College of Law to provide A&O, CC and Linklaters-specific LPC

Three magic circle firms have broken away from the City LPC to create a law course tailored to their working practices

College of Law to provide A&O, CC and <a class=Linklaters-specific LPC” />Legal education is no longer just about students doing the best they can on their university courses. Now some are also expected to become perfect City lawyers.

From 2007, students will be able to sign up to bespoke LPC courses which are aimed at preparing them for life in one of three magic circle firms: Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford Chanceor Linklaters. Rather than, for instance, learning a general way of drafting documents, students on the course which will be run in conjunction with the College of Law in London will learn precisely how it is done at one of these magic circle firms.

The scheme is not entirely new. To run it, the three firms have had to break away from the City LPC a course designed for the eight consortium member firms and delivered by three academic institutions: Nottingham Law School, the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice and BPP Law School. As reported previously in Lawyer 2B, the remaining five firms will continue to run the City LPC course exclusively with BPP Law School. The bespoke LPC courses take the City LPC one stage further. Originally designed to satisfy the training requirements of the City, rather than simply to produce a trainee with generic legal skills suitable for all forms of practice, A&O, Clifford Chance and Linklaters now want a course that is designed specifically for them.

Scott Slorach, LPC director at the College of Law and the man responsible for designing the new bespoke courses, said: “Naturally therell be some similarity between the City LPC and the new courses, but well make the new ones even more bespoke.”

His point is reflected in the structure of the course, details of which have just been agreed between the firms and the Law Society.

During the first six months of the bespoke course, students will learn in context the required compulsory subjects: business law and practice, civil and criminal litigation and property law. Then, in the second six months, they will tackle three areas designed specifically for the firm, each broadly covering M&A, equity finance and banking and debt finance.

Ordinarily students in the second six months doing LPCs can choose three electives from a total of 13.

Slorach commented: “Theyll cover the same fundamental areas as on all LPCs, except students on the bespoke courses will learn them in the context relevant to the firm.”

By the time students leave, they will be acutely familiar with the magic circle way of drafting and litigating, besides what they learn on their undergraduate law degree or GDL.Commentators are split on whether this very specific education will restrict the career development of students taking the course and whether it is creating lawyers with the full range of necessary skills.

“We hope that the courses will motivate students to learn better because theyll be learning in a context more closely aligned to practice in a particular firm. We hope that learning in the context of the firm and its business will enable them to take more from the LPC,” said Slorach.

Although firm-specific, the skills of handling large-scale transactions, along with detailed drafting skills, will actually be eminently transferable. This view is supported by Simon Firth, trainee development partner at Linklaters. “The existence of the course doesnt mean theyll be any less adaptable in doing a job in another firm,” he said. “The question really is, can you do the job in the first place [ie at one of the magic circle firms]?”

Slorach also dismisses claims that the bespoke courses will create an elite student, who will stand apart from the others.

The simple fact is that there are many different types of lawyer with a myriad of training requirements. With their international reach, institutional client base and the magnitude of the deals undertaken, magic circle firms are certainly unique beasts with unique cultures and training requirements.

There can be no doubt that these courses are here to stay. And there can be no doubt that they will produce expertly trained, specialist lawyers, with highly transferable skills at least within their field of practice.

Nevertheless, there will be those who continue to mourn the passing of the traditional lawyer someone with a broad base of general skills and an understanding of a wide range of legal principles. Their place in the upper echelons of the City are clearly numbered.