The Legal Cheek View
LPC Law is a nationwide network of advocates who appear in hearings and trials in courts around the country. Made up of more than 200 self-employed advocates, it is the leading court advocacy service in England and Wales. Advocates joining the network must have completed the Bar Course or the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and are often building their advocacy experience on their journey to pupillage or a training contract.
Established in 1994 and operating from premises in Greenwich since 2021, advocates are able to work from home and can choose to only attend courts in their own region. Specialists in civil advocacy, all major civil practice areas are covered, including debt recovery and enforcement, landlord and tenant disputes, and insolvency. Advocates comment that this makes the work “varied and intriguing” as “no two days are the same”.
The way that LPC Law is structured means that advocates are given immediate responsibility and independence. They are not, however, thrown in at the deep end: there is an extensive training programme that all new recruits must complete. We are told that “the training materials are very comprehensive and support from colleagues is great”. One advocate comments, “by the time I got my first case, I had a good understanding of the law surrounding the areas I would be dealing with”, although another comments that we “could spend more time training”.
After completing the training programme, advocates will be allocated cases. Briefs can be downloaded via the advocacy network and advocates will then prepare the case and conduct any necessary legal research. On the day of the hearing, an advocate will be acting on behalf of an instructing solicitor. They will often be the only representative at court and must represent their client before a District Judge, putting forward their case and making the necessary submissions to obtain the most favourable order possible. Following the hearing, advocates must submit an attendance note, stating the order obtained from the Judge and giving the reasons for the decision.
In terms of progression, one advocate tells us: “When you begin, you will deal primarily with applications.” Whilst “lower-value work can be tedious” we are told that “as you gain experience, you can advance towards being instructed on a range of small claim trials — these are great fun and really test your ability as a legal researcher and as an advocate”. Indeed, some advocates tell us that they have appeared not only before District Judges, but also Circuit Judges and High Court Masters.
Given the nature of the work undertaken by advocates at LPC Law, many are individuals aspiring to pupillage and seeking to develop their skill set in the meantime. Various skills which mirror those required by junior barristers are required by advocates. For example, one advocate comments that “things often don’t go as planned and you need to be able to think on your feet”. As well as being able to argue in court, LPC Law states that applicants for advocate roles must be able to independently manage their caseload, prepare cases, liaise with instructing solicitors, and negotiate. The development of these various skills comes in useful in pupillage applications. In fact, in some instances it is possible for former advocates to obtain a three-month reduction in the length of their pupillage.
In terms of work-life balance, the views of advocates at LPC Law are somewhat varied. Being self-employed is certainly considered to come with its benefits. One advocate tells us: “I cannot imagine a better balance of life and work at this stage in my career. As a self-employed advocate work is tailored to your schedule; and the clerking team are exceptionally helpful. The clerking team alone make the perfect balance for you.” However, there can also be a lot of preparation work involved, making finding a balance difficult. One advocate explains: “I spend a lot of time preparing for cases and doing necessary research to ensure I feel competent to attend hearings and this can also be over the weekend when necessary, so it can be difficult to have personal time.” We are told that a lot of time can also be spent travelling. However, in general, it seems that the more experience you have, the quicker you can prepare your cases. As one advocate says, “work-life balance constantly improves as your knowledge and experience grows”.
Being a network spread all over the country, the social life at LPC Law is very different to that in a chambers or a law firm. It seems that the social events that do occur tend to be in London, making it difficult for advocates from other parts of the country to attend, with some complaining that they feel “a little left out”. Indeed, we are told that it is “rare to meet other members of the organisation in person” and most advocates have never visited the main office. However, one advocate comments that “the social element is there — but as with the work at LPC, it really is what you choose to make of it”. The Christmas parties in particular were commended by those able to attend!
Those wishing to apply to be an advocate with LPC Law can do so directly through their website. Potential applicants must have completed the Bar Course or the Legal Practice Course (LPC). Applications are generally on a rolling basis and require a CV and supporting statement to be submitted. If an applicant progresses to the next stage, they will be invited to an assessment centre at LPC Law’s offices in London. Those who pass the assessment centre will go through the relevant background checks and training before being allocated their first hearing. LPC Law say they are looking for candidates who are able to research and apply the law, have strong communication and interpersonal skills, have good writing skills, show attention to detail, can cope under pressure, and can demonstrate self-motivation, and organisational and time management skills.
What The Junior Barristers Say
Your journey up to now
I have always been interested in the law and knew that I wanted to practise law from when I was in secondary school. I studied for my law undergraduate and master’s degrees at UCL. Whilst at university I took part in mooting and negotiation competitions organised by the Law Society. During my year on the BPTC I also mooted in the Inner Temple Lawson Moot.
I started work with LPC Law in November 2017, shortly after completing the BPTC. During the course of my studies and after I started work, I undertook mini pupillages at chancery and common law sets, which confirmed my desire to be a barrister. I had applied for pupillage in each year after starting the BPTC, and I was successful in obtaining pupillage at 9 Stone Buildings to commence later in 2022.
Your decision to join LPC Law
My first encounter with LPC Law was at a careers fair in London. I wasn’t aware of LPC Law’s work until that point, but I was intrigued by the opportunity to get advocacy experience following the BPTC. Until that point I had only had the opportunity to practise advocacy in an academic setting, although I had seen barristers in court during my mini pupillages. I decided to join LPC Law to get that crucial courtroom experience.
What is your work like now?
My current workload ranges between one to seven hearings in a day; typically I will attend either one or two small claims trials, or a larger number of shorter hearings such as mortgage possession or bankruptcy matters. My typical working week has evolved over time; when I started work at LPC Law I would be instructed on relatively short and uncomplicated hearings, I am now often instructed on more time-consuming trials and heavier applications. Throughout my time as a self-employed advocate, I have experienced no difficulty in receiving enough work to keep busy, I can’t recall a time when I was available in the diary but not allocated a hearing to attend. In my experience, the flexibility of managing my diary has meant that I’ve been able to maintain a good work/life balance. Cases are usually assigned sufficiently far in advance to ensure that I have enough time to manage reading, research, printing the papers and liaising with clients. As with all freelance advocacy-based jobs, there is always the chance that an urgent or last-minute job will arise which can necessitate longer hours.
What are your future ambitions?
My ambition was to obtain pupillage and practise at the Bar. I would consider that my experience at LPC Law has proved invaluable in achieving that goal. Without attending court on a regular basis, I would not have developed my confidence in advocacy to nearly the extent that I have done. Attending court also means that advocates can get familiar with the practicalities of how courts work and how judges make decisions.
I would say that working on a self-employed basis for LPC Law has also helped me get used to working under time pressure, which proved useful when doing pupillage interviews. For example, in my daily work I have often dealt with last-minute changes to my instructions or new points raised by defendants. By getting used to those in a real-world setting, I was better able to cope with them in pupillage interviews.
What is the culture of LPC Law?
I have worked for LPC Law as an Assistant Advocacy Manager (responsible for ensuring that advocates’ hearings take place as expected and answering their legal queries – amongst much else) and as an self-employed advocate, which was my original role. LPC Law’s offices in Greenwich are modern and spacious, with each team working as a distinct unit. I found the atmosphere in the office very professional and supportive when I made the change from advocate to Advocacy Manager.
Everyone in the team would chip-in and support me on matters as varied as a particularly thorny legal question or simply navigating an unfamiliar IT system. That same atmosphere is reflected in the assistance LPC Law provides to its advocates, primarily through the Advocacy and Diary Clerk teams, but all teams pull together to try to provide as much assistance as possible.
As a self-employed advocate life is slightly different in that I work from home and travel to courts throughout the South-East and sometimes beyond. LPC Law arranges social events for advocates to attend on a regional basis, in addition to yearly training which typically took place in London pre-pandemic. At court, there is a decent chance of running into fellow LPC Law advocates, and it can provide a good way of building up contacts with people in similar stages of their careers.
Top tips for those wanting to become a barrister/advocate
My top tip for those wanting to become a barrister or advocate would be to seek out as much experience of advocacy as you can, whether that is through attending a court case that sounds interesting, doing mini-pupillages or volunteering. In particular, I would recommend trying to get experience of everyday cases such as the work done in the Magistrates Court or County Court as that is often where advocates and barristers will start out their professional careers.
I would also strongly recommend getting involved in mooting at university and beyond. The skills used in mooting transfer very well into courtroom experience.