Comment

The Judge Rules: Bye-bye LPC and training contract, hello unified bar exam

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Kaplan’s demise triggers speculation that a streamlined qualification process will arrive sooner than many anticipated

Leadexam

At first glance, Kaplan Law School’s decision earlier this week to jack in its Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC) looks like a pretty grim development for what was the UK’s third biggest provider of post-graduate legal profession training.

And it would be a fair assumption that Peter Crisp and David Johnston — the bosses at BPP Law School and the University of Law, respectively — will be rubbing their hands in expectation of filling most of the gap left in the market by Kaplan’s sudden departure.

Johnston could certainly do with a boost. In the chief executive slot for less than four weeks, the one-time punk rocker has had to negotiate some tricky issues since being handed the keys to the executive lavatories.

There was confusion over the extension of the university’s money-back guarantee to GDL students, its Birmingham branch ditched the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) just six weeks before its scheduled start, and the London office of heavy-hitting New York firm White & Case switched its trainee LPC provision deal to BPP.

Of course, it has not been all wrist-slitting news for Johnston. Only a few days before last week’s announcement, ULaw bagged the LPC deal for another set of Manhattanites, Shearman & Sterling, and for City mid-tier practice Trowers & Hamlins, both of which had been with Kaplan.

But the schadenfreude-inspired backslapping and champagne popping at BPP and ULaw may be relatively short lived.

Straws in the wind suggest that the entire structure of legal education could be headed for the mincing machine. Senior commentators told Legal Cheek this week that solicitor profession regulators are keen to jettison the existing LPC and training contract regime in favour of a much more streamlined qualification process.

It is argued that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is contemplating a brave new world where more or less the only unified regulatory hurdle required for qualification would be an American state-style bar exam.

The run-up to getting to a position in front of that hurdle could be varied, ranging from a traditional law degree (next stop bar exam), to non-law degree plus conversion course and then bar exam, to six-year apprenticeship scheme that would obviate any university study at all before bidding to leap the bar exam hurdle.

There are also suggestions that the SRA will try to get the Legal Services Board on side to convince bar regulators that this system should apply to all initial legal qualifications, with wannabe barristers topping up through enhanced advocacy training after passing that first exam.

Such a regime would create a market for crammer courses to get aspiring lawyers over the first hurdle. And that is where Kaplan might make a come-back.

It did not escape the notice of legal education-watchers that only the day before Kaplan announced it was killing off its GDL and LPC, officials trumpeted a deal with the SRA to provide the qualified lawyers transfer test.

That relatively unknown exam is applied to foreign lawyers and UK barristers wanting to re-qualify as solicitors in England and Wales. It could be seen as a precursor to a general bar exam, with Kaplan bidding to offer it along with a crammer course. Another outfit that will be keeping an eye on this potential model is Barbri, which already offers crammer courses for English lawyers looking to pass the New York bar exam.

Of course, BPP and ULaw could re-style their business models to get into the cramming game as well. But it will be a vastly different and potentially even more cut-throat market than the elaborate LPC regime of today.


25 Comments

Kuzka's Mother

What a great idea, flood the market with solicitors, who have had zero practical training on the job, and grant unto us an American-style free-for-all.

The one great strength of the LPC-TC system is that anyone completing their TC will hit the ground running when it comes to, you know, actually working as a solicitor – I couldn’t imagine coming to my new firm on the first day not having already done my TC elsewhere and at least knowing what my job actually entails. It also works as an organic filter on the amount of solicitors qualifying, regulated by market forces to prevent even more of an oversupply to the profession.

From what I gather, newly-qualified lawyers in the US usually have no clue as far as the practical aspects of the job are concerned and essentially figure it out as they go along, but without the protection that comes with being a trainee under someone else’s supervision, and I’ve heard that oftentimes more savvy clients demand a provision that no first-year associates’ time is charged to them, as they are to all intents and purposes still learning what they’re supposed to do.

If this comes true, I genuinely pity the 16-18 year-olds who are interested in a career in law – I’ve already had to give my pretty bleak assessment of what the prospects are like for them as things stand to a few of them when asked for careers advice.

(33)(5)

Anonymous

none of what you stated is true and you are obviously not an American or an American lawyer…

(3)(10)

Anonymous

That could work well in favour of all TC rejects but then again they’d be clueless about the practical side of things.

(4)(2)

Anonymous

I don’t really understand why people think that a bar exam would help them get a job when they can’t actually get a training contract, which is extremely tough but still easier to find than a first year associate position in the US.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Because not everyone who wants to work as a lawyer wants/need to be English-qualified… And there are jobs out there where you don’t need to be.

(0)(1)

Boh Dear

Sounds horrendous. BPTC and LPC are totally different. The suggestion that all that separates them is a bit of ‘enhanced advocacy training’ is ludicrous.

What about the ‘Holier Than Thou’ and ‘Inflated Sense of Self-Worth’ modules, to name but a few; where are they going to fit in?!

(28)(5)

Anonymous

They would just take the place of the LPC’s “Embezzlement for Beginners” and “Everyday Illiteracy” courses.

(27)(3)

Anonymous

This has been on the cards for sometime. I doubt any actual changes (if they can get them approved) will actually happen until 2025 though.

The SRA’s original deadline of 2020 for this isn’t far away considering a lot of firm will be recruiting their 2018/2019 intakes from October.

(2)(0)

Joshua

The University of Law in Birmingham have not ditched the BPTC. They have merely done away with the part-time course.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

For all its failings both the LPC and BPTC offer better preparation for practising law then self-taught and top-up modules.

(7)(1)

MC

Cant speak for BPTC, but this is categorically incorrect regarding the LPC – the course in no way whatsoever prepares you for practising law.

What it does teach you is what the SRA/LawSoc considered a high-street generalist solicitor in the 1980’s needed to know.

I mean, really, teaching ‘Solicitor’s Accounts’ by making people will out HAND-WRITTEN double-entry book-keeping ledgers?!? It would be laughable if not so tragic.

(11)(5)

Anonymous

They did not support the LPC, they just said it was better than the self-taught alternative.

(4)(0)

MC

I disagree – Anything delivered on the LPC can be self-taught just as effectively.

The “practical” part of the LPC is actually a very minor part of it (I would say less than 20%, versus actual substantive content/”law”). This is despite what SRA/LawSoc/Providers will tell you – it is simply not a “practical” or “vocational” course [perhaps with the exception of Civil Litigation, where you do sit and work-through how to fill out a couple of forms and what boxes should be ticked).

(3)(4)

Not Amused

This week we’ve seen money grabbing by the Bar Council, silly reports (and unnecessary employment) from the Law Society and a report that exposes the desperate desire of all our regulators to suck money out of the profession.

Over the last two decades we have seen a systemic failure by either the SRA or the BSB to combat spiralling LPC and BPTC costs. We’ve seen those self same regulators do bugger all as costs reach three times those of Scotland. Indeed we’ve seen the regulators pile additional costs on the young – see various initiatives including the BPTC ‘entrance exam’.

We know, or at least people better informed tell me, that the regulators receive funding from the providers of courses.

I am afraid therefore that I simply cannot envisage any hope for the professions or for young people with the current regime in place. Too many regulators. Too willing to see both the profession and the young as cash cows for their own funding. Disturbing relationships. Either we wait for a government who gives a toss, or we start to take action ourselves. The current state of legal regulation is a complete disgrace.

(7)(5)

MC

“Senior commentators told Legal Cheek” – Once again, I very highly doubt any such commentators, or any seniority, said so.

Yet another pure opinion piece dressed-up to look like it is breaking news of some sort.

(9)(2)

Deed U No

What wud happen to the professional standing of previous LPC grads / so – called perpetual paralegals ?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

if it happens, then paralegals will still exist and if anything there will be more of them. Firm will take on graduates as paralegals for a FTC, similar to a training contract now, but probably only 1 year, and during that time they would have to complete and pass the entrance exam. If the do, they become a qualified lawyer, if they don’t at best they stay a paralegal.

(1)(1)

A very real senior commentator

MC needs to consider resume taking the pills. I am a senior commentator. Pretending I and others do not exist again points to the value of advances in pharmacology, the results of which may help MC immensely. Psychoses, when defined as being out of touch with reality-or denying reality- can in certain individuals represent a rather troubling sight..

(0)(4)

MC is off base

One presumes MC is dropped by Mum at work each day and Dad picks him or her up? Like all off the record comments in journalism. senior commentators do exist. My Dad is one.

(0)(3)

Anonymous

I don’t think Kaplan will be allowed to be both a trainer and an assessor of the new Competency Test. My guess is that they have the inside track on being the sole assessor in the same way they are for the QLTT.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

The QLTT stopped years ago. You must mean the QLTS.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

The QLTS assessments are likely to be the framework to which the entrance exams/assessments are based, so they clearly will have an advantage in delivering them.

The QLTS then becomes defunct (as will qualifying by equivalent means) and they hold a monopoly on the assessment process for all qualified lawyers in England and Wales. If the changes do go ahead as speculated and they manage to secure this arrangement, they will be in a much stronger position than BPP/UoL.

(0)(0)

Inside Ed

I don’t think Kaplan will be allowed to be both a trainer and an assessor of the new Competency Test. My guess is that they have the inside track on being the sole assessor in the same way they are for the QLTT.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Saying it again will not make you right! The QLTT is defunct.

(1)(0)

Two penny Opinion.

Another dumbing down. By 2030 any shmuck in a cheap suit will be will be standing in court making a fool of the client.
Oh hang on that’s me and my HCA to pals already.

(4)(1)

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