The content of stage 1 of the Legal Practice Course is set out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and applies to all lawyers while the content of stage 2 depends on your electives, which will be tailored to your firm’s work or the kind of law you are interested in practising.
I’m fairly sure I will never have to draft a will but appreciate some lawyers will never go near a syndicated loan. That said, here are four ways the LPC has helped me as a first seat trainee working in a City corporate department…
1. Understanding company procedure
Most basic company law provisions are outlined in the Companies Act 2006. On the LPC you get given a thick blue company law book that becomes your reference bible on the course and in practice. You can try to rote-learn sections but it is more useful to have the book on you shelf and know your way around it well enough that a quick skim will get you to a relevant section; a skill you develop as the course continues.
The back of the book contains “model articles of association”, which are a set of default governance rules used when a newly formed company chooses not to create its own bespoke set of articles. Many companies use the model articles as a basis so knowing that the standard number of directors required for a board meeting is two or that directors can have a meeting by telephone gives you a good starting point for understand more complicated articles. In this sense the LPC is like a cultural immersion course for lawyers.
The legal research element of the LPC is perhaps both too in-depth and too brief; in a corporate seat your research points are more likely to be “was this case appealed?” than “set out the development of corporate manslaughter”. Nevertheless, being able to use Westlaw effectively and provide succinct, accurate research is a central trainee skill and the approach taught on the LPC is a useful starting point.
Other departments such as litigation or tax seem to require more in-depth research notes from trainees and it will save hours if you know where to get information from and how to present it.
3. Spotting “red flags”
Corporate lawyers are often tasked with allocating work to specialist departments. The Corporate Transactions module of the LPC gives you an extremely brief introduction to employment, pensions, intellectual property, joint ventures, environmental and other areas. This is useful when doing due diligence on a target company and spotting any so-called “red flags”, or potential issues, that may need further analysis.
For example, if some employment contracts show all the employees have final salary pensions it might mean your client is going to have a huge pension liability once it buys the target. The relevant contracts will be sent to someone in employment or pensions (or both) and the corporate department will track the projects development in a spreadsheet. Once everything has been reviewed the corporate team will put together a due diligence spreadsheet for the client.
4. Professional conduct
It’s tedious. But actually it is crucial to know what’s expected from you and where the boundaries for a legal advisor lie. After the LPC you know that you aren’t advising on commercial points directly, you know not to give specific advice about what insurance policies or shares people should buy and you know not to give advice you aren’t qualified to give (including to friends and family). You are also taught to recognise money laundering and know what to do if you suspect it.
Sometimes you will have uncomfortable or even forceful conversations with opposing lawyers or potential clients and a sound knowledge of professional standards will prevent you from being dragged into grey areas. It’s also important because the SRA regulates your personal as well as professional life to a much greater degree than the regulators of other professions, which seems severe but solicitors have a duty to the court system on which the rule of law and therefore enforceable commerce relies.
There are lots of other ways the LPC fits into practice and lots of ways it doesn’t. I think the key to the things you learn on the LPC is repetition. You don’t need to draft perfect board minutes first time or remember the procedure for allotting new shares after reviewing it once or twice. Don’t feel guilty that you haven’t mastered it straight away and keep going over things for the exams. You will have years to perfect your knowledge in practice.
Thank you to Isaac who suggested this article on Twitter. If you have any suggestions for further posts or any thoughts about the LPC get in touch!
- Read his previous blog for Lawyer 2B: Five steps for survival as a first-seat trainee