Readjusting from the LPC to an LLM course
So, you’ve completed your Legal Practice Course (LPC) course and now you are wondering what’s next? Well, congratulations on completing the course – kudos to you! However, may I suggest that you take a moment to breathe, and perhaps head over to the pub and have that well deserved pint whilst I sit here and give you a well-deserved ‘virtual’ round of applause. Just like you, I have also completed the LPC course and, trust me when I say this, I know how challenging it is! For those who have not and are just having a casual virtual ‘stroll’ through the Lawbore resources, I hope that my experiences can prove informative.
I’ve often been asked “what’s the LPC like?” Well, there is no short answer… except that it was challenging. And amongst many things, the LPC is not cheap and will involve, for some, a level of personal sacrifice – but investing in yourself and your career is the most rewarding thing you can ever do. As a fellow “investor”, I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth. Now, let’s us divulge into what it’s really like taking the LPC.
Finance aside, let’s focus on the structure of the course. If you have done or want to do the LPC, then it is highly likely that you, like myself, are seeking a training contract. This is where I believe the structure of the course provides an introduction into this profession. One simple example of this is that for the majority of that academic year, I was kept up late doing preparation tasks for workshops that would usually involve reading, reading and yes, more reading! At first it seemed tedious and futile, especially when coming across ‘humdrum’ materials, but overtime that reading drills a level of discipline into you and – whether you realise it or not – a profound level of knowledge and understanding. Irrespective of the level of excitement you gain from the reading, it is an essential component to get past in order to complete the written part of the preparation; especially since the LPC course is based on acquiring valuable practical skills.
I probably sound like that one annoying aunt nagging you to have another serving at family holiday celebrations, but I cannot stress enough how instrumental it is for you to succeed – especially when you ‘wrestle’ against all those 3-hour exams.
To conclude my thoughts on this course, I will refer to Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, one that has been drilled into us throughout the year: “by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” I cannot stress, or agree with this enough. The LPC course is demanding as it serves to develop your practical skills. Hence, it is wholly different to the LLB and the LLM as they focus on academia rather than practical skills, thus involving you making a ‘switch’ from the usual essay based to a more pragmatic approach. If you take one thing from this section, appreciate that that you simply have to put in the work and grind away– whether it be at 3pm, 8pm or 2am.
The LPC course is done and dusted and now it’s time to ‘embark’ on an LLM Maritime Law course. Pun intended! Before I compare this experience to the LPC, I must say that there were many reasons why I chose this course: one of which being that I come from the tiny island nation of Seychelles, which is in the middle of the Indian Ocean and surrounded by sea… with Somalia lying North West of us. As such, as you may have guessed, we have had several interactions with piracy and illegal fishing in our Exclusive Economic Zone – so Seychelles is brimming with opportunities in the Maritime Law sector.
The LLM is a taught postgraduate course and involves you doing either 4 or 5 modules across the year and finishing with a dissertation over the summer ( bit different if you start in January you do the dissertation over the first summer). The choice at City is you to do four modules (2 per term) and a 20,000-word dissertation or five modules (2 or 3 per term) and a 10,000 word dissertation. There are no exams and all modules are assessed by coursework-submitted online and marked online. You might get a problem question, a project-based assessment or an essay. You can choose at City to specialise in a wide range of specialisms from Maritime Law to Human Rights. To get an LLM in a specialism you have to do two modules and the dissertation from the modules attached to that area of law; this does give you great flexibility and allow you to get a fancy title such as LLM in Maritime Law!!
Immediately upon starting the LLM course, I noticed the main difference was the shift from the practically minded approach adopted by the LPC, back to one of academia. I was somewhat relieved because for anyone that has completed the LPC, you know that it was difficult to manage the work-life balance as a result of the preparation work. But this relief was definitely too optimistic because even though I saw the LLM as being more lenient in terms of preparation for workshops, it did not and certainly does not mean it should be underestimated because it will still require a great level of reading, and the undertaking of additional research.
When you have spent three years of your undergraduate degree learning to write essays, one year developing practical skills that does not wholly relate to the knowledge learnt from the previous three years, and then having to shift back to the skills learned during undergraduate degree… it can be easy to feel disconnected and confused. However, do not be discouraged: it will all make sense at the end of it, trust me! You will learn that adaptability is an important skill to have and one which I believe, especially now in COVID-19 times, we all have the capacity for: because after all, humans (especially lawyers!) are nothing if not adaptable.
If you experience difficulties readjusting back to the essay-based course, then I suggest that you take a refresher course. This does not need to be something formal; it can be as simple as reading over previous essays from your undergraduate years or speaking to your university friends. Once you have done this, if you still feel like you need additional help then I suggest that you seek other options available at City University, London. For instance, I would highly recommend making use of the brilliant and informative resources found on websites such as Lawbore and Learnmore. You could also make use of the booking appointments with the library team to improve your research skills. And if you find that you are need of more information – do not be afraid to contact your professors and even recent graduates – you can even connect with me on LinkedIn.
To conclude, I think it is important to appreciate the different learning styles and approaches of the LPC and LLM course. To transition from one to the other will require some level of adjustment, but this is where being adaptable is key. Just because one might require less level of preparation for workshops, it does not mean that it should be taken lightly because you still have to put in the required work. As mentioned, “in failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” If you keep this in mind, do the required level of work and seek help when required, I have no doubt that you will succeed in your academic course.
I hope that this has been insightful, but do note that similar to you I am also learning as I continue to progress through the LLM course. So, keep on learning my fellow soon to be LLM graduates!
Thank you for reading and do not hesitate to contact me on my LinkedIn for a further discussion.
Many thanks to Fabrice Ernesta, LLM Student at the City Law School for these insights into how different the demands can be from the LPC to LLM course.