 September 2021, you can continue with this route to qualification. You have five years from the completion of your first assessment to finish the LPC course. According to the SRA, the LPC will continue to be available until 2026.
If you hadn’t started a law degree or the LPC route by September 2021, the SQE is the path for you. Many law firms will offer tools or quizzes on their website that help you establish which route you need to take.
That said, the transitional arrangements will continue for a few years and each firm will take a different approach to implementing them. If you have questions about which training contracts you can apply for with an LPC or which route you should take if you’re self funding, we suggest that you contact individual firms to ask about their plans and preferences.
What if I deferred my LPC place?
If you’ve already deferred your LPC place, you can continue down this route. However, you won’t be able to refer it to a later year. Make sure you have evidence of your deferral to avoid problems when you start applying for work or work experience.
What about funding for the LPC and SQE?
Traditionally, many firms would fund their future trainees through the LPC (and the graduate diploma in law – GDL – for non-law students). That will continue, although they’ll now fund the SQE, along with any preparation courses needed. Note that non-law students officially no longer need to take a GDL before the SQE, but some grounding in law is recommended.
A survey of firms advertising in targetjobs Law indicates that the majority are accepting applications from students completing the LPC. However, from 2024, they will be funding their own trainees through the SQE, not the LPC.
Can I still apply for training contracts if I have taken the LPC route?
Yes, you can still apply, and your qualification will still be eligible. According to the SRA, the LPC route to qualification will be open until 2032.
As in the past, some firms will have preferred course providers. Check with individual firms about these to be sure your course will meet employers’ preferences.
What are the benefits of the LPC?
As the names suggest, the LPC is a course. It guides you through the topics and skills you need for a career as a solicitor and you’re examined in these. This is a tried-and-tested way to learn, and over the years, institutions have become very good at teaching the course.
In contrast, the SQE is an exam. There are numerous courses available that will guide you towards passing this, but the options along the way are more varied. In fact, this was one of the reasons for the switch-up in routes to qualification: to give students more options along the way.
So, if you’re taking the LPC route or planning to, you can be confident that it’s a well-known course that was carefully designed to address the needs of firms, trainee solicitors and regulating bodies. For example, it covers essential skills needed in practice:
- interviewing and advising.
- practical legal research.
It also covers core practice areas:
- professional conduct and regulation.
- wills and administration of estates.
- business law and practice.
- property law and practice.
- litigation (criminal and civil).
The LPC is not a second-best qualification and will not be looked upon less favourably by recruiters. It is simply a different route and one will gradually be replaced by another more flexible one.
Where can I get advice on my options?
The changes in the route to qualification mean that it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re on the right path for your circumstances and career aspirations. Don’t forget that law firms are in the same period of transition as you and needing to adjust. Recruiters will expect questions from students, so you can feel confident contacting them or seeking them out at insight days and careers fairs .
Likewise, your careers service is there to help you with exactly these kinds of decisions. Don’t be shy about asking for guidance.