Editor’s weekly: The true cost of legal education

One of the biggest dilemmas faced by so many aspiring lawyers is whether to self-fund the Legal Practice Course (LPC).

Unfortunately, for some of you self-funding may be the only option, especially if you want to work for high street law firms, as they don’t typically offer LPC sponsorship.

That’s why we were so shocked after discovering that LPC providers have announced another round of fee hikes meaning that if you want to study the compulsory course at BPP Law School you will now need to fork out a whopping £12,900 (read more).

If you add maintenance costs to that and the debt accummulated from your undergraduate studies, which for some can total as much as £25,000, we’re talking serious sums of money.

And if you think that’s fine because lawyers earn shed loads of money you’d better think again because many trainees, especially those who have self-funded the LPC are likely to start their training contracts on the Law Society minimum salary of £18,590 in London and £16,650 elsewhere.

If that hasn’t put you off then you might be when you learn that both NatWest and the Royal Bank of Scotland are withdrawing loan products for LPC, Graduate Diploma in Law and Bar Professional Training Course students, as reported by Lawyer2B.com earlier today (read more).

Despite the mammoth costs involved in gaining a legal education some of you will undoubtedly refuse to concede defeat. I’m not sure whether to salute you for your determination or just write you off.

However, if you are one of those students then before you sign on the dotted line you may want to think about the following:

  • The legal market is still very fragile – Olswang, for instance, shocked the market earlier this week after confirming that it is deferring the start dates of its September 2011 trainee intake and as a result is also cancelling its graduate recruitment programme (read more).
  • Studying the LPC outside London will be a lot cheaper although there are arguably advantages to being in the capital as you will be closer to the major commercial firms.
  • Have you thought about alternative routes into law such as the one offered by the Institute of Legal Executives?
  • Explore part-time study options or splitting the LPC in two (ie taking a gap between completing the compulsory stage and electives).
  • Look out for scholarships/prizes/bursaries – all of the major law schools offer scholarships; some are means tested while others are merit-based. For instance, you can win a free place at BPP by simply writing a 1,500 word article for Lawyer 2B. Click here for more information but you better be quick as the deadline for entering is midnight tomorrow (11 February).
  • Finally, be realistic. Completing the LPC will NOT guarantee a training contract BUT may help secure a paralegal position.

Good luck.