LPC: The gift of hindsight
‘What it lacks in interest, it more than makes up for in substance.’
Anonymous LPC teacher.
I’ve been a little quiet on the blogging front of late! Exams, Christmas, New Year and deadlines have elbowed their way to the front of my queue of priorities. Since they’re mostly dealt with, the time has come to wave goodbye to my six months of LPC-ing!
Last week, my return to London life after the bliss of Christmas at home, brought exams, catching up with friends, and an end-of-LPC party. This week saw an end to deadlines and the reality that the LPC is finished (and hopefully that we’ve all passed the exams!). For others, the past few weeks will have seen them haul suitcases into law schools to start their fast-track LPC (I know, because I’ve endured the onslaught of insta stories!). The eyes-glued-to-screens, slightly rabbit-in-headlights efforts to stay nonchalant whilst flitting between relative relaxation and terror of failure seems a not-too-distant reality. When I started the LPC, I wrote that it felt like a baptism of fire. I always intended to do a ‘with hindsight’ review, so, whether you’re starting an LPC, looking into doing one, finishing one, or simply a friend who still has no idea how I’ve spent the past six months, here’s take two.
The Legal Practice Course
After months of explaining what I’m doing, the ‘I’m not an undergrad, not yet a worker’ realities of the LPC, I’ve finally nailed at least explaining what it is!
An obligatory postgraduate course for law and non-law students before they can become solicitors.
A practical course covering how lawyers do what they do, to a very basic level (e.g. processes to be followed, questions to be asked, rules complied with…) covering several core areas of law, plus some more specific areas of law depending on your interest and which area of law you will qualify into.
A development of lots of foundational skills, like legal writing, research, interviewing clients, drafting, pretending you’re in a courtroom submitting a case to a judge…
Nothing you couldn’t essentially learn on the job, but it is more efficient if you’re taught, required to digest information quickly, and examined to prove that at least some of it has gone in!
Most lawyers frame the LPC as a brief walk in the park before the ironman of professional life begins. ‘Make the most of it' isn’t an uncommon phrase to hear at any networking event. Whilst it didn’t feel that way as I dragged a suitcase filled with papers and books through the record-breakingly hot, central line rush hour, replaying my tutor’s well-intentioned cautions to work hard, his warning that others had failed, his running through a breakneck schedule of lectures, mock exams, exams, more exams, more lectures, and more exams… with hindsight, all those lawyers weren’t totally wrong!
‘A walk in the park’
I imagine that lawyers look back on their LPCs with rose-tinted glasses, selectively remembering the more relaxed, flexible timetable they enjoyed, whilst forgetting the largely dull contents of the study they underwent. I LOVED my law degree. I think I will love working in corporate law. But even for a law geek who loves study like me, the LPC is uninspiring. That’s because learning what forms to submit to Companies’ House, what registers to complete, what terms are good to have in a lease and how you should draft those terms, plus running through about 5 kilos of legislation on public companies’ prospectuses, disclosures and other obligations… can be pretty boring. A second semester saw the end of most compulsory modules and the start of electives, which I found far more interesting and engaging. Still, understanding what a ‘derivative’ is on paper isn’t nearly as exciting as actually doing it in practice. Learning about longstop dates, grace periods or conditions precedents on paper isn’t nearly as exciting as negotiating these, or advising clients on these.
It’s not all lecture-based learning. One of the exams for the LPC is advocacy. You will appear before a member of staff with another student and together will perform a kind of oral dance of pre-determined structures and sentences as you both bring forward a case. This is slightly more interesting, since you receive a bundle of facts in advance and can tailor your arguments a little. It is much less interesting when you realise that everything you say has to follow a tightly-worded script. If you forget your lines, throw in a ‘yes Master’ and fumble through your bundle until something else jumps out of the page.
‘Make the most of it’
The LPC, even a fast-track LPC, allows for much flexibility in terms of day-to-day activities. I was usually in university at some point most days for lectures but otherwise, I could study from home, meet friends for lunch, do things in the evenings, indulge in the occasional lay in, have folks over for dinner… I took up an evening Italian language course, committed to midweek things with my church, cooked, read, enjoyed a brief couple of months committing to swimming regularly, and moved house. This is not to say that lawyers can’t also do these things, or that I’m an example of a busy body (100% not true! Reading in bed definitely does not constitute a wild lifestyle – unless there’s hot chocolate involved, obviously!). Besides, many lawyers are multilingual. It is conceivable that all lawyers will move house at some time or other whilst they are in practice. Lawyers appear to be healthy, active individuals, often more committed to fitness than my current self!
So, what are you ‘making the most of’ as an LPC student?!
Well... I recently came out of the theatre after an evening of great food, Shakespeare and company with a uni bestie. As we walked to the tube, we passed the law firm I’ll start work for in March (provided exams have all gone to plan!). ‘Do you think you’ll be able to do evening things like this when you work?’ she asked. We looked up and debated how many lights were on. How many people were still at work? How much longer did they have to go? Was this a peak time, or was there a pre-Christmas rush? I don’t know definitively the answer to any of these questions yet. I know that getting out of work to make a 19:30 start to a play would be optimistic.
Flexibility. In your daily schedule, the LPC offers you lots and lots of flexibility, If you’re heading to a City corporate firm particularly, keep in mind what you’ll be doing when you start work. Don’t worry about it, but let it ground you and give you some perspective. Make the most of your LPC. I don’t say this in a patronising kind of way, genuinely I mean it. Do things you like, with people you like and enjoy having some balance alongside what can otherwise be quite a dull experience. If you’ve moved to a new city, make the most of that, settle in, explore, meet new people… Cultivate some good habits for working life, sure, but make sure to make the most of things which won’t be so easy to keep up in the midst of working life.
Running out of steam
In spite of the flexibility in your daily and weekly schedule, the framework of the LPC is out of your control, and actually can be relentless. My cohort had a long weekend after our first round of exams and before semester two started. Until we got to Christmas revision and holidays, this was our only break. We clung to those four days. Home. Holidays. Sleep. Friends. Family. Everyone made plans, even if the plan was to make no plans.
The week before Christmas we had three exams and the jubilance when the final announcement to put down our pens came, was almost tangible. Two. Whole. Weeks. Off.
If you’re doing the LPC, make the most of the flexibility you have daily and weekly to recharge and enjoy yourself, since, on a fast-track course at least, there are no obvious carve out periods to relax and escape the flux of preparation and consolidation you want to keep up with. Some people did go away for weekends over the six months. It’s quite manageable to take weekends off, but trips further afield are likely to be consigned to two or three days in most cases.
It's not just holidays, the amount of work can actually amount to quite a lot. It may be relatively simple, but there's a lot of content to understand, remember and reproduce, so make the most of some fun time during the week where possible.
Ready to jump in again
There is a point at which everyone is simply ready to start work. Whilst the prospect of all-hours, stressful work is obviously daunting, there does come a time when thirst for something more substantive, a desire to learn and put into practice these skills, see what real clients actually want and learn how to deliver these clients services, usually takes hold.
Over the course of six months, we’ve increasingly been exposed to different areas of the firm, in a bid to try and educate our intake on what different practice areas do and help us choose where we might like to do each of our four six-month rotations as trainee solicitors. In all honestly, we still have very little idea what actually working in those departments will consist of. We do, at least, know enough to get excited and to gauge where we think our strengths may be, whether finance, corporate, disputes, or something more niche like real estate, or employment.
January is usually a time for getting back in gear and falling back into routines. I’ll actually be kicking back a little more from now on. Since the LPC is finished, my cohort and I have to complete a project for an MSC over the next few weeks, and have been given a license to relax and refresh a little before work begins. Come March, I’ll have an induction, then it’s time for work in the office!
So, the LPC is a necessary step many of us will have to take on the road to becoming a real, qualified solicitor. Make the most of opportunities it brings and take the not-so-inspiring parts of LPC living in your stride. It will be finished before you know it, and by the time it has finished, you’ll have new friends, new knowledge, perhaps settled in a new city, and be ready for the next new challenge.