Why the LPC is still a great option to become a solicitor in 2022/2023
Firms and course providers agree that the legal practice course (LPC) remains a tried, tested and trusted route to qualification as a solicitor.
The solicitors qualifying examination (SQE) was introduced last year – a new qualification process for aspiring solicitors. The new examination was placed centre stage by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to ensure consistent standards of assessment across the profession. There was a certain perception that the reliable old legal practice course (LPC) would drift into the wings – an afterthought for those that started their qualifying law degree or GDL prior to September 2021. However, one of the leading legal course providers, The University of Law, explains that the LPC is far from retirement – certainly for the coming year – and remains the qualification of choice for firms and students.
What should you know about the LPC if you’re considering it at the moment?
If you started your law degree or conversion course before September 2021, you have the choice over which vocational qualification you undertake on your path to becoming a solicitor. That said, there are a few things that are worth remembering:
- The LPC is a tried, tested and reliable route to becoming a solicitor.
- Law firms can already vouch for the reliability of LPC graduates in the workplace.
- Unlike the SQE, the LPC teaches you working skills as well as testing your legal knowledge, something that the SQE exams don’t necessarily provide (but rather rely on qualifying work experience to achieve).
- The LPC offers electives and the chance to broaden your knowledge of different areas of law (though SQE preparation courses may offer the same).
The advantages are clear to Professor Peter Crisp, deputy vice-chancellor at The University of Law: ‘If you are eligible to do the LPC then my strong recommendation is to do the LPC whilst it is still available,’ he says. ‘The LPC is a tried and tested way to qualify as a solicitor, widely respected by law firms and the profession, and has been the standard route to qualification as solicitor for over 30 years. Most of the legal profession is expecting students and future trainees to do the LPC in September 2022. So students can be very confident to study the LPC in 2022-2023.’
The long-standing nature of the LPC means that it may be able to accommodate your needs in more ways than one. At a good provider, such as The University of Law, the course can be studied full time or part time. If you’re considering an MSc in law, business and management or an LLM in professional legal practice, you could add the LPC to your studies and may be able to obtain postgraduate loans to cover the cost.
LPC v. SQE – the debate
The SQE will become the way to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales in the future, there is no question about that. However, if you’re in the category that has the choice then you’ll most likely want to weigh up your options before deciding. The SQE is an exam, while the LPC is a course. The distinction is a big one. The LPC will set you on the path to a ‘traditional’ training contract, while the SQE will require qualifying work experience. Making the distinction between the two will help you make your decision, as John Watkins, employability director at The University of Law suggests:
‘Those who have prior work experience may well be able to claim qualifying work experience and potentially shorten the journey to qualification – this would make the SQE a more logical choice,’ he explains. ‘However, as most firms seem committed to the LPC for at least the immediate term, the majority are leaning towards the tried and tested route. There is much to be said for being among the majority, particularly as the pass rates stabilise.’
A further consideration is the need for a conversion course. Technically, the SQE doesn’t require non-lawyers to undertake a conversion course; however, a strong legal knowledge will be required for an SQE prep course as well as for the exams themselves, and law firms may suggest or require non-law graduates to undertake a conversion course too. If you’re a non-law graduate considering a career as a solicitor, the need for a conversion course may mean that the LPC is still your best option.
‘There has been much debate about the merits of the SQE and comparisons made with existing qualifications. One area in which there is one single united voice from law firms and the profession is the need for non-law students to undertake a formal conversion course,’ says John. ‘The GDL was renowned as a demanding, but excellent, course and the PGDL now on offer is a comparable alternative in the new world. MA Law courses attract funding, which appeals to some, but is more often than not the course of choice for those not intending to pursue the solicitor route thereafter.’
As you can see from the above, there are so many things to think about before making your decision on how to qualify as a solicitor. If you need more information, take a look at our targetjobs law advice, but you may be better served by contacting The University of Law directly via firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 0800 289 9976 to speak to one of their student advisers.
You can find out more about the LPC and SQE below in the FAQs section.
What is the LPC?
The LPC has been a staple of the solicitor qualification process since its inception in the 1990s. The one-year course was designed to provide aspiring solicitors not only with the legal knowledge required for life in practice, but also the basic legal skills that new trainees need when they join a firm. Those wanting to qualify under the LPC route will have until 31 December 2032 to do so.
Who is eligible to take the LPC?
You can undertake the LPC after finishing a qualifying law degree or a recognised conversion course such as the postgraduate diploma in law (PGDL), provided that you began your law degree or PGDL prior to September 2021.
What does the LPC involve?
There are a number of core modules for the LPC:
- Introduction to professional practice including professional conduct
- Business law and practice knowledge and skills
- Dispute resolution knowledge and skills, including criminal litigation
- Real estate knowledge and skills.
Students are also allowed to pick three elective subjects or options on different areas of law. For example, The University of Law offers its students 15 electives to choose from.
How you can study the LPC at The University of Law
Peter explains that when it comes to studying the LPC, courses can be so flexible as to offer a broad range of options:
‘With The University of Law’s LPC students have the choice to study full-time, part time or accelerated to best suit their personal needs. We focus on the skills that employers are most interested in so that students can enhance their academic knowledge while preparing for the realities of life in legal practice,’ he says.
‘The LPC prepares students for professional legal practice. They will experience working as a trainee solicitor by processing client files and performing tasks relating to case studies, giving them a strong foundation for a career in law.’
What is the SQE?
The SQE is the new centralised system to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales, which will eventually replace the Legal Practice Course (LPC) route to practice. When you see the SQE mentioned, it likely refers only to the exams required for qualification and the associated two-year qualifying work experience and not the courses that you’ll likely need to prepare for them.
What does the SQE involve?
As mentioned above, the SQE likely refers to the two sets of assessments required to pass the qualification, alongside qualifying work experience.
‘The SQE comprises two centrally set and marked assessments. The assessments are set by the Solicitors Regulations Authority and candidates will travel to authorised assessment centres to sit the examinations,’ explains Peter. ‘In SQE1 students are tested on functioning legal knowledge by answering 360 multiple-choice questions in timed exam conditions. The assessment is closed book. In SQE2 students undertake 16 skills assessments, which will test the practical legal skills of client interviewing, advocacy, legal writing, drafting and research, and case and matter analysis. The SQE has no elective content so many law firms will require students to study additional content in order to be ready of day in the firm.’
Who is eligible to undertake the SQE?
The SQE is being phased in over the next 10 years as the main route to qualify as a solicitor. You have the choice between the LPC or the SQE if you started your law studies prior to September 2021, but will be required to undertake the SQE if you began your studies later than that. All that is required is a UK degree or equivalent level six qualification in any subject.
How you can study for the SQE at The University of Law
The University of Law offers a host of courses to get you SQE ready, from law essentials (an abridged conversion course) into SQE-prep, to combined postgraduate and LLM options to undertake SQE preparation. See The University of Law postgraduate hub on targetjobs for more details.