Doing the LPC or thinking of starting it next year? An LPC student shares their anonymous tips and advice on how to survive and thrive on the course.
The LPC is a right rollicking rollercoaster of a ride through reams and reams of legal procedure. A lot of the course content is really dull, and there’s no way of escaping that. You have to plough on and respect the fact you learn much that is genuinely useful for situations you'll face in the legal world. The course also gives you a good understanding of how the world works in general. For example, the property law module sets you up well for any dealings you may have with landlords in the future.
Below I’ll give you an idea of a typical week in the life of an LPC student, along with tips I wish I’d known before starting the course on how to succeed on it.
Understand the structure of the LPC
The law school I’m studying at essentially requires you to teach yourself the law using materials provided to you, then attend weekly seminars with 15 to 18 other students where you apply that knowledge. Typically, I have five or six seminars a week, each seminar being two hours long and requiring four to six hours of self-study beforehand in preparation.
In the first half of the academic year I studied the three core practice areas – business law, property law and litigation (civil and criminal) – which culminate in January exams. These subjects are compulsory for all LPC students, and this first part of the course is definitely the most demanding. There is so much you have to learn, and a lot of it is very dry, so revising for these exams is the point at which you get closest to losing your mind.
After the exams you move on to the 'skills' section, which includes activities such as legal research, drafting, advocacy and client interviewing. As you might have guessed, a lot of what you learn is stating the obvious, but don’t take your eye off the ball or try to pass these exams without any prior studying. Relatively speaking, the skills section is a doddle after the core practice areas and the workload lightens for a few weeks.
After Easter you finally progress to your electives, which provide for a relatively short but intense period of studying. I enjoyed this part of the course: you study subjects you’ve chosen yourself, and they are fields of law that you are likely to be working in when you start your training contract, so it feels much more relevant to your future career. This is capped off with exams at the beginning of June, and assuming you have no resits, that’s the LPC done and dusted!
Manage your workload
Overall, you are looking at 35 to 40 hours of work a week, so it’s best to treat the LPC as a full-time job.
This might differ from your experience as an undergrad, where sometimes you could get away with doing next to no work for a week or two then cramming all of your studying into the day(s) immediately preceding your exams. You cannot afford to fall behind on the LPC workload, so you really do need to put in the hours each week. There is so much that you need to learn that leaving it to the last minute has ended in failure for a few people I know.
Unlike many jobs though, you have a lot of flexibility with your hours. I enjoyed being able to sleep in some mornings, or fitting in daytime activities then completing the work I had to do in the evenings. The lifestyle you have is like that of a freelancer: there’s a limited timetable you must keep to, but you can manage the time around that as you wish.
Learn it all
The second major difference from doing your undergrad is that you need to know everything you learn on the course. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. You get examined on pretty much all topics you cover in class. This is in contrast to the GDL, for example, where you can get away with revising just a few topics for each unit. Breadth of knowledge, rather than depth, is a key characteristic of the LPC.
Learning everything sounds daunting, especially when you see the size of the books and notes you receive for each unit, but thousands of students manage it each year and in fact most of the course is commonsensical and not very intellectually demanding.
Plus, depending on your course provider, you may be allowed to bring some materials with statute in them into the exams with you, so highlight and tab the life out of these books to reduce significantly the volume of information you need to know off by heart.
Develop a passion for procedure
The content of the LPC is often very dry. You can’t get round this fact. If, like me, you don’t love learning the ins and outs of technical legal procedures in depth, this is certainly a challenge.
As I mentioned above, the exams for the core practice areas in January almost drove me insane. I found a good way to approach the tedium of revising was to get in the frame of mind I adopt when I exercise or go for a run. While running, if you think about how tired you feel and the pain of it all, it’s so much harder to keep on going. With revision, you have to block out any internal voices whingeing about how dull the work is and just keep on at the task in hand. No pain, no gain! And the boredom is only temporary.
Don't forget about life outside the LPC
If you think you will need to do paid work while you are studying the LPC and you’re worried that this might jeopardise your ability to complete the course, don’t worry. While I didn’t work myself, I know quite a few people who did a couple of shifts a week as bartenders or sales assistants and they got great results in exams. They had to manage their time very efficiently, but they managed nonetheless.
I find that the busier I am, the more I do. If I’ve got limited time in which to complete my studies due to other commitments, the time pressure helps to focus my mind. I’d recommend taking up or continuing any extracurricular activities you want to pursue while doing the LPC. I got involved in the committee of one of my law school’s student societies, and the work I did there helped spice up my weeks a bit. It also gives you a bit of perspective on things if you fear that exam pressure may overwhelm you. In addition, if you haven’t got a training contract lined up for when you complete the LPC, involvement in extra-curricular clubs can really boost your CV and widen your circle of contacts within the legal sector.
As if you need any further reasons to have lots going on in your life besides the LPC, you will lose friends if you have nothing to talk about except the LPC. I know of far too many students who have no chat other than what they’re studying on the course, and I try to keep my distance from them. Other people do too. It’s really boring! So there you have it: do things outside of the course to help maintain a healthy sense of perspective and an interesting personality.
Don't get caught out
If you have a training contract already and you’re required to pass all of your exams first time around, please try your hardest to do so! I know a few people who failed just one or two exams on the LPC and had their training contracts revoked despite having an otherwise spotless academic record. It’s really disappointing and upsetting to be only a month or two away from starting your training contract, then have it taken away from you.
Overall, succeeding on the LPC requires a fair amount of work and concentration. But compared to my undergraduate studies and the GDL, the LPC has not been as taxing mentally. The key to success here is self-discipline. Keep your attention on your studies, and you’ll get through it!
The hours that you have to devote to the LPC roughly equate to what you’d expect from a typical full-time job, so you will have plenty of free time too (and much more than you'll probably have as a trainee solicitor). Plus, this is potentially your last year of being a student, so enjoy the freedoms and opportunities which that brings!
While the LPC will be running for the coming years, from 2020 this route into the solicitors' profession will be replaced by the Solicitors Qualifying Examination. Click here to read more about the SQE.