BPP University Law School director of LPC programmes Jane Houston gives her ten top tips for success
1. Treat the LPC like a job
The LPC builds on your knowledge of the black letter law and teaches you the skill of applying this knowledge to client scenarios. Each session builds on the next, taking you through an entire transaction or litigation from start to finish. Full attendance is expected because if you miss a session the course doesn’t wait for you to catch up. It is fair to say that the LPC is a very intensive course that requires you to work consistently and keep on top of the work.
The best approach is to treat the LPC like a nine ‘til six job. That means setting up your work place in the library each day, then coming back to it between classes. If you work efficiently and effectively in this way, Monday to Friday, you will be able to relax in the evenings and weekends — with the exception of busy exam periods.
Students who work part-time alongside the full-time course won’t have this luxury. Holding down a part-time job during the full-time LPC is possible but it is hard work and requires even more dedication and organisation.
Remember, the LPC is the start of your legal career, not an extension of university. You should start to develop the behaviours of a trainee solicitor. Be courteous, tolerant and polite to your peers and your tutors. You will be expected to work with a range of people in practice, some of whom you will get along with better than others, but you should always remain professional.
2. Prepare fully
This is critical. You will only achieve high grades on the LPC if you are fully prepared for each class. There is typically five hours of advance study for each class. You are only able to fully participate in class if you are prepared because we do not spend time going over the preparatory work. The activities in class will build on your preparation and you will struggle with these activities if you are lacking the preparatory knowledge.
3. Actively participate
You will get the most out of classes and therefore perform better on the LPC if you actively participate in class. Learning is a social experience and you will learn by discussing problems with your peers, sharing ideas and working as a team to solve legal problems.
It is in this environment that you can develop your professional skills — communicate your ideas clearly to your peers, listen to others, include everyone in the discussion and demonstrate your leadership skills by taking the lead, when appropriate, to ensure activities are completed by the deadlines set.
After a class the temptation is to file your notes and start preparing straight away for the next class. Even though it can feel like a bore at the time, it is well worth spending 15-20 minutes reviewing what you have just learned and ensuring that your notes are complete.
If you have a gap in your notes or are uncertain about anything, we recommend that you email your tutor straight away for clarification. That way, you can fill in any gaps in your knowledge and file a comprehensive set of notes that you can revise from in a couple of months’ time. If you leave gaps in your notes, you will not even know the right questions to ask your tutor later down the line and you will have a gap in your knowledge. This consolidation is best in the long run.
5. Be organised
I have already mentioned that the LPC is an intensive course that requires consistent hard work — planning and managing your time requires you to be very organised. Students who cope well with the course and perform well, are those that plan ahead.
6. Be prepared to adapt
The LPC is a postgraduate vocational course and is unlike most students’ undergraduate studies. Some students take some time to settle into the course and find an effective way of studying the LPC. Often, it is those students who are open minded and prepared to adapt their way of studying to suit the course that perform best.
7. Apply your knowledge
A common cause for students doing badly on the LPC is a failure to apply their knowledge. The LPC is training for practice and you always have to remember that you are advising a client. To spot an issue and state the applicable law is correct, but not the complete solution — what is your advice to the client? Students who perform well, spot issues, state the applicable law and conclude with advice — for example, you have good prospects of succeeding in this interim application. Those who grasp this at an early stage in the course can practice this technique throughout the course and will perform well in the exams.
8. Sit mock exams
At BPP University Law School we hold mock exams part way through the core practice area modules (Business Law and Practice, Property Law and Practice and Litigation) and skills. They are crucial — not in terms of assessing your substantive knowledge (because we appreciate that you will not have revised fully for the mock exams) but rather in assessing your technique. As discussed earlier, failure to apply knowledge is a common mistake.
Another one is failing to adhere to time limits. As a solicitor, clients are paying for your time, so you need to practice working to tight deadlines. Your time management in exams is crucial. Take some time to plan how long you can dedicate to each question — if there are 100 marks available in a 180 minute exam, you can spend 1.8 minutes on every mark. You should therefore spend the first couple of minutes in the exam calculating how long you can spend on each question (for example, you can spend 45 minutes answering a 25 mark question). You must stick to these time limits rigidly. If you do, you will have sufficient time to complete the exam. Students who fail to manage their time in this way do not complete the exam and do badly or, worse still, fail the exam.
9. Make the most of everything on offer
At BPP University Law School we offer you extra modules that do not count towards your overall LPC but are offered to expand your knowledge in areas other than law. Law firms will expect trainee solicitors to have good technical legal knowledge but also good commercial awareness and business acumen. We offer additional training in business finance, strategy and management to help you understand the context of the client’s legal question. Understanding the financial and strategic decisions that clients’ are faced with every day, will help you to craft a legal solution that is right for that client. Having this broader, business and commercial knowledge will also help you to engage with the client by speaking their language. Connecting with clients in this way will foster good relationships.
10. Your ‘Career’ module
If you do not have a training contract at that start of the LPC, BPP University Careers department, your module tutors and personal tutors will provide support and guidance to help you secure a training contract during your LPC year. If you do not have a training contract at the start of the LPC, I would advise you to create your own ‘Career’ module and dedicate time in your working week to visit our Careers department, attend careers workshops, speak to tutors and make training contract applications. This takes time but is an important part of your LPC year and securing a training contract will make all that hard work worthwhile.
Jane Houston is director of LPC programmes at BPP University Law School.
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