Excelling on the LPC
No doubt, before you start the LPC, you will have heard from well over a dozen people that it will be the hardest, most intense year of your life (so far, at least).
So, might be approaching the September start date with increasing trepidation, nerves gnawing away in the pit of your stomach. How are you going to manage? Will you collapse under the weight of the course’s demands? Or even the weight of the textbooks?
The course can, however, be more than manageable, as long as you approach it in an organised, level-headed, mature manner.
Good organisation is the key. Do all the reading beforehand. Pre-class reading really is essential - there is nothing more frustrating than having only skimmed over the reading at best, and spending a good half an hour in class trying in vain to find the relevant pages in the textbook - wouldn’t have happened had you actually read the chapter in the first place. Trust me, I know.
Work around your timetable. You could well find yourself juggling 10 different subjects in the first semester - most likely, compulsories and skills, and your timetable will most likely change from week to week. This could make it hard to establish a working routine. The best thing is to plan ahead - look at the classes you’ve got on next week, and plan your work around the order of your classes that week.
"come Christmas, you’ll find yourself with tall, wobbly pile of loose sheets akin to the leaning tower of Pisa..."
Pre-course reading - do as much as you can. Having said that, don’t worry about revising every last minutiae of what you learnt about contract law in the first week of your degree. A well-rounded knowledge of the basics should suffice. Besides, if you need to know more, you can always re-visit your undergraduate notes at a later date (providing you didn’t sacrifice them on a celebratory bonfire after sitting your final exam, that is).
Don’t miss lectures. I rather foolishly decided to skip a few lectures last year, and lo and behold, they turned out to be the most important ones of the course. No matter how dull a lecture may seem, it can provide a good opportunity for consolidation, and often some quite good notes, to act as a basis for your revision. Many of you will have “online” lectures, so you can watch them, or listen to them, when you like and as often as you like. Make the most of this tool - variety is the spice of life, so they say, and it‘s great to have some respite from the monotony of copying out of textbooks day in, day out.
Organise your notes well. It may seem like a menial task at the end of the week, when you’ve got stacks of reading to do in preparation for next week’s classes, but it will help you when you come to revision (and the exam, if yours is open-book), if your notes are well-organised and compartmentalised (different folders for different subjects, complete with file dividers). If not, come Christmas, you’ll find yourself with tall, wobbly pile of loose sheets akin to the leaning tower of Pisa, and you can’t for the life of you remember whether a hurriedly scrawled PA 19-something refers to the Partnership Act or the Patents Act.
Don’t get behind. If you’re ill, and miss a class, try and make it up by attending a different session, or at least get decent notes from a reliable peer. Workshops really are the place where the relevance of all your reading starts to click into place. If there’s a gap in your knowledge from where you didn’t attend class, then you’ll be kicking yourself when that very topic turns up on the exam paper, and you haven’t a clue how to even begin to answer the question.
Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t stew in your own misery when you don’t understand. Often, many people are thinking the same question and will be relieved you’ve asked it. If you’re struggling, the worst you can do is to not admit it, and to allow yourself to be swamped by work. Be practical. It will only be worse in the long-run if you don’t face up to it and look for help when you need it.
Make the most of your tutors. They are a font of all knowledge, and ultimately better-placed to advise you than your undergraduate tutors. They have all worked professionally as solicitors or barristers, for a variety of different law firms, so are all well-honed in what you need to know, how you need to behave, what looks good on an application form and what will send your application flying straight into the recycling bin.
Get involved. Even if you’ve already bagged yourself a training contract, employers will want to see that you’re still engaging in activities outside of the course. Pro bono opportunities aren’t just to help boost the CV’s of those who haven’t got a training contract yet, you know. Often, the more people do outside of the course itself, the more they find themselves able to manage the Legal Practice Course (LPC)workload.
Make an effort with your classmates. You may think you’re not going to have time for a social life, but the reality is that you’re likely to be stuck with the same 15-other people for a good 30 hours a week (at least) - in a very short space of time, those people will become your best friends.
Persevere. There will be peaks and troughs to the year. The first term will be the most intense - not only are you grappling with new subjects and new, less academic, styles of learning, but on top of that you’ve got to learn advocacy and interviewing skills, how do draw up solicitors’ accounts… the list is endless. Yes, you may find yourself frequently breaking down into tears, or being more vulnerable to bugs and illnesses, and you may feel that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But you will get there eventually! Putting your head down and getting on with it really is the best way through. June will be upon you before you know it.
Aim high. If you’re lucky enough to have a training contract, it could be that your employer is asking for more than a pass on the LPC. This is more than achievable. And if you haven’t yet got a training contract, why not go for it and aim for a great mark that will really make you stand out from the other applicants? A distinction is perfectly possible if you set your sights on it - discuss with your tutor what your realistic goals are, and go for them.
And finally, enjoy. Enjoyment? That may be something that doesn’t even register on your radar at the moment. You’re expecting the Legal Practice Course (LPC)to be rather dry and uninspiring. So was I. But I was pleasantly surprised when I did start to get interested in what I was learning. Make the most of it. For the majority of us, it’s the last time we will spend full-time in an educational environment. So enjoy! You’ll miss it when it’s gone!
University of the West of England