In an article produced recently by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, it was reported that 88% of aspiring professionals are now choosing to study a part-time course whilst continuing to work full-time. The article went on to explain that the rise in this statistic is because these professionals are self-funding their courses which is largely due to the reduction of funding opportunities and rising tuition fees.
In March, I finished studying the LPC (Legal Practice Course) on a part-time basis which took 18 months to complete. Whilst studying over these 18 months, I worked full-time for Woodfines as a paralegal and then as a trainee solicitor.
If you are considering studying the LPC part-time whilst working full-time you should think hard about the commitment you need to make to both your work and the studying you will undertake, as the LPC guidelines suggest that you should typically dedicate 20-25 hours a week to part-time study. If you speak with any institution who provides the LPC on a part-time basis, they will be able to provide you with a guideline of the timetable and dates you will need to attend the course. Many institutions now offer day, evening and weekend variations of the LPC in order to be flexible around those who are continuing to work full-time.
It has to be said that there are distinct advantages to studying the LPC on a part-time basis because it can show the abilities and qualities which firms and recruiters look for when considering potential trainees, some of which are:
- Time management
- Your commitment to progression and succeeding in your profession.
- The lack of employment gaps on your CV which shows more experience.
There is also the on-the-job view of how the law works in practice which helps to consolidate any knowledge gained through studying. Another advantage is that you have a much larger support network than you may think. This doesn't just come in the form of employers, tutors, family and friends, but also the other students who are completing their course on the same basis that you are. The knowledge and experience you can share makes the whole situation more enjoyable.
However, studying the LPC this way is certainly not for someone who values their free time and quality of life because a large proportion of your time will be used for studying and working. This is also not forgetting any travel time required to get to your place of work and/or study venue.
Studying part-time whilst working full-time is intense, can be stressful and requires great discipline. On the LPC course I attended, there were only a small amount of lectures to attend so when working and studying there may be a tendency to concentrate more on work and leaving the studying/assignments until the last minute. Ultimately, work could take precedence in terms of quality and time which is not ideal; trying to balance work, studying and family/free time, without causing a negative impact on your academic grades, is very difficult.
There were definitely tough moments during the time I spent working and studying. However, my parents would say to me “keep your eye on the prize” and as is usual, my parents were in fact correct. If you allow yourself the ability to focus on why you want to complete the course it makes it far easier to bring yourself to put the effort into what it is you are struggling with. It is easy to get bogged down whilst trying to manage everything but acknowledging achievements, such as past exam results or receiving praise from a work colleague, can help to lift your motivation and confidence, so acknowledge everything you receive positive comments for.
It is also important to plan time off and reward yourself with a break, whether it is an hour or so to catch up on your favourite TV show, exercising or a holiday away from it all. It is all about good forward planning and how you manage your time so that you get the best from every aspect of your life.
Since completing the LPC a question which I have been asked by many people is “Was it worth studying part-time or do you wish you had taken a year out?” The answer is that I wouldn’t have done anything differently. The numerous skills I have learnt, such as time management, and having the ability to “learn on the job” whilst still having some money in my back pocket is definitely a good trade for sacrificing most of my free time for the past 18 months.