Professional skills course information pack

8 August 2017

Information for providers on course structure, authorisation and course accreditation

Course structure, timing and background

Background

The Professional Skills Course (PSC) was introduced in 1994. It is designed to build on the foundations laid by the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and to ensure that all trainees receive formal instruction in matters better studied once the trainee has some exposure to practice. The PSC is intended to be an integral part of the period of recognised training; together they form the final elements of the vocational stage of training.

PSC providers are authorised by us under the SRA Training Regulations 2014, (authorisations under earlier training regulations remain valid) either on an in-house (where training firms provide it to their own trainees) or external basis. We publish a list of providers.

As a condition of validation the provider must deliver a course which meets the criteria and learning outcomes set out in this document.

As a provider, you will need to pay close attention to changes made to the LPC and to any assumed knowledge to avoid unnecessary overlap with that course. We will inform you where we require changes to the LPC.

When the course should take place

The PSC should normally be undertaken during a period of recognised training. Where an individual is exempt from recognised training, it must be completed before admission.

The PSC develops a trainee's professional skills before admission and we expect providers and employers to have due regard to this objective in determining the appropriate points within the period of training at which the various elements of the Course should be undertaken. For example, it will be more effective if the Client Care and Professional Standards module is completed after a trainee has undertaken at least six months full time or full time equivalent training.

Beyond this, we do not recommend the time at which the other elements of the PSC should be completed, although we do advise that tuition in elective topic(s) should normally be undertaken after the trainee has completed the relevant area of the compulsory core.

Subject to exemptions, we will not admit an individual unless they have successfully completed the PSC.

Outcomes for providers

A provider must provide a PSC which will:

  • build on the LPC to develop the trainee's professional skills
  • be of clear benefit and value to the trainee and represent the start of a trainee's post-qualification development
  • enable the tailoring of the course to reflect the range of environments in which trainees work and the increasing specialisation of practice
  • be a dynamic course capable of developing to match the changing and diverse needs of the profession
  • accommodate both well-developed trainee development programmes provided by many large employers for their own trainees, and public courses offered by local law societies and commercial providers.

Course structure

The PSC consists of three subject areas, underpinned by Written Standards:

  • Financial and Business Skills
  • Advocacy and Communication Skills
  • Client Care and Professional Standards

There is a compulsory core element of 48 hours tuition with assessments, and an elective element of 24 hours tuition.

Compulsory core

Each subject area forms part of a compulsory core, which entails face-to-face instruction for a minimum number of hours:

  • Financial and Business Skills - 18 hours
  • Advocacy and Communication Skills - 18 hours
  • Client Care and Professional Standards - 12 hours
For the purposes of Financial and Business Skills and Client Care and Professional Standards live online interactive courses, with peer to peer, and candidate to tutor interaction is seen as an extension of face to face.

The assessment scheme for each part of the compulsory core is as follows:

  • Financial and Business Skills
    • Written Standards Element 1 - no assessment
    • Written Standards elements 2-6 - Examination (one-and-half hours)
  • Advocacy and Communication Skills - skills appraisal
  • Client Care and professional Standards - no assessment
All examinations and skills appraisals must be conducted face to face.

Electives

The elective element of the PSC entails a minimum total of 24 hours of instruction.

The following conditions and provisions apply:

  • a maximum total of 12 hours of instruction in elective topics (whether whole courses or part courses) may be delivered on a distance-learning basis, provided that such instruction is “suitably supervised or assessed”
  • elective topics must fall within at least one of the three subject areas of the course
  • instruction in elective topics normally will not occur before completion of the corresponding compulsory core
  • at minimum 12 hours of instruction in elective topics must be delivered on a face-to-face basis
  • all elective topics must have as their primary objective the development of a trainee’s professional skills
  • there are no prescribed written standards
  • there is scope for tailoring the PSC to meet the particular training needs of individual trainees and their employers.

Courses in the following topics/subjects will count as PSC electives

  • The shortened Accounts Course for trainees that have taken the Law Society Finals or the pre 1997 LPC
  • The courses leading to the Higher Rights of Audience Qualification

If there are assessments as part of these courses, they do not have to be passed in order for the exemption to be available, as the PSC electives themselves have no assessments.

Information technology, business/commercial awareness

Trainees should be able to demonstrate that they understand the importance of information technology and business/commercial awareness in their work. They should understand the applications of information technology and business/commercial awareness across a range of professional activities.

Information technology and business/commercial awareness should be treated by PSC providers as pervasive, to be addressed throughout the compulsory core and elective topics.

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