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LPC applications fall by 10% despite 8% rise in training contracts

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Decline in LPC applications suggests that students don’t believe recent increase in training contract numbers will be sustained.

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The number of students applying for a place on this year’s Legal Practice Course (LPC) is 10% down on this time last year, according to figures from the Central Applications Board.

As of 30 June 2014 there had been 4,382 applications for the full-time LPC, as opposed to 4,865 applications for the course on 30 June 2013. The drop follows an 8.4% decrease in enrolments on last year’s full-time LPC, which saw 5,198 students commence the course — down from 5,673 in 2012/2013.

Meanwhile, training contract numbers actually rose last year — up by 8% from 4,869 in 2011-2012 to 5,302 in 2012-2013. But they remain well below the 2008 high of 6,303, and indeed there are still fewer training contracts than in 2011, when 5,441 were registered.

When considered together, the statistics suggest that students are far from confident about the tentative recovery in training contract places being maintained.

Commenting on the figures, John Flood, professor of law and sociology at Westminster University, said:

“I don’t think the market has bounced back yet. People are nervous. There are other opportunities that people are looking at now, such as the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) graduate fast-track route and apprenticeships, which are both much cheaper than the LPC. Meanwhile, the effect of the legal aid cuts is likely to continue to have an effect on training contract numbers.”

However, UCL professor of law and ethics Richard Moorhead had a different take, arguing that the training contract market is now “over-correcting” and suggesting that there could be a lack of quality LPC graduates coming through to fill training contract places. He told Legal Cheek:

“It’s looking like the market for LPC students is now over-correcting with good LPC graduates outnumbered by training contracts. Old LPC grads in paralegal positions may take up the slack. That’s a relief given recent years but it’s a reminder that the LPC/TC system expects firms and students to plan three years forward. That risk hits small firms and poorer students particularly.”