The Central Applications Board referred to above, also handles applications from law graduates and others who wish to study for the LPC. The LPCs are offered at the College of Law in four centers in England as well as at 33 English universities, predominantly the "new" universities. The course was introduced in 1993 to replace the previous system which required students to take a final diet of examinations set by the Law Society. The LPC emerged in response to a growing recognition by both the profession and the universities that training students for the practice of law should involve more than simply requiring them to be good at passing exams. Instead, it should be about learning the skills needed to apply the law. Thus the LPC was designed to teach fundamental lawyering skills such as advocacy, drafting, negotiation and research. In 1997 the LPC underwent further changes to accommodate the demands of an increasingly specialist legal market which wanted to recruit students who had some insight and understanding of niche areas of practice in addition to the generic skills. These changes resulted in a greater range of specialist options being offered by the different LPC providers, more emphasis on I.T. skills, greater uniformity of assessment by the providers, and more weight given to the subjects of accountancy and business law.
One of the aims of the current LPC is to permit students who wish to work for firms that specialize in business or commerce to select options under the broad grouping of corporate client electives. Typically, that group of electives will cover subjects such as contract law, competition law, intellectual property and corporate finance. This is in contrast to another group of electives; that of the private client, which covers family law, employment law, welfare law, personal injury litigation, taxation and wills, trusts and estate planning. Students wishing to join a general practice law firm with a solid client base of individuals as opposed to a corporate client base of companies and businesses, would be advised to opt for the private client electives, while students who are uncertain in which area of law they wish to practice can take a mixture of the two main groups of electives.
Entry to the English Bar
The two most frequent routes to becoming a barrister are either to qualify first as a solicitor and then to qualify as a barrister or to train directly for the Bar. This branch of the profession is changing very rapidly and new entrance and qualification rules apply almost every year. Prospective Bar entrants must complete the one-year Bar Vocational Course (BVC). Until 1997 the BVC was only offered at the Inns of Court School of Law. There are four inns of court, namely Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn. From September 1997 the BVC has been offered at seven additional centers, and applications for the BVC are processed through the Bar Council's Central Clearing House. Around 2,000-3,000 applications are received each year of which the vast majority give the Inns of Court School of Law (ICSL) as their first preference. The ICSL is affiliated with the City University in London and is, in effect, a department of that university. It is by far the biggest provider, being validated to provide 750 full-time places. It is also the only provider validated to deliver a part-time course, of which there are 100 places.
The Bar requires entrants to have a "qualifying law degree", which means one approved by the Council of Legal education. In effect this requires students to have studied certain core legal subjects, and generally all those who have graduated with a "law" degree will have covered these subjects. Graduates from a discipline other than law may apply to do the BVC and, as with entry by non-law graduates to the LPC, will usually have to take the Postgraduate Diploma in Law or the CPE.