Post-LLB: applying for the LPC vs a training contract
At present, all trainees in the UK need to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC), and there is no way around it. The decision on when to complete the LPC, however, is up to the student.
Many law students ask themselves: “Should I apply for the LPC directly out of university, or should I apply for a training contract in the hope that the firm will fund my LPC?”
Here are some pros and cons to each approach, as well as an update on the current qualification system.
Those pursuing a law degree are eligible to apply for a training contract in their penultimate year of university. As long as your law degree is a qualifying law degree, or LLB, you’ll be able to apply for training contracts right away, and training contract offers tend to be issued throughout the final year of university.
Law students are able to apply for a training contract in advance of completing their LPC, and many law firms recruit two years ahead of time, giving trainees plenty of time to complete the LPC after they’ve got a training contract in place.
The main point of the LPC is to obtain a training contract, and because the competition for training contracts is extremely intense, applying directly out of university can be a logical move to make.
Taking the LPC before having secured a training contract is a risk—under the current system, there are many more LPC places than there are training contracts—but many candidates choose to take that risk every year. It can be a gamble well worth taking, provided you are a strong enough candidate to get a training contract and you meet the academic requirements of the particular firm.
With some LPC course fees running in excess of £16,000, it can make sense to apply for a training contract first in the hope that your firm will cover the cost. You can’t start the training contract until you’ve completed the LPC, but many law firms will fund the LPC if they offer you a training contract before you’ve finished it.
The new Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE) will start to be rolled out in September 2021, with the aim of replacing the present qualification system eventually. This will eliminate the obligation to complete the LPC.
Additionally, trainee solicitors will no longer be required to complete training contracts. Instead, they will need to perform a minimum of two years of “qualifying legal work experience.” This work experience can be covered by as many as four different providers, including universities, and paralegal work will also count towards the requirement.
The SQE will replace the requirement to complete a qualifying law degree and an LPC, instead requiring a degree or equivalent qualification and a substantial period of work experience. The exam will assess core knowledge and allow law firms and universities to design their own specialist training.
If you’re currently deciding whether to start your LPC, or wait to see if you get a training-contract offer, it’s worth bearing in mind that this won’t be the only way to qualify for much longer. There’s not enough information on the SQE yet to consider it a serious factor in your decision, but it can help to know that it’s on the horizon.
Next article: Post LLB: taking a gap year after graduating
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