Should You Self-Fund the LPC?

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Next City Lawyer
April 10, 2023
[time to read]
min read


Many candidates wrestle with the question of whether they should self-fund the Legal Practice Course (LPC).  If you haven't managed to land a training contract by the time you graduate with a law degree you are, in most cases, are doubly disadvantaged - you must pay your own way and overcome scepticism from HR that you're not a first-rate candidate.  Although a minority of applicants are experienced hires who have worked in other industries, HR will typically presume that someone applying outside the traditional window (second year for law students; third year for non-law students) was unsuccessful in previous application rounds.

But don't despair!  As training contracts have become so insanely competitive now, HR teams are becoming more used to seeing this and accept it is part of the ‘new normal' for future lawyers.

This guide will cover:

Number of LPC students and training contract places

The majority of law students in the UK will not get a training contract in their usual application window. This means that thousands of law students will graduate from university each year with some difficult choices ahead: should they (1) abandon law as a career, (2) self-fund the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or (3) paralegal?

As a team of qualified lawyers, we think law is an excellent career choice and one worth pursuing. The intellectual challenges, constant learning, multi-jurisdictional elements and opportunities for advancement (and high salaries!) make it a great and fulfilling career. We therefore would strongly encourage you to follow our strategy below before making up your mind to abandon your plan of becoming a lawyer.

Why the LPC is Required

As of April 2023, you will need to pass either the LPC or the Solicitors' Qualification Exam (SQE) to become a solicitor in England and Wales. Although the SRA is gradually phasing out the LPC, we think it will continue to see decent student numbers over the next few years. You can read more about the SQE from Chambers Student.

You can complete the LPC in a number of major cities across the UK (Lawyer Portal). The main providers of the LPC in London are the University of Law and BPP, but there are a whole host of others as set out helpfully in this comparison table from the Lawyer Portal.

Cost of the LPC

The cost of a full-time LPC course for 2023/24 is between £8,000 - £19,500 and lasts nine months in duration (or seven months if doing an accelerated course).  See here for fee information relating to the two main LPC providers - the University of Law and BPP.  The course fee includes books and all of the hard-copy materials you will need.

Living expenses will also vary by the city you live in, but you could expect average rent for students in London to be around ~£800 per month plus another ~£100 in bills.  We would guess food/entertainment and other life expenses for students come to around ~£800 per month.

Estimated total cost of studying the LPC in London

Funding Options

Student Loans

Taking out a student loan for the LPC is not straightforward. If you plan on completing the LPC in its traditional form (i.e. graduating with an “LPC” qualification) you may struggle to find adequate bank financing as this is not considered a typical “student” program and so is ineligible for postgraduate government funding. As a result of this, the University of Law has introduced a version of the LPC that also provides you with an MsC so it is easier to qualify for the postgraduate student loan (which can go up to £12,167 if you start in September 2023). This is a good option if you need help with the funding, but please note that law firms won't be impressed by the additional MsC. You will also be taking on new debt on top of your undergraduate course fees.

If you do not receive this government loan and do not have sufficient funds to pay yourself, then you will need to go to a bank or other private lenders for a traditional loan. Unfortunately, this loan is likely to be advanced to you with higher interests rates and more onerous repayment terms.


There are scholarships available (e.g. BPP offers a £1k scholarship for international students and other £2k and full-fee £10k options) but these will be very difficult to get and you can only apply for these once you have already been accepted. They are also very competitive. As such, you will need very impressive academics and extra-curricular experiences to succeed.

Diversity Access Scheme

The Law Society Diversity Access Scheme supports people from low socio-economic backgrounds who want to become solicitors. The scheme offers up to 10 diversity scholarships each year, which includes: (1) a scholarship to fund the LPC course fees (but not living costs), (2) work experience and (3) mentoring support.

With only 10 spots we would not assume you will win this (it's probably more competitive than winning a TC itself!) but it is still worth knowing about and applying for.

Four Reasons Why You Should Self-Fund the LPC

  1. Some of the elite firms will refund you for your LPC costs if you subsequently secure a training contract.  They typically do not refund living costs.  You should treat this as a pleasant surprise if it happens for you, rather than something to pin your hopes on. ‍
  2. People who self-fund often claim that it shows real commitment to their careers as it is literally putting one's money where their mouth is - if you are willing to take on debt to get into law that shows how much you want it. However, our view is that the majority of people who self-fund, unfortunately, still do not secure TCs. Some of them will, but please know that it is a big risk and showing dedication this way is just one of the many factors taken into consideration by potential firms. ‍
  3. You may have a better shot at getting a paralegal job in the legal sector post-LPC. By this point many firms will be confident that you possess additional legal skills and so you would arguably make a better hire at no additional cost to them. (Although plenty of firms will recruit paralegals that have done the GDL or a law degree, but not the LPC.)  For paralegal jobs, a firm's prestige should not be the focus; the type of work you do day-to-day is much more important to future employers and can be highlighted in an interview.   ‍
  4. If you self-fund the LPC you may be more marketable to a firm who is desperate to add last-minute trainees to its next intake as you'll be able to start promptly, but we think these opportunities are very rare. Normally the timing works in favour of going the normal route (applying at university) or sticking to it as much as possible.

Seven Reasons Why You Should NOT Self-Fund the LPC

  1. If you self-fund the LPC but do not ultimately obtain a training contract then it is a wasted investment.  If you (or your parents) can readily finance the cost then lucky you! But if you don't have the cash to hand then we suggest you think twice before getting into debt to fund the LPC. ‍
  2. Most firms will not refund your LPC fees if you subsequently secure a TC.  Even those firms that do will not refund your living expenses. ‍
  3. Paralegaling for a year (which you can do at many firms without having completed the LPC) also shows commitment to working in the legal sector.  You are getting first-hand legal experience and working your way up the ladder.  Completing the LPC is not the only way to prove your dedication. ‍
  4. We do not put much value on the University of Law's “Employment Promise” that, if you do not obtain a job within nine months of completing the LPC, you get 50% cashback and 50% as credits toward further courses. This promise is subject to strict  terms that make it difficult to claim.  For example, the terms say that (1) you are not eligible for the refund if you do any law-related job (paralegal or otherwise) post-graduation and (2) the promise doesn't apply if the UK is in recession (which isn't much use in current economic conditions!).  We're also sceptical of the value of the other courses on offer - you're more likely to waste your own time and money than you are to impress future employers. ‍
  5. It's worth remembering that both of the major LPC providers are for-profit institutions.  It's in their interests to enlist as many students as possible, regardless of your actual career prospects. ‍
  6. You should also keep in mind that some firms have their own LPC programmes and so are especially keen for you to land the training contract first and then do the LPC with your future trainee cohort.  Not only do they then ensure you are trained properly on the LPC (the value of this is definitely overstated and our experience was that the LPC is fairly tedious and not useful for the actual job) but you also get to know and befriend your future intake.  This makes your TC much more enjoyable as you'll have a pool of people and friends to turn to with any questions or problems. ‍

  7. Otherwise if you end up completing the LPC before securing a training contract, you are likely to have a 1-2 year gap before you start your TC, during which you will probably paralegal or work in a similar role in any event.  The better alternative would be to paralegal first, secure the TC, and then complete the LPC in the ensuing gap period alongside.  You may still have to paralegal then but depending on the length of the gap and if you managed to save up from paralegal previously (and not spending money on the LPC by self-funding!) you could travel or do charity work instead.  And at least at that point you can paralegal and enjoy it more because you won't have to be juggling applications alongside it or trying to impress to get a TC there (which is also quite rare).


It should be clear from the above that we think you should think very carefully before self-funding the LPC

  • If you graduated from a reputable university with a first-class or high 2:1 degree, you have a good chance of eventually landing a training contract.  It’s likely that your previous rejections were due to poor application or interview technique.
  • If you have a low 2:1, particularly one from a less prestigious university, it will be an uphill challenge to secure a TC.  You should exercise caution before deciding to self-fund the LPC.

We appreciate that above is not going to fill you with enthusiasm for the steps ahead.  On a more positive note, however, we think paralegaling before the LPC offers you an excellent opportunity to build your legal skills and improve your CV. Paralegaling at either a prestigious firm or one which offers good levels of responsibility will prepare you well for when you start as a trainee solicitor.  Trainees who paralegaled prior to starting the TC are miles ahead when it comes to project management, attention to detail and the ‘soft skills’ needed in an office environment.

You can learn more about how we can help you secure a training contract here.  

  • Our Application Database has >95 examples of successful applications for >70 different law firms for £14.99 each. Each application includes expert line-by-line commentary by our team of qualified solicitors from US, Magic Circle and Silver Circle firms to help you craft your own perfect application and secure a training contract.
  • Our Practice Case Study will help you turn your assessment centre into a training contract offer. This realistic mock case study takes 45 minutes to complete. It includes >15 pages of expert feedback which will teach you vital commercial content that you need to know and help you to assess how strong your practice performance was.  It costs just £19.99.
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