There’s no easy answer to this. The bottom line is that there aren’t enough training contracts to go around everyone who’d like one. The question you’ll be asking yourself, is whether you’ll have a greater chance of getting that training contract if you do the LPC. This is where I’d need the proverbial crystal ball to give you a definitive answer.
Ok, so I can’t tell you what to do but here are some things you might want to think about.
If money is no object for you, then you probably might as well go ahead and get the LPC done. But, this won’t be the position for most! Doing the LPC is going to add to your debt. You’ll need to weigh up the prospects of getting the LPC funded by a law firm against any possible job market advantage of having it completed.
If you aspire to work for a large or medium sized firm, then, if you’re offered a training contract, you can expect to have the LPC funded for you. Large firms tend not to refund the cost of an LPC if you’ve already funded it for yourself, and having the LPC does not necessarily make you any more attractive to them. They recruit two (or now sometimes even more than that) years in advance. If you’ve already got the LPC you’ll have a long time to wait before starting the training contract. You’ll need to have a clear (and convincing) plan about what to do in the mean time.
Smaller firms do not normally pay for the LPC and may recruit trainees when they need them, not planning far in advance. If you’ve got the LPC done, you may well be chosen ahead of someone yet to study for it.
2 Where and how to study for the LPC
Employers do not rank LPC providers in quite the same way as universities. Most will be more concerned about the options you chose than the provider you went to. You’ll need to be sure of the sort of work you want to do. If you’ve self-funded and chosen the commercial options, it’s going to be a really hard sell for a firm which focusses on private client work. Having said this, larger law firms tend to use either BPP or the Uni of Law for the LPC for their future trainees. They’ll be more familiar with the courses from those providers and it may make them a bit more confident of your ability.
Things to consider in detail if you are going to self-fund are pass rates at the institution you are interested in. These vary dramatically from provider to provider. I would also ask about their engagement with law firms. Do they have a law fair? How many attend? What sort of firms are they? Is there a law clinic? Entry to an LPC course is not like going to university. It’s a buyers market. You are the consumer – you need to ask questions which will allow you to make an informed decision.
You’re also going to need to think about the length of the course. You can crash it out in as little as 7 hard months or spread it over 2 years part time, sometimes attending lectures at weekends and sometimes in the evenings. Which will work better for you? The part time option might allow you to be working in a law firm alongside your studies. Will this make the financial commitment easier to bear? Or perhaps you might do better if you just put your head down and get the course finished. It’s a really individual thing.
3 What’s the alternative to self-funding?
Finding out a bit more about whether this career is really for you can be a great idea. There are plenty of opportunities to work as a paralegal, many firms will take you in this capacity without the LPC. A paralegal role gets you into a law firm and allows you to test out your ideas on the sort of work you want to do. It gives you direct experience of the sort of work you’ll do as a trainee and a solicitor. You’re likely to be drafting, producing correspondence, perhaps getting familiar with a case management system, possibly seeing clients. Your insight will clarify your aspiration to become a solicitor and you’ll be gaining experience which will allow you to “hit the ground running” if you join a firm as a trainee. Many smaller law firms recruit their trainees directly from the ranks of their paralegals and there are provisions to allow you to count some of the time spent as a paralegal towards the period of recognised professional training. Some people work as a paralegal only to discover that a legal career is not for them. They go off to do something else confident that they will never hanker after that legal career!
What if being a paralegal isn’t for you? You might think about getting a job working for an organisation which might be a client of a law firm which interests you. Want the City? Think about banking or accountancy. Want to work on the High Street? What about estate agency? Be creative about building experience which will help you to stand out from the crowd.
So – no clear answer here. This blog feels a bit like giving legal advice.
“Here are some of the options, I’ll sit on the fence while you think about what to do!”
But, if you’re at Warwick, come to see me to talk about it and if you’re a finalist definitely make time to come to our paralegal fair on 1st June.
If you haven’t already read my blog on the new SQE you should do that too. You need to keep one eye on the clock!