23 August 2012
Twelve candidates on this year's fast track LPC at BPP have failed part of the course, according to a RollOnFriday source, provoking very different reactions from their future firms. Whilst Herbert Smith has shown its trainees the door; Freshfields and Norton Rose have given theirs a second chance.

The fast track LPC, which takes seven months rather than the usual nine, is provided to around 400 future trainees of Freshfields, Hogan Lovells, Slaughters, Herbies and Norton Rose. Every student on the course has already got through A-levels, a degree, and a training contract interview and, for some, the GDL as well. However an unlucky 12 have fallen at the final hurdle, with seven LPC-ers reportedly failing the drafting module and a further five slipping up elsewhere.

The bleakest news is for those who were heading to Herbert Smith. The firm, which has serious form for booting out trainees who fail assessments (even by one mark), appears to have stuck with its draconian zero tolerance policy, booting out the trainees involved. According to a firm spokesman: "the current terms and conditions in our offer of employment clearly state that students have to pass all elements of the LPC course at the first attempt. We look to apply this policy on a consistent basis but do take into account any genuine mitigating circumstances."

    Herbert Smith yesterday

But for the future trainees of Freshfields and Norton Rose, there may still be a happy ending. The firms are giving those who didn't make the grade first time around a second chance, provided they pass the resits (although they may still have to defer the start of their contracts). Spokeswomen for both firms confirmed that no training contracts had been terminated.

Still, at a time when firms need only the most fragile of excuses to prune their over-sized trainee intakes, it seems the days when the LPC could be another year of lie-ins and all day drinking sessions have passed.
 
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Comments

Anonymous 24 Aug 12

Nothing new here. When I did the Law Society Finals back in 1993 (in yet another recession), 3 of my fellow articled clerks were booted for not passing all heads of the LSF and they had already done 6 weeks at the firm when the results came out.

Anonymous 24 Aug 12

To be honest, is this that harsh? The LPC is not really taxing, even the accelerated version. If you can't manage to pass it, it's because you couldn't be bothered to do the work as it's not conceptually difficult. It begs the question of whether City law is the right place for you.

And it's no different to the Big 4 accountancy firms who boot people out three months in if they fail the so-called "Early Hurdle".

Anonymous 24 Aug 12

And so they should (boot them out). There are so many thousands of well-qualified candidates out there. Many of them won't have had the benefit of the top-end education and financial and other support that the average future trainee at these firms will have had, yet will manage to pass the LPC.

Anonymous 24 Aug 12

If you fail the LPC then you deserve to be booted. It's not particularly taxing and if you can't be bothered to work, it's still pretty easy to manage a pass.

Those that aren't at Herbies are going to het a real shock when they start their TC.

Anonymous 24 Aug 12

Couldn't agree more. If you fail the LPC (which, let's face it, isn't the most taxing of courses), then what chances do you have of making the grade as a trainee? If you couldn't be arsed to study properly, there are plenty who would have done so and who deserve the place instead.

Anonymous 24 Aug 12

The LPC is a load of pointless s**t and the main reasons anybody with pedigree fails any module are pure exasperation and apathy. I, however, did pass everything first time.

Anonymous 24 Aug 12

I passed the LSF first time and was working at the same time.
I would like to see everyone give that a try. It would certainly sort out the 'wheat from the chaff'

Anonymous 24 Aug 12

Standard rollonfriday tough chat. Fortunately most law firms with the exception of Herbert smith are slightly more intelligent (and humane) than some of the above posters.

People can fail a module for all sorts of reasons such as misreading one question (out of dozens), using a marginally wrong precedent, having a bad day, mistiming your answers etc. Sure if someone never turned up tO classes and failed boot them. But a blanket policy of booting people who may otherwise have firsts and distinctions is pretty retarded and a good way to dissuade people accepting tcs at your firm. I turned down the chance to work at hs precisely because of the sort of simplistic and unsympathetic attitude this move exemplifies.

Anonymous 24 Aug 12

Did those people commenting on the LPC and how easy it is, do the accelerated version? I did it and am now on my TC, having passed everything first time. But I thought it was quite tough. I actually thought it was tougher overall than the GDL, because of the way we raced through everything.

Roll On Friday 25 Aug 12

The Accelerated LPC is tough. In 7 months there was 2 weeks off for easter. You're in at least 9-5, 5 days a week - unlike most LPCs which benefit from benefits such as study days.

Frankly, I doubt anyone who says the LPC I sat is easy hasn't done the same one. It's not that the content is difficult, it's just there is very little time to take it all in.

Herbert Smith are harsh, all the other firms at least met with students who failed, from what I've heard Herbert Smith didn't even bother.

Anonymous 25 Aug 12

I agree with one of the posts above: this zero tolerance for failing is just ubsurd. As mentioned above, despite working incredibly hard, studying like it's your job and being incredibly organised sometimes people just fail. Be it by personal circumstance, stress or the fact that it just wasn't your day - it happens. That a TC should hinge on everything being passed at first instance seems a rather harsh policy and I do not understand how passing everything at first instance means you're ready to be a trainee? People deserve second chances.

What I find most perplexing, though, is the fact that seven or how ever many it was that were mentioned above failed drafting and might now have their TC revoked. Truely isn't the point of the TC to learn how to properly do this in practice? The writing, drafting, interviewing and advocacy although good practice, ultimately it's just that - practice. Knowledge comes from real work experience, not a fictitious interview where it doesn't matter if your legal advice is wrong so long as you know how to greet and talk to someone. It's like modelling school - smile and wave.

And PS to everyone above, the LPC IS taxing. I'd be interested to know if you already had TC's lined up and were doing the course with a nice maintanace grant to boot, because if you were one of those lucky ones then no, the LPC must be a walk in the park. But for those who fit classes into the evening so as to fit round their Monday to Friday 9-5 job, or those that do it at the weekend if they aren't looking after children, and I should say over two years because part-time is the only way to fit it round everything else, I am pretty sure those people would say the LPC is indeed 'taxing.'

Anonymous 25 Aug 12

Agree with 19:46 anon:

Esp wrt drafting, which is generally taking a precedent off PLC and inserting a few numbers/facts, they could've just used the wrong one.

Not sure it's quite right to say "it's easy" thus "boot out any failures" - if it's so easy, it's not really a test, especially when, as I think the article is getting at, these are students who have got through, among other things, VS and TC applications/actual internships.

Cf. New York, where top tier firms regularly let students who fail the NY Bar resit at least (and even give them paid days off to take the repeat since it'll be after they've started)... NY Bar is at least 3/4 times harder than the LPC.

Suggests to me Freebies are petty, or at least dont have belief in their own recruitment process!!

Roll On Friday 25 Aug 12

I am with Herbies on this. If there are genuine mitigating circumstances they can be taken into account, but frankly the Acc LPC isn't that diffiuclt. If you can't prepare for a basic exam, what hope do you have of preparing for a client conference call or preparing a contract? Its not acceptable to just completely screw it up and go "whoops, sorry"

People with TCs at the top firms should be going for distinctions IMO. If you mess it up you should still be getting a commendation or pass. I really don't think there is much excuse for failing the LPC.

Anonymous 26 Aug 12

Ypells: so you would let someone who passed every exam by 1 mark keep their tc, but boot someone who got 90% in all exams except 1 drafting exam which they failed? That's the logical extension of your and hs's reasoning and demonstrated quite well why it's an arbitrary cut off point which dissuades many students from accepting tcs there. Also, lol @ aiming for distinctions on the accelerated lpc. Have you done it?

Anonymous 26 Aug 12

anonymous user 25/08/2012 04:13 - perhaps that is how drafting is assessed on the full time LPC. The drafting is assessed quite differently on the accelerated LPC. Each of the three core modules in stage 1 (litigation, property and business) has a ten mark question for drafting. While those ten drafting marks also count towards the respective subject whose exam they feature in, they also comprise a third of the overall drafting mark. i.e. across the three exams, one can get up to 30 marks for drafting. So you may get students who nonetheless get 80%+ in each of their three stage 1 exams, but if the drafting marks acros the papers is broken down in a way such as, for example, 5/10, 7/10, 2/10, giving a 14/30 drafting mark, that's a failure of the drafting module. While a fail is a fail, the way that drafting is assessed on the fast track LPC over three exams has more variables which could go wrong e.g. time pressure issues in one of three exams and not getting to give the drafting question in that one exam a decent stab. It's certainly not a take-home exercise for which PLC can be used.

Anonymous 27 Aug 12

I think there are two issues here that should be dealt with separately:

One is failing a core module (property, blp, civ lit, debt, equity, CT) which is, to me, inexcusable and for which any firm is well within its rights to retract a TC offer. These are proper 3 hr written exams.

The second is failing a skill which is much less serious and could happen to anyone. These 'examinations' are often so short that one foot wrong can deny you a TC. For that reason, I believe, they should have a in-course retake option.



For those that are interested let me explain the particular unfairness of losing a training contract by failing 'drafting' in this round of the LPC. The 4 drafting questions (split across 3 exams) were.
1. Draft a Defence (good question)
2. Draft an AP1 form (terrible question. filling in a form is not drafting and rightly or wrongly many of us had not memorized an AP1 form by heart and had no idea what went in half the boxes)
3. Spot errors and amend a written resolution circular (unusual question for which no practice had been provided and was very tough to score well on)
4. 'Explain what these 4 clauses mean' (shocking, shocking question which was so poorly worded I had no idea what was expected and is not a drafting question. there was a good drafting question at the end of the exam (amending clauses) which did not carry any drafting marks. In hindsight I believe this was designed to be a summarising question though nobody I spoke to realised this!)

3 out of the 4 questions therefore were bad questions and many of us voiced concern over our drafting marks before results.

The poor 7 who failed drafting (an unprecedented number) were mostly just victims of a selection of questions which were badly designed and spread through 3 time-pressured exams. That is an examination failure and should be treated as such. IMO no firm should be allowed to retract a TC for this.

apologies for the wall of text


Anonymous 27 Aug 12

Its just Herbies being Herbies. Those who are applying for training contracts should take note, appreciate the level of compassion and understanding they can expeect from Herbies as an employer, and decide whether or not to apply (or accept an alternative offer if they have one somewhere else).

Personally I have turned down a job there in the past precisely because this rather 'macho' approach came through when I interviewed. It seems to be a firm culture thing.

As above, the LPC is an absolute pain in the behind because it is so unbelievably tedious (and of course largely pointless). That can cause even very able candidates to fail a module. Herbies should frankly be rather ashamed of themselves.




Anonymous 27 Aug 12

I think there are two issues here that should be dealt with separately:

One is failing a core module (property, blp, civ lit, debt, equity, CT) which is, to me, inexcusable and for which any firm is well within its rights to retract a TC offer. These are proper 3 hr written exams.

The second is failing a skill which is much less serious and could happen to anyone. These 'examinations' are often so short that one foot wrong can deny you a TC. For that reason, I believe, they should have a in-course retake option.

For those that are interested let me explain the particular unfairness of losing a training contract by failing 'drafting' in this round of the LPC. The 4 drafting questions (split across 3 exams) were.
1. Draft a Defence (good question)
2. Draft an AP1 form (terrible question. filling in a form is not drafting and rightly or wrongly many of us had not memorized an AP1 form by heart and had no idea what went in half the boxes)
3. Spot errors and amend a written resolution circular (unusual question for which no practice had been provided and was very tough to score well on)
4. 'Explain what these 4 clauses mean' (shocking, shocking question which was so poorly worded I had no idea what was expected. there was a good drafting question at the end of the exam (amending clauses) which did not carry any drafting marks. In hindsight I believe this was designed to be summarising question though no-one I spoke to realised this!

3 out of the 4 questions therefore were bad questions and many of us voiced concern over our drafting marks before results.

The poor 7 who failed drafting (an unprecedented number) were mostly just victims of a selection of questions which were badly designed and spread through 3 time-pressured exams. That is an examination failure and should be treated as such. IMO no firm should be allowed to retract a TC for this.

Anonymous 27 Aug 12

I have to agree that the questions were just odd and most didn't assess the 'skill' of drafting. I actually ended up passing but I was so frustrated with the fact that we had done all this practice in class and then it turned out to be a complete waste for the exam itself. I, and many of my friends feared failing! I really feel for the unlucky 7...

Anonymous 27 Aug 12

Bunch of idiotic posts below, what self hating fools we junior lawyers are if we pretend that this sort of layoff by the back door is even vaguely justifiable. HS ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Anonymous 28 Aug 12

Despite all the "tough guy" opinions above, the Accelerated LPC is tough. The gap between the end of wall-to-wall teaching and the first of the 4 examinations this year was 6 days. Students had only a few days to revise for each module, and the modules aren't short on material - the BLP course was 15 thick lectures and 25 study group sessions, for instance, all of which was examinable.

I suspect a lot of these people talking tough on the RollonFriday website, of all places, are fairly pathetic prospects in the flesh.

Roll On Friday 29 Aug 12

[i]"Ypells: so you would let someone who passed every exam by 1 mark keep their tc, but boot someone who got 90% in all exams except 1 drafting exam which they failed?" [/i]

No, I would take the 90% into account. But this would be a very unusual situation - people who fail an exam usually do badly in all of them.

I did the Accelerated LPC and I got a distinction. It is pretty easy. You have one 2-hour SGS a day with a few lectures and a bit of preparation. The exams are straightforward and you are told exactly what you are being tested on. It is a walk in the palk compared to the actual TC. If you don't pass the LPC you should be aiming for the high-street, not the Magic Circle.

Roll On Friday 29 Aug 12

""2. Draft an AP1 form (terrible question. filling in a form is not drafting and rightly or wrongly many of us had not memorized an AP1 form by heart and had no idea what went in half the boxes)
3. Spot errors and amend a written resolution circular (unusual question for which no practice had been provided and was very tough to score well on)
4. 'Explain what these 4 clauses mean' (shocking, shocking question which was so poorly worded I had no idea what was expected. there was a good drafting question at the end of the exam (amending clauses) which did not carry any drafting marks. In hindsight I believe this was designed to be summarising question though no-one I spoke to realised this!"

There is nothing remotely difficult or ambiguous about any of those questions. Frankly even if you hadn't done any revision they should be a walk in the park. It is absolutely nothing compared to what candidates in the US have to do for the bar exam. If you can't cope with the such basic tasks I don't see how you can expect to do well on a TC with a top firm.

You were taught about the AP1. It even has boxes and guidance notes telling you what to put. If you do a real estate seat do you really think your supervisor is going to coach you through filling in a form?

In your corporate seat you will be expected to draft basic resolutions. Spotting errors in an existing draft should be a walk in the park. For goodness sake you have the Companies Act with you in the exam, all you need to do is open it and read the section on written resolutions.

I'm not sure why you think "explain what these clauses" mean is an ambiguous question. It seems pretty clear to me. If you can't explain what a few simple contract clauses mean, how would you cope if a client telephoned you and asked a contract you are working on?

Anonymous 29 Aug 12

"The exams are straightforward and you are told exactly what you are being tested on"

No, this wrong. We were told we could be tested on any of the subject matter we'd covered. There was absolutely zero steer in terms of topics likely to come up in the core modules over others on the Accelerated LPC.

Roll On Friday 30 Aug 12

Everything you need is in the lecture notes and the SGS handouts. The syllabus on which you are being tested is tightly defined. Its not like university law exams - or, indeed, working as a trainee lawyer - where you can be asked about literally anything. This is why I think the Acc LPC is not at all difficult if you do the work and you are a capable student (for the record I did the Acc LPC and got a distinctino).

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