Comment

‘I’m a future magic circle trainee, yet I’ll be living in an Airbnb during my LPC because I can’t afford London rent’

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86

One Legal Cheek commenter shares their take on law firm maintenance grants

Scoring a training contract at a magic circle firm is a ticket not just to a healthy salary, but to a helping hand before your training has even began. Firms help soon-to-be trainees throughout their studies, paying both Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC) fees and providing maintenance grants while students sit these, too.

Legal Cheek shone a light on this earlier in the week when we exclusively reported that two magic circle firms had upped their LPC maintenance grants by 43%. Now, Freshfields and Clifford Chance give their future trainees £10,000 to sustain themselves during their accelerated LPC, while the remaining trio pay £7,000.

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With many smaller firms unable to front LPC fees let alone living costs, future magic circle trainees are in an enviable position. But, how far does £7,000 actually stretch? One Legal Cheek commenter shared, no holds barred, their take on corporate outfits’ approach to LPC grants, revealing they’ve considered rejecting their training contract offer because of the financial difficulties they anticipate they’ll face during the LPC. We’ve reproduced the comment in full below, let us know whether you agree or disagree below the line.

“As a working class individual who is about to start the LPC, and who holds an offer from one of the three MC firms listed who haven’t increased their grant, I’m genuinely frustrated.

I’ll receive no parental support during the LPC, and despite working since graduating last summer, I’ve budgeted around £30 to live off after I’ve paid rent, bills etc. Currently I cannot even find somewhere to live as my parents don’t qualify to be guarantors, and the amount granted isn’t enough for me to pay my rent upfront in the structure demanded by all letting agencies. I’m fully expecting to have to hop from AirBnB to AirBnB throughout the whole course.

The current system undeniably results in individuals from backgrounds similar to mine to rejecting offers as £7000 to live from in London for 8 months is quite simply impossible. Even with my savings I worry that I’m going to run out of money prior to completing the course, and quite frankly I have no idea what will happen if that occurs. Even at this point I’ve had to consider dropping out, and resultantly lose everything I worked for when attending a shit comprehensive school and university.

I appreciate that firms may not wish to increase their spending on LPC grants, and if so, surely it makes a lot more sense to means test the amount granted. Does it really make sense that I will receive the same amount as someone who’s parents live in London? Or that I will receive the same amount as someone who’s family can afford to pay their rent during the course? I genuinely think not.

The current size of LPC grants undeniably contributes to a lack of social mobility within the legal sector. If firms are serious about this issue, they’ll follow CC and FF.”

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86 Comments

Anonymous

Have you considered studying the GDL elsewhere (somewhere more affordable)?

I appreciate that is a significant upheaval, but makes living arrangements in the long run far more stable…

(33)(20)

Anonymous

Did you read the scenario?! Can you read at all?

(35)(19)

Anonymous

This is talking about the LPC first of all.

Second of all, why should they have to change? A working class person should not have to alter their career goals because they cannot afford to live in London. Moreover, there’s often not the choice to move between cities for studying the LPC. More needs to be done to make this a less middle-class profession, the maintenance grants are a huge part of this.

(3)(1)

Not Amused

Demanding rent guarantors is seriously harming social mobility.

It should be banned.

(21)(26)

Anonymous

How is banning demanding rent guarantors going to improve social mobility?

Many of the persons who would have previously been asked to provide a solvent guarantor (some of whom will be able to do so, and will therefore be granted a tenancy) will no longer be able to get a tenancy at all because landlords are not charities and because it is so time-consuming and expensive to evict a tenant who fails to pay his rent.

What the landlord will do is demand all rent in advance and a four-month deposit as well to mitigate any chance of loss arising from letting to a tenant-of-straw. And if you ban demanding rent in advance and deposits of greater than two months’ rent then those tenants will not get any private housing at all, ever.

Landlords are not charities (usually, and even the ones that are want to be paid).

(16)(3)

FFs

Landlords are the scummiest people together with the letting agents I have had the pleasure to meet.

(11)(7)

Anonymous

Well there’s a sweeping generalisation….

(8)(3)

Anonymous

You can always ask to defer your offer and take a year out, working to earn and save money at home. Or you could go abroad (somewhere like Australia where the wages for working in bars, coffee shops are really good)

Or you could work part-time in London whilst studying the LPC. If you’re joining a MC firm you must have a good cv – it would be easy to get a small job to help balance costs.

Most firms also offer interest free loans if you are really struggling, payable once you’re doing your training contract.

(52)(4)

Anonymous

Finally a sensible post.

How about speaking to the firm and explaining the situation- I am sure they would have experienced similar situations before and would give consideration to either an additional grant or loan.

If the poster can do nothing other than rant about the situation, rather than find a solution to the problem, then I wish him/her all the best moving forward in this industry.

The people I genuinely sympathise with, are the young legal aid lawyers, who find themselves in similar situations without the trainee salary ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ to look forward to.

(32)(2)

Anonymous

It’s an incredibly daunting to move to just speak to a firm though when you are from a working class background, it makes you feel like you’re not as worthy and is not something people feel comfortable to draw attention to. Imagine the fear and awkwardness that follows no we won’t do that, so what are you going to do?

(2)(3)

Anonymous

The LPC is a piece of piss. You could easily work 20 hours a week whilst doing it and still have time for far more of a social life than you’ll get as a trainee.

(91)(16)

MA2410

Is the correct answer.

(6)(2)

Anonymous

I had my fees paid by a top West End firm but no maintenance grant at all so I worked 20 hours a week as a paralegal to pay my rent and travel. I understand the author’s frustration but they are still luckier than some.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Some training contracts stipulate you cannot work alongside studying the LPC

(1)(3)

Anonymous

Totally agree I did the Lpc full time (not accelerated), worked 20-30 hours a week (dropped to 10 hours during exam weeks and taking annual leave during exams) and still got a distinction. Lpc was not hard.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Magic circle trainees complaining about expenses and salary just shows what’s wrong with the legal profession.

(82)(22)

Anothe MC trainee

Could you live for 7 months in London on £7,000? It’s a real struggle if your parents don’t support you.

(34)(31)

Anonymous

Nobody is forcing you to move to London. Train somewhere local then!

(39)(36)

Anonymous

So only people with parental support should work in London?

(23)(27)

Anonymous

If the rent in London is such an issue to this individual then study the LPC at a different location. Why does it have to be London?!

(5)(11)

Anonymous

Because all the MC firms require you to study with your cohort in London.

(41)(1)

Anonymous

You don’t need parental support to do it.

I self funded the LPC, paid £700 rent a month and didn’t starve living in London. I had to work a fair few hours to make ends meet, but if I had £7k in my pocket + the ~12k the LPC cost back then it would have been an absolute walk in the park.

(7)(1)

Anonymous

No only people with parental support CAN afford to study in London on these grants.

(0)(0)

A guy smarter than you

Some firms make it compulsory for their trainees to do the LPC in London. Stop speaking out of your rear.

(66)(19)

Blogger

The firm will literally mandate that trainees study in London. Your post could not be more incorrect.

(16)(0)

Anonymous

Nonsense. I am from a similar background and only secured a City TC during/after the LPC. Paid my way through both the GDL and LPC with a combination of savings and part time work. I had to take out loans to pay tuition fees, which I’m now paying back. Had no parental support either.

This individual needs to see how good of a position they are in and stop complaining. LPC fees paid for? Maintenance grant? If this is what you really want to do, suck up and make it work.

(70)(14)

Anonymous

They’re literally asking for advice on how to make it work. Don’t be bitter just because they got into the MC.

(35)(36)

Anonymous

Assuming everyone wants to train at an MC firm. Good one.

(19)(4)

Kirkland Future Trainee

Just join Kirkland. Money is flying around for us.

(66)(6)

Shoosmiths

Please sir, give me some money. We don’t even get toilet paper in our offices

(55)(7)

Anonymous

Some actual advice since so many bitter people in this thread are being so unhelpful.

1. See if you can work part time at the weekend in a bar or something. Contrary to what others say, if you’re doing the accelerated LPC then you won’t realistically have time during the week to work. I had a paralegal job who offered me to work part time during it and I simply couldn’t have done it without skipping a lot of the LPC work. If it’s not accelerated this doesn’t apply. The full length one leaves you with two days a week free, normally.

2. Talk to your firm. Most offer loans against your future salary of up to £2k. Most of my intake did this.

3. Most student bank accounts will extend your student overdraft facility during the GDL/LPC. If you haven’t dipped into this already then it should add at least one or two thousand to your resources.

Hope this helps. Ignore the idiots above.

(82)(4)

Anonymous

Is the 2k loan exempted from tax?

(1)(6)

Anonymous

It’s a loan, it’s not part of your salary/earnings.

(20)(0)

Anonymous

So you get to save on taxes simply by taking the loan? (In that case all trainees should take it!)

(3)(11)

Anonymous

Well no, it’s a loan. You pay it back (usually as a deduction from your salary).

It’s just like taking out any other loan, there is no “savings on taxes”

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Salary deduction is a way of reducing your tax burden. By reducing your salary (subject to tax) in exchange for a loan (not subject to tax), you declare a lower overall income and thus pay less income tax and NI contributions!

(4)(10)

Anonymous

Loans are repaid after tax, no before it. Moron.

(25)(0)

LL and P

I agree with your comment. Some of these kids think they have found a loophole that no one else has ever seen. Quite moronic tbh.

Anonymous

Yes. It’s a loan that comes out of your salary before tax.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

I sympathise with your position, and think the advice of Anon at 10:49am is excellent. I’d also add that perhaps you can look into finding a flat or houseshare. Have you tried spareroom.com? You can find a room in Stratford/Tottenham/Walthamstowe for £200pcm including bills.

(29)(2)

Anonymous

The problem is MC trainees are looking for apartments in Chelsea and Kensington! I’m training at a silver circle firm and used my grant to pay my rent. I rent a room in a 4 bed house in Stratford and it’s £450pcm including bills and Internet. Nice house and only takes 20 mins to get to the office.

(39)(16)

Anonymous

Oh come on that is exceptionally cheap rent. Most places within a decent commutable distance are min £750-800/month, even in Stratford

(30)(8)

Anonymous

That’s not true. Just go on rightmove. There’s loads of good rooms available for £500pcm! All clean and close to station.

(19)(7)

Anonymous

What’s “decently commutable”?

Stratford is zone 2/3 which, all things considered, is very central from the point of view of most commuters. Even from certain locations in zones as geographically far out as 5 and 6, you can be in Central London on a fast train within 15-20 mins – and the rent is obviously cheaper! There is life beyond zone 1!

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Let’s face it

Stratford is a sh1thole

Should have been a banker

(15)(4)

Brexiteer

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

It’s cheap but it’s not exceptionally cheap. Completely possible to find somewhere decent at that price.

(7)(1)

Broke asf

They are ungrateful twats. I live in Croydon and have to pay around £600 a month for rent and I’m only on £18k a year. Whats worse is TFL are raising prices every month because of lazy train drivers going on strike! Didn’t get a grant nor was my lpc paid for. Magic circle trainees stop whining.

(34)(8)

Anonymous

Going by OP’s logic, I guess MC firms should also means test salaries, right?

(12)(3)

Anonymous

Might not be a popular idea, but how about doing an LPC LLM? That way you’re eligible to apply for the student loans company post grad loan and that doesn’t have to just be used for you let course fees, it can be used to live on. Not ideal I know, but this seems too good an opportunity to miss due to lack of funds, and the loan is on the same terms as the undergrad tuition fee loans. Might be an option.

(8)(4)

Anonymous

If OP has a TC it’s very unlikely they’ll be able to choose which LPC they’re doing.

(15)(1)

Anonymous

The commentators here either (i) can’t read (ii) didn’t read the original post (iii) have no knowledge of the legal/LPC area or (iv) just plain stupid and want to throw out stupidness!

When a firm offers to pay for your LPC you have to follow their rules of attending a specific LPC provider, duration of the course provided and at a certain time period before your TC begins. So suggesting that the original poster should take time off, work part time, commute (when you don’t know where their hometown is), defer their start date or anything as stupid is absolutely ridiculous!

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Strongly suggest speaking to your firm. My (silver circle) firm specifically stated in an email that if we need any extra help to ask them. As others have have said above, it’s not rare to get a loan which might help pay six months rent up front to save using Airbnb, which would be an expensive option! Good luck

(17)(0)

Clifford Chance Trainee

Can I just move in with Katie King? 😏

(33)(2)

Anonymous

No.

(2)(3)

Anonymous

As an employer (small firm circa 45 people) it’s quite amazing the things people find to complain about and the ease with which they see obstacles in front of them.

Seriously? The LPC (even accelerated) is a walk in the park compared to the challenges that life will bring thereafter, both professionally and / or personally.

The trainees in my firm are on £22k, work exceptionally hard, do not get any kind of grants, live in London and just get on with it, some are also doing their LPC part time – they are an admirable bunch. Some people (like me) even had to borrow money to do the LPC, hard to believe but it’s true.

If money is tight and there are no other extenuating circumstances. Just get a job, there is most of Saturday and Sunday not to mention some evenings – should you need to study outside 9-5 or see family / friends.

Sometimes, it’s just a question of commitment.

(20)(34)

JD

I smell bullshit. No employer is reading LC! I bet you’re some fat kid eating crisps on your laptop!

(54)(3)

Anonymous

Why fat? And which flavour crisps?

(25)(1)

JD

Fat people tend to make up shit all the time and Proventil cheese flavour!

(11)(5)

Furious Trainee

You greedy c**t, only paying £22k. That’s a bloody joke. McDonald’s workers earn more!!!!

(34)(8)

Anonymous

Interesting pool, denigrating people who are overweight and singling people out in lower paid jobs as somehow reprentative of anything other than corporate greed.

(4)(8)

BLP

Overweight fat people only have themselves to blame. Instead of complaining about not having enough money to pay rent etc, stop eating KFC and Dominoes everyday you fat bastards.

(13)(3)

CC trainee

Fat people should not be allowed to use the NHS for free!!

(13)(15)

Corbyn. Symphathiser

Yes they should.

(12)(9)

Trumpenkreig

Piss off.

(6)(6)

Anonymous

Head of Diversity at McMillan Williams maybe. STFU Pls? You pay paralegals £16,500… AWKS

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I sympathise, being in a similar position (although not with an MC firm). As I’m doing the accelerated LPC I took 6 months after graduating to work full time. In addition if you’ve been with your bank for a substantial period they’ll usually allow you to increase your overdraft facility to in the region of £2,000, which is where mine currently sits.

In terms of places to live there are plentiful apps/sites such as spareroom.com where you can find a cheap room in a house share. Just ensure you go and visit and talk things through with housemates/landlords before signing. For example the house I live in is shared with three others and I deal directly with a private landlord so no agency fees/contract change fees etc etc and the lease it sound with a decent break clause for me.

In addition once in London get yourself a student oyster, if you’re doing the accelerated and are in uni all week the monthly ticket saves you a lot. There are plenty of ways to stretch your money if you just plan ahead and be careful with it.

(9)(0)

Wash n Wear

Speaking as someone who changed their mind career wise at 24, studied an llb part time in 2 years with the next two years completing the lpc and the PSC (concurrently and part time) all whilst working 40 hour weeks as a Paralegal unfunded by parents or firm (and on a salary of sub £30k) to then complete the equivalent means application for qualification at the same time over those last two years and changing job three times to do so, stop whining and be thankful for what you’ve got in the first place.

(6)(8)

Anonymous

Super impressive!

(1)(3)

Anonymous

Professional and career development loans are low interest with no payments required for the duration of the course. The trainee will hardly notice the repayments once they start in the firm.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Try being a pupil barrister.

Fucking sols, you’re all “ooh, ooh, it’s so difficult!”

Grow up.

(18)(4)

Anonymous

There are loans at banks for courses like this and you could apply for a 0% credit card with up to 36 months to pau for purchases (using the money from your firm to be just for rent and bills). Getting such a credit card is only good if you can pay the minimum each month (normally 1%), are financially savvy and know you can pay it off within the months agreed on the promotional.rste of 0%.

I did this and was in a similar situation to you and with some restraint I qualified after my studies and training.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

What about lodging? Often don’t need a guarantor for that.

(3)(0)

AZ

May be this individual should lower their demands and consider renting a room from a private landlord on the outskirt of london instead of a three bedroom house in the first zone? There are plenty of websites offering that. One month of rent in advance and sometimes even the bills are included if you are looking well enough.

(5)(1)

Frustrated Writer

The January rain slicked the pavement. Head down, Tom arrived back at the Legal Cheek offices. Tom had caught the sleeper train down from Edinburgh the night before. He hadn’t shaved. He rubbed the stubble on his chin as the rain caught it.

Inside, the office was much as it had been before Christmas. The same tired pot plant. The same brown stain below the window. Katie wouldn’t be back until the Thursday, but Tom had come back early on Wednesday. He was keen to catch the scoop that Alex knew would allow him to “make it” as a journalist. This was going to be his year.

Tom had a few ideas, but he knew it was a priority to find a different hook. He began surfing the web to find some stories about lawyers. Brexit and training contract stories were so 2017. He needed a new angle.

A couple of hours later, Tom chanced upon a website run by a small practice in Devon. The local paper had reported that the firm had been involved with an unusual case that had resulted in the death of a local businessman. There was maybe something in this. It was pure Midsomer Murders.

The firm’s website was charmingly retro. It advertised legal services as follows: MUGWUMP AND PARKER. SOLICITORS AND NOTARIES PUBLIC. WE KNOW YOU’RE RIGHTS! A small banner stuttered across a basic HTML website that was written in 1993.

Tom noted down the name of the firm and began to ring around the various contacts. Eventually, he got through to the Mugwump and Parker office. A crackling line answered.

“Hello?”

“Ah hello, my name is Tom and I’m a journalist from the London news website Legal Cheek. I’m calling about the death of Mr. Harrison.”

“Legal Week?”

Tom breathed in and out momentarily in frustration. He decided to let it pass.

“I’m a journalist. I’m calling about the unexplained death of Mr. Harrison.”

“Well, what can I tell you? He’s dead. He died last year. I don’t want anyone raking up all that again.”

“Can you tell me about the rake and the sex toy? Why was the bottle of port found to have traces of weedkiller in it? The coroner didn’t say anything about that.”

The line went dead.

Tom’s mind raced with possibility.

(3)(5)

Frustrated Writer

This is not me.

(1)(2)

FFs

Oh dear. Is this person being real?????? I would sleep on a god damn pavement if I had to in order to secure a TC at a MC or an American firm. God damn, I’m furious.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

As other people have mentioned, the simple answer to this is to take out a career development loan. Unless there are particularly unusual circumstances in a student’s credit history, they are easy to obtain, at a reasonably low interest rate, and can be paid back over a long period. Working at weekends will help top it up (and you don’t need to be in London for a full year for the LPC).

It is a bit of a struggle, but so many people will be in the same boat. Most future MC trainees will be supporting themselves with limited or no financial support. It’s better to see the £7000 as a contribution to living expenses than as the sole means of supporting yourself during the course.

(3)(1)

TheAcresOfFour

As a fellow ‘infamous’ TC holder from the same background, boy did you come to the wrong place if you are looking for sympathy. This is LC, compulsory carpet bombing of shit talk and sanctimonious drivel.

Grow a sack and get on with it. Self-funded BPTC, LPC + living expenses with parental income < £30k.

You have the TC, you've done the hard part. Nothing that was ever worth doing was ever easy in life.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Disagree. I did Jess from marketing. She was easy. It was definitely worth it.

(4)(1)

MC Trainee

Any decent firm has procedures in place for future trainees who are going to genuinely struggle. I bet your firm has a fund in place where, upon submission of parents income and the loans you received at university they will assess you for more of a grant.

If not just max your student overdraft (mine was 2.5K when i started my TC), get an interest free credit card (some do 36 months interest free) and pile everything on there.

Then slowly when you’re earning a ridiculous trainee salary of 45-50K you can easily pay off 100-200 per month and finish your TC debt free (apart from student loan of course).

(3)(0)

Pupil

Pupil barristers live of £12,000 for a year and carry the burden of travelling between Brighton and Manchester. Stop moaning!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

*whose

(0)(0)

anon

This is ridiculous. You are going to leave your LPC without the worry of handing over ridiculous amounts in loan repayments and you are also having a maintenance loan of a not laughable amount!
I worked full time in a firm (as a paralegal and then TC) whilst undertaking my LPC. I paid rent and didn’t have a maintenance loan. My loan repayments came out and amounted to a third of my salary. I did it because I wanted to qualify in that area.
If you want to do the LPC and train at a MC firm you will make do – get a part time job? If not, find somewhere else you are happy with, but this is not a situation where you are hard done by.

(0)(0)

Anon

I completely understand the frustration of this and how daunting a financial prospect it may seem. I was in a similar position before starting my training contract at a London firm.
My two tips are:
A) apply for a post grad career development loan, most banks offer these at low rates of interest over fixed repayment period. You’ll easily be able to pay it off over your TC
B) you can get part time work whilst on the LPC, I worked for a tutoring agency that paid fairly well for a few hours work each week.
With both of these options in mind it should definitely be affordable and will 100% be worth a year of difficulty when you are eventually earning

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I understand that London is expensive, but I have issues with a number of points addressed in the comment reproduced in this article.

I also received no parental support during the GDL and LPC, and I do not have family that live in London, so I did the logical thing and worked part-time alongside receiving my £7,000 from the law firm I am currently training at.

£7,000 split into 12 months (I did the non-accelerated LPC) is £583, so I found a double room in a lovely 3 bedroom house with a garden in Kennington (Zone 1) with 2 girls on Spareroom which cost £550pcm. I worked part-time 20 hours a week, and the money I earned from this job was more than enough to live off.

Heck, I even saved up enough money in those two years doing the GDL and the LPC to go travelling for 3 months before my training contract started.

I’m surprised this person claims that such a situation is ‘impossible’ – a lot of people I met on the LPC were working like I was. Why would they consider dropping out as opposed to just finding a part-time job?!

(0)(1)

Comments are closed.

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