Your Solicitor Journey with ULaw – The LPC


The LPC, the SQE, and the future: Staff and students at the University of Law lift the lid on the “tried and tested route into practice” for aspiring solicitors.

In September 2021, the SRA introduced the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), the new route by which aspiring solicitors would qualify into the profession. The idea was for the SQE to gradually replace the LPC route, while ensuring that those who had started on the path towards a legal career via the GDL, LPC and subsequent training contract, could continue on that path. Yet with the transition period set to run into the early 2030s, the traditional LPC route remains “a valuable and entirely viable option for many aspiring solicitors” Dan Cowan, Head of SQE1 at ULaw tells us. So, what exactly is the LPC? And what benefits does the route offer?


Tried and tested - the LPC

The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is the final level of study before life at a law firm begins for prospective solicitors. As the “tried and tested route into practice,” the LPC offers a year of practical preparation towards a training contract at a firm, and follows either a qualifying law degree or a GDL conversion course (for those that studied a non-law subject at university). “It’s certainly a practical course, the emphasis is on tasks that involve ‘advising clients’ through various scenarios and different areas of law,” LPC student at ULaw Alice Narborough adds, “so it makes a nice change from the lengthy essays on the history or theory of law that you might have to write during an undergraduate degree.”

“The idea is for you to try to think and behave like a solicitor from day one.”

In the time since ULaw began to offer students the option of the LPC, “the content and delivery of the course has been shaped by the student experience and the needs of the recruiting law firms that send students to study with us” Cowan explains. The first stage includes “a suite of compulsory subjects,” which introduce students to the essentials across dispute resolution, business law and real estate, along with training in key practitioner skills such as legal writing, drafting, and interviewing. The goal, Cowan explains, is to get students thinking like a solicitor from the beginning: “The Legal Practice Course is rich in content and resources, and it will demand a lot of you, but the idea is for you to try to think and behave like a solicitor from day one.”

The LPC’s second stage allows students to select areas of practice to study in more depth from a list that includes criminal law, banking & debt finance, commercial law, employment, family, immigration, IP, M&A, insurance, and personal injury. What’s more, by incorporating additional Masters-level study elements, the LPC at ULaw can be taken as an LLM Masters degree, affording students the opportunity for greater focus on the topics that interest them.

“It helped to give me that extra insight into what being a practicing solicitor would be like.”

So, with applications taken throughout the year, and a range of full, part-time, and remote learning options available from the university’s campuses, what’s the draw of the LPC? “The benefit of the LPC is that it is the ‘traditional route’ that most firms welcome and recognise,” Narborough tells us, but it is also tailor-made to prepare students for life on a training contract: “There’s a lot of problem solving, which requires plenty of critical thinking and analysis, but it prepares you for thinking through and resolving the matters at hand.” The transfer of legal skills from the LPC to the workplace is something that the teaching staff at ULaw are well equipped to pass on too, with all tutors on the course having worked, or still working, in the industry: “It helped to give me that extra insight into what being a practicing solicitor would be like,” Lucia Gallato, another of ULaw’s LPC students adds, “something that I just wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

As you might expect, a course that sets its students up for a notoriously challenging career path will demand a lot: “It is definitely a very challenging fast-paced course,” Gallato explains, “the main hurdle was the amount of content we had to learn. You will be kept busy, and all the modules require a lot of reading and independent learning. I loved most of them, but it was still hard at times to be able to get through it all.” Workshops form a big part of the student experience on the LPC, all of which require students to watch pre-recorded lectures in advance, on top of the standard reading that you might be familiar with as an undergraduate: “That preparation is absolutely key to understanding the content,” Narborough recalls, “so you have to set aside typically around five hours per workshop for that prep.” With between 9 and 16 workshops depending on the module, that’s a lot of preparation time too.

As is the case for almost anything that prospective lawyers will face throughout their early careers however, there are those who have gone before them. The LPC replaced the Law Society’s Final Examination in 1993, and just as the course has been refined to meet the needs of recruiting firms, so too has the template for getting the most out of your study: “Get organised as early as possible!” Gallato advises, “at ULaw the course materials are sent through to you before the start of the course, so I would recommend organising everything into folders so that it’s easier for you to know what you have or haven’t yet done.” This is something that Narborough echoes: “Calendars and to-do lists will become your new best friends! Highlighters, lever arch folders, and colourful pens are an absolute must, as is a printer. These will help to break down the vast amount of content you will be taught, and organise the information you need for exams.”

“We’re all looking to find areas of law that we can actually see ourselves practicing in.”

Of course, the student experience on the LPC is hugely impacted by the people you have around you, so you’d be wise to take advantage of being surrounded by people who are working towards the same goal. “Reach out to other people and initiate friendships,” Narborough encourages, “A huge part of the course is self-study, so you only stand to benefit from the advice of other students and tutors, especially if there are things you are struggling to grasp.” Whether it’s you or the person sitting across from you, “we’re all looking to find areas of law that we can actually see ourselves practicing in” Gallato highlights.


Out with the old, in with the new – The SQE

For those who are only just starting to think about a career in law however, the route is changing. Replacing the full LPC is a set of two exams, helpfully titled SQE1 and SQE2. In theory, anyone with a degree can qualify as a solicitor by passing both exams and completing 24 months of qualifying legal work experience, whether that takes the form of a training contract or apprenticeship, work as a paralegal, or a patchwork of sandwich placements and student law clinics.

As the new route comes into effect, universities are beginning to introduce SQE1 and SQE2 prep courses, designed to provide the necessary legal and practical knowledge required to successfully pass the exams. At ULaw, this has meant a spectrum of course options, from those tailored to non-law students to those targeted at people with prior legal experience. There is even a straight exam prep course (without the addition of vocational skills training). As Dan Cowan puts it: “ULaw’s SQE courses are new, but they are written specifically for the new SQE syllabus,” this means that each course embeds tasks that reflect the different assessments that you’ll come across in each part of the SQE. But what are these tasks exactly?

“SQE1 is designed to assess all of the necessary knowledge elements - known collectively as ‘Functioning Legal Knowledge’,” Cowan explains, which is measured by several hundred multiple choice questions of a type known as ‘Single Best Answer’. The basic principle behind this style of question is that more than one given answer is likely to be at least partly correct, which makes finding the best of a good bunch all the more difficult. But fear not: “The University’s SQE1 preparation course includes ULaw’s ‘SQE Revision App’, our new, specially developed learning platform that encourages students to experience and learn from thousands of practice questions of this type,” Cowan highlights. The purpose of SQE2, by contrast, is about testing a candidate’s legal skills through oral and written assessments. “Our SQE2 preparation course is shaped to refresh students’ underlying legal knowledge and build upon it a solid understanding of the skills and techniques of professional practice” Cowan tells us. This might include anything from interviewing, drafting and advocacy, to research and analysis.

As with the LPC, the SQE1 and SQE2 courses at ULaw can be combined to form part of an LLM Masters degree known as the LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2) course: “The LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2) is unique to the University of Law, and it is our successor to the second stage of the LPC,” Cowan adds, “as a part of the LLM, students are able to incorporate study choices shaped by their own interests and intentions for practice, as well as the needs of their intended legal employers.” This course helps students develop the knowledge and skills required for a career as a solicitor, as well as success in the SQE exams.

“The new SQE regime is creating a quickly expanding market with a variety of different study options.”

So, what are the benefits of the route? The flexibility at the professional training stage of the process is undoubtedly a big bonus. After all, the required work experience can be formed of up to four practice-like settings, and at any stage of the process. For Cowan however, the change has also created new opportunities: “The new SQE regime is creating a quickly expanding market with a variety of different study options.” Just as was the case for the LPC before it, SQE courses at universities like ULaw are shaped by the experience of their intakes: “Not everyone acquires knowledge and understanding in the same way,” Cowan tells us, “but we recognise that. The University’s courses are focused on practice, so include a range of different types of learning material.”

Applications for ULaw’s LPC and SQE courses are open year-round.