Peter Quinn published this piece initially on the online magazine of the University of London International Programmes called the London Connection. Here Saad Masood shares his experience of completing the Legal Practice Course in the UK after gaining his University of London LLB.
Potential lawyers tend to forget that practising law does not only include hardcore litigation. The other aspect of the practice entails ‘staying back’ in the law firm, or working ‘behind the desk’ as an in-house counsel, for a corporate law firm, a bank or any company for that matter. I had always envisioned myself as the latter, and thus chose the LPC as my postgraduate certification after graduating from the University of London.
Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of doing the Qualifying Law Degree (QLD) in the LLB (Hons) programme of the University of London, is the benefit of the opportunity to opt for either the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) or the Legal Practice Course (LPC), rather than the straightforward option of going for one’s LLM (Master of Laws). After graduating from Pakistan College of Law (PCL) in 2011 with a satisfactory QLD, I started working in Lahore as an Associate Lawyer. A year afterwards I applied through the LawCabs internet portal for admission to the LPC. I was fortunate enough to be offered places by all three universities I applied for and eventually chose BPP University to study the LPC in August 2012.
The LPC is a course designed to build skills of potential Solicitors and is perhaps one of the most gruelling and draining postgraduate courses designed for the field of law, where one has to take no less than 14 examinations in a nine-month time span. However, as gruelling and relentless as it may be, the LPC is perhaps the best course in terms of covering every aspect of legal skills that one can come across. That being said, the basic training I received during my three years in the University of London International Programmes at PCL perhaps sowed the seeds of hard work in me to face the challenge the LPC posed.
The course entailed eight skills subjects that included drafting, Solicitor’s accounts, research and writing and advocacy, coupled with Core Practice Area (CPA) modules that included Business Law and Practice, Litigation (Civil Litigation and Criminal Litigation) and Property Law and Practice. The aforesaid subjects made up Stage 1 of the course. Afterwards, we were given a substantial list of subjects, out of which we chose three as our electives, which formed Stage 2 of the LPC.
Right from the start, the LPC instils in you the level of hard work required on a daily basis in the legal profession. We were required to read chapters (sometimes up to four) and do various exercises relating to the same for our classes, which were referred to as ‘Small Group Sessions’ (SGSs). In class, we were thus required to show the level of understanding expected from a postgraduate student. There were close to eight SGSs in a typical week, and to prepare fully for each session was a huge task in itself. There was a time when right after coming home from an examination, I had to prepare for two SGSs in the coming week. This highlights the level of consistency and hard work that is required of an LPC student.
Perhaps the best thing about the LPC was the fact that some examinations were held in conditions that we, as lawyers, are to expect in real life. For example, the Interview and Advising exam was held with an actor, who pretended to be our client and we were to advise him on a given scenario within 15 minutes. Likewise, the Advocacy exam entailed two students in front of a make believe judge or ‘Master’ and having to plead a case, like one would in an actual tribunal. However, any apprehensions I was to potentially face were already banished because, as stated earlier, the QLD had prepared me for it beforehand.
The QLD requires vigilance, perseverance and precision when it comes to researching the relevant articles needed for a well-formed opinion on a particular area of law. By way of an example, I formulated a question on whether spousal rape was a crime in Pakistan, and what the legal standing, if at all, was for it in the country. That entailed not only researching the relevant articles, but also going through a plethora of Pakistani case law.
However, at PCL, I was taught how to skim through and pick out relevant extracts from the articles to incorporate into my final writing piece and ultimately form an opinion. We were given strict deadlines to meet with regards to our QLD and we had weekly discussions on our research progress with our Instructor. The aforesaid exercise therefore allowed us to stay focused on our QLD, along with the other modules in our final year of the LLB (Hons).
The entire QLD process, especially the presentation, was extremely helpful and went a long way to aid me in my LPC. It taught me how to be precise, how to speak in public and to the point. Importantly, the ethics of conducting effective research were drilled into me, so that on my Research and Writing module on the LPC, I only required a week’s time to finish and finalize it.
The LPC, unlike the BPTC, is not as extensively based on developing one’s advocacy skills, but covers other aspects as well. On my return to Pakistan, I was employed as an in-house counsel by a multinational information technology company. It was here where I truly realized how helpful the LPC had been to my cause.
Working in-house involves minimal litigation and maximum work relating to drafting and vetting of contracts and acting as a legal counsel of the company to make sure it’s interests are firmly protected. The Business Law and Drafting modules I studied on the LPC were of particular help to me in this regard. The ethics of drafting that I had learned on the course allowed me to ease into the process of actually drafting contracts for my company in real life and insert adequate boilerplate clauses in contracts, as so often is the case with my company. In addition, the Business Law module had already equipped me with an insight on how companies are run, and what their potential legal formalities can entail. From directors’ duties to calculating corporate taxation of companies, I had everything I needed to equip myself for the high pressure environment of a multinational company.
Having said that, no matter how one chooses to go about their legal career, or even somebody aspiring to be a lawyer in Pakistan, I would very strongly recommend that they give the University of London International Programmes from PCL very serious consideration. The work ethic drilled into you by PCL, coupled with the hard work demanded by this programme, moulds you sufficiently for the future and lays the basis for any postgraduate certification that one may want to pursue.