Disclaimer: This article is based on my personal experience. Experiences may differ depending on the university you attend.
Before I started the LPC, all I ever heard was how hard it was; I thought that come September, my social life would be limited to my minimal interactions with my course mates in the library. This is not the case. Contrary to popular belief, the LPC is actually a lot easier than the LLB. At undergraduate level, the focus is on black letter law; emphasis is placed on analysing judicial opinions and academic commentary. Exams are based on how well you can remember the law, and less about how it operates in the real world. I wasn’t sure how I would cope. However, once I started the LPC I quickly realised that the focus had shifted; it was less about black letter law and more about how the law operates on a procedural and practical level. This isn’t to say that knowledge of the law is irrelevant, there is simply less emphasis placed on it. When you consider this on a practical level, it is a logical approach. The laws which govern the English legal system are widespread and fast changing, therefore, as solicitors we cannot be reasonably expected to commit all of it to memory. This is why we have reference books, and the need to conduct research is a constant in our career.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it; the first term of the LPC is very intense. During my induction students who had jobs were ‘strongly advised’ to either quit or change to the part-time program because the program requires 110% commitment. In addition to assimilating into a new system of learning, you have your four core practice areas (CPAs). Four modules don’t sound that bad, right? Think about it like this: cumulatively the CPAs make up approximately 75 credits and are completed within four months, while at undergraduate our modules for the entire year were only 60 credits. I maintain that the LPC is not difficult, but it is very content heavy. Therefore it is essential that you hit the ground running. I cannot emphasise this enough – consolidate, consolidate, consolidate. Come Christmas, you’ll be kicking yourself when your mates having a good time on social media and you are locked up in your room doing work you should have done during term time. Also, remember how at undergraduate you could choose the topic to revise? LOL, that’s no longer an option. For exams you have to study EVERYTHING because everything will come out, either as an MCQ or a long-form question
Some good news: there are recordings available in case you miss classes, so you have a chance to see how the more difficult aspects dissected and explained. However, unlike undergraduate you cannot get away with relying solely on the recordings; the recordings are more useful as a revision tool. Teachers are contracted to teach, therefore the amount of time they have outside class schedules is limited. Coming to seminar sessions will give you the opportunity to ask specific questions and have explained in a manner you understand.
Term two is deceptively calmer. Your timetable is a lot freer, but you have just as much to do; your free time is never free, and it goes by very quickly. There is a significant amount of work allocated for self-study, and assessments are back to back. I would advise investing in a planner because it is very easy to lose track of time when you are not consistently working towards prescribed deadlines. However, term two is dedicated to practical legal skills such as advocacy and is assessed on a competent or not yet competent basis; so, provided you pass the 50% threshold for ‘competent’ you have nothing to worry about. This reduces a significant amount of pressure.
Finally, you may find that generally people are less willing to cooperate than at university. That’s because everyone has tunnel vision – at this stage, there is a lot more pressure to secure a training contract (especially as an international student). I had a teacher tell me that the other students are not my friends, they are my competitors. Not sure I completely agree with her, but I did understand her logic. The demand for training contracts is significantly higher than the supply; everyone wants to work in an international law firm. So, don’t take it personally; it’s not you, it’s the system – just focus doing your best.