Aspiring solicitors need to complete a lengthy qualification process, including the SQE exams, QWE, and more. One often overlooked element, however, is the PSC (Professional Skills Course).
What Is The PSC?
The PSC (Professional Skills Course) is a compulsory element of the route to qualification for solicitors in England and Wales.
First introduced in 1994, it is a short course designed by the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) to bridge the gap between the SQE exams (formerly the LPC) and starting work as a solicitor. As a result, this is a vocational course focusing less on theory and more on practical issues a solicitor may encounter in their day-to-day practice.
What Is Covered On The PSC?
The PSC combines compulsory (core) modules and optional (elective) modules. The core modules (as defined by the SRA) are as follows:
- Financial and business skills
- Advocacy and communication skills
- Client care and professional standards
Most course providers will also offer a range of optional (elective) modules which the candidate may choose a handful of preferred topics from (your law firm may select some of these on your behalf if you are sponsored via a training contract).
For illustrative purposes, here is a list of some of the electives on offer within The University of Law’s PSC:
The elective modules on offer will generally combine contentious skills, non-contentious skills, and more practical general skills (for example effective communication or negotiation).
How Long Is The PSC?
In total, the PSC only takes around 12 days (or 72 hours of training) of full-time attendance to complete. The numbers below are based on the ULaw PSC program, but most providers are very similar in this regard.
The core modules take 48 hours over 8 days altogether (Financial and business skills/Advocacy and communication skills are both 3 day, 18 hour modules – Client care and professional standards is a 2 day, 12 hour module).
The elective modules take 4 days altogether (24 hours).
When Do I Need To Do The PSC?
The PSC is generally studied for during the course of QWE (for example a training contract), and therefore essentially forms the final part of your qualification process chronologically.
In reality, many firms will have their trainees complete the course in one block (rather than spreading it out) when they join the firm, getting the PSC requirement out of the way within the first few weeks of starting at the organisation.
However, it is also worth noting that it is recommended by the SRA to complete the Client care and professional standards module after the trainee has completed a minimum of 6 months of training.
To put this into context, here is a big-picture overview of your qualification route:
- Undergraduate degree at university [3 years full time]
- PGDL (conversion course) if your undergraduate degree was not a qualifying law degree (e.g. LLB) [1 year full time]
- SQE exams (formerly LPC) [1 year full time]
- QWE (qualifying work experience) at an authorised organisation (new SQE routes have introduced a lot more flexibility here) [2 years]
- PSC program [approx. 2 weeks]
Please note that this is the traditional route to qualification for solicitors in England and Wales. The more recent introduction of solicitor apprenticeships (led by top law firms such as Allen & Overy alongside a number of in-house legal teams) means that going to university is no longer required. However, you will still be completing steps such as the PSC – just alongside your role as an apprentice.
Where Is The PSC Completed?
Depending on your chosen provider (often your firm’s chosen provider), your teaching on the PSC may be delivered through any combination of:
- Online/remote learning
- In-person (at the premises of the provider, e.g. a ULaw campus)
- In-person (within your sponsoring organisation, where the tutors will come to you)
How Much Does The PSC Cost?
The PSC is much cheaper than most other steps of the qualification route to becoming a solicitor (due to its much shorter duration).
ULaw’s current fees, for example, stand at £1,220 + 20% VAT for the completion of all 3 core modules. Adding on the elective options increases the cost by a further £750 + 20% VAT.
The SRA has rules in place (introduced in 2014) stating that your training provider must fund your first attempt at the PSC.
How Is The PSC Examined?
The SRA regulates PSC examinations.
The ‘Financial and business skills’ module is assessed by a 90-minute open book exam featuring both multiple-choice questions and written sections. The ‘Advocacy and communication skills’ module is assessed via personal appraisal by a tutor.
Neither the ‘Client care and professional standards’ core module or any elective (optional) modules have any formal assessments required.
Studying The PSC With The University of Law
The University of Law (ULaw) is one of the few authorised providers of the PSC in the UK, and also one of the most well-regarded. They offer a 10% alumni discount for PSC fees, alongside a number of flexible packages in terms of content. They also have some of the most competitively priced courses currently on the market. ULaw tutors are also very well respected within the industry – over 90% are qualified lawyers, and the pass rates their courses produce are extremely high.
Full details of the ULaw PSC can be found here.