Training and progression

What is the legal practice course and do I need to take it?

17 Jan 2024, 16:01

The legal practice course (LPC) is one of the qualifications you can take to develop your practical skills and legal knowledge, and get a graduate job in law as a trainee solicitor.

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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), has been introduced. We’ve answered some common questions about the transition period. Jump to:

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LPC v. SQE: which should I do?

The solicitors qualifying examination (SQE) was introduced in autumn 2021. If you started your degree after September 2021, you'll follow this route. However, if you began, completed or accepted an offer of a place on (or paid a non-refundable deposit for) a qualifying law degree, law conversion course or legal practice course (LPC) before September 2021 you can technically follow the ‘old’ LPC route up until 31 December 2032 as long as courses still exist and employers provide appropriate training contracts.

However, many large law firms are switching to the SQE route from 2024 onwards if they haven’t already. As such, most firms are now requiring all of their trainees to qualify through the SQE assessment process, even if they have sat the LPC (although a few firms are still supporting trainees through both routes).

Read more about the two different qualifying routes at a glance or turn to our deep-dive into what the SQE involves .

So, what do I do if I’ve started the LPC and/or want to qualify via the LPC route?

You will need to ask individual firms if they will still support you via the LPC route. Some provide this information on their website or targetjobs employer hub , but you may need to ask others directly over email or phone, or while at a careers fair.

As mentioned, some may still support you through the LPC process, but many will want you to switch to the SQE route; if you’ve completed the LPC, you will be exempt from the first part of the SQE assessments, which will give you a head start.

Read advice from Daniel Cowan, associate professor and head of the solicitors qualifying examination at the University of Law, on what to do if you’re completing the LPC and haven’t yet got a training contract (advertising feature) .

What is the LPC?

The legal practice course (LPC) is a vocational qualification that is undertaken after a law degree or postgraduate law conversion course by those wishing to qualify as a solicitor under the ‘old’, pre-2021 route.

How is the LPC structured?

The structure of the LPC s 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. 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.

These two stages are separate and you have the option to complete the different stages at different institutions – you may even choose a different institution for each of the three elective modules, as different institutions offer different choices.

It’s possible to take a break between stages one and two, for example to start your training contract or gain other legal experience in the workplace. You have five years from your first attempt of the first assessment to finish the course. Full-time courses covering both stages typically last up to one year and part-time courses last two years.

What does the LPC cover?

The LPC covers these essential skills for legal practice:

  • writing
  • drafting
  • interviewing and advising
  • practical legal research
  • advocacy.

It also covers core practice areas:

  • professional conduct and regulation
  • taxation
  • wills and administration of estates
  • business law and practice
  • property law and practice
  • litigation (criminal and civil).
A pile of books with a student sitting behind them. The books drawf the person, so that only their arms are showing

Which electives should I choose?

If you already have a training contract lined up, check whether your firm specifies which institution(s) you should attend and whether it has a preferred list of elective modules.

Every provider must meet standards set by the SRA, but has the freedom to be unique and tailored in its content and teaching methods. If you don't have a training contract arranged, be led by where your interests lie, but consider which type of firm or area of law you’d like to end up in.

What are the differences between the LPC and SQE assessments?

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. You have to complete the LPC before you participate in the work-based element of qualifying as a solicitor (the training contract or period of recognised training), although many law firms hire you as a second-year law student or final-year non-law student and pay for you to complete the LPC before starting the training contract.

In contrast, the study element of the SQE is made up of two examinations: SQE1 and SQE2. Course providers have devised various preparation courses to help you pass them. Although you must complete SQE1 before SQE2, you do not have to undertake the qualifications all in one go or at a set time – you can take them before, after or while undertaking the work-based component of qualifying (known as qualifying work experience or QWE). You need two years of QWE, but it does not have to be acquired all in one go or with one employer: it can be taken with up to four organisations, which may include law clinics and charities alongside law firms.

However, the law firms that have switched to the SQE route continue to hire you as a second-year law student or final-year non-law students, pay for you to complete the SQE assessments and any required further study, and offer you two years of QWE (which they usually still call a ‘training contract’).

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. The LPC is not a second-best qualification and will not be looked upon less favourably by recruiters. It just might mean that you will have to do an additional examination at the end of it.

What about funding for the LPC and SQE assessments?

Traditionally, many firms would fund their future trainees through the LPC (and the postgraduate conversion course for non-law students). This continues, although many have now switched their funding to the SQE, along with any preparation courses needed.

See our run-down of the funding offered by different firms towards the LPC, SQE and conversion course – and advice on how else you can fund your postgraduate law studies from the University of Law (advertising feature) .

Note that non-law students officially no longer need to take a conversion course before the SQE, but undertaking one is strongly recommended and many firms will insist upon it.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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