One of the last stages that you need to pass on your route to becoming a qualified solicitor is to complete the Professional Skills Course (PSC). This course builds on many of the foundation stones which were laid earlier on in the qualification process, and helps to set you up for a time when it is possible to practice without professional supervision. It is a compulsory part of the training process and must be completed before candidates are considered to be fully qualified to practice law in England and Wales.
What does the Professional Skills Course Involve?
When completing a PSC, candidates must complete three core modules, and then 24 hours worth of additional elective courses.
The core modules involve two days studying “Client Care and Professional Standards”, three days studying “Advocacy and Communications Skills” and three days studying “Financial and Business Skills”. There is also an exam which must be completed in the financial module.
The elective courses which are on offer may depend on which institution you are completing your training course at, however they cover a wide range of different topics which help to enhance professional and business related skills. Up to 50% of electives may be completed via distance learning.
Some candidates choose their electives based on the needs of the company that they are currently completing their training contract with.
Why is a Professional Skills Course Part of Mandatory Training?
A Professional Skills Course is designed to build on the legal knowledge which has been acquired earlier on in the training process, and it aims to give candidates the necessary professional skills to practice law. This includes skills which should help them when they are communicating with clients and other individuals. These skills are essential if the candidate wants to be a successful and respected solicitor.
Because solicitors may work with a range of different (and potentially vulnerable) clients, it is important that they understand what is acceptable and what is unacceptable when it comes to dealing with clients. By improving on these skills, the course aims to allow candidates to provide a better service, whilst allowing them to continue to be successful in the legal aspects of their job.
How Long does it Take?
A PSC requires the candidate to complete the equivalent of 12 days of full-time attendance, although these are not necessarily completed in rapid succession. Most people complete their tuition one day at a time, with each session spread out over a number of weeks.
Fast-track courses are available where all of the material is covered in 8 consecutive days. Many people complete the PSC whilst they are still on their training contract with a law firm. Some firms will even provide financial support to employees to help them to complete their training contract. For candidates who are completing their PSC whilst working, it is not unusual for the course to take months to complete.
Where to Take the Professional Skills Course?
The PSC is available at a range of different venues across the country, and the cost can differ, depending on which provider you choose to go to. Some of the providers are university law departments, and some of the providers are private training establishments.
Only training providers which have been approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) are permitted to offer these training courses, so make sure that the course that you sign up for is SRA approved before you commit to anything. A list of approved venues can be found here on the SRA website. This site also highlights the training providers which are able to offer fast-track courses.