Law degree or “GDL” conversion course?

It is a tricky decision to make. Do you follow your gut and choose a university course that you are sure is something you are interested in and  school has established you are good at it (therefore likely to succeed)? OR should you choose the degree offering you the direct route to the career you think you want straight out of school?

When I was faced with this UCAS dilemma the playing field was very different mainly because Brexit had not been conceived and university fees were a fraction of what they are today.

For me it was a no brainer, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer but also that history was a strong subject choice and one I was genuinely interested in. I applied to the University of Exeter to read history without a second glance. However, for many now this was and remains a harder choice to make. One work experience taught me a great deal and one moment stands out as a junior partner explained to me that law was competitive and only the most committed and passionate candidates succeeded to securing their training contracts. He went on to tell me that I needed to stand myself apart from the crowd and not be afraid to make unconventional choices if it ultimately would make me stand out at application stage. Furthermore, he went on to say it was not good enough in a post-financial crisis London to just be a good lawyer, I had to have something else “my very own x-factor” to be noticed, to get a training contract interview and to ultimately succeed in the legal profession. A simple suggestion was to study an arts degree or modern language and take the GDL route… this was the beginning of my exploration into the GDL.

Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption has publicly backed studying a non-law discipline over law at undergraduate degree level. Sumption’s advice to budding lawyers is to “personally enrich” and “intellectually satisfy” themselves by taking another degree discipline such as history, which he himself studied. Having a good grasp of “the dynamic of human societies through their history” makes him a better judge.

Do not let the extra year put you off, if you have a real passion for a subject. I would strongly urge you to pursue this and to choose the GDL route (add another feather to your bow). By the time it comes to choose either the BPTC or LPC an extra year will not make you feel “old”. The LPC and BPTC differ significantly from law degrees and the GDL, meaning it’s pretty much level pegging for all students whatever route they take to get there.

Overall, I can only paint a one-sided picture having chosen the GDL route (I its hard work but allowed me to pursue a subject I was passionate about and get a breadth of academia without restriction to one discipline). Everyone should go with the option that is best for them, lots of my friends who chose to study law straight away are very successfully reaping the benefits of this with brilliant jobs today. It is not necessarily a straight forward decision. Have a good think about how you learn best, what funding is available to you, and take it from there. It should be said there are champions for both camps- GDL and LLB; one really is not categorically better than the other.

Deadline for the majority of undergraduate courses –15 January 2017


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Thinking of a Law Conversion Course?

My proudest achievement is finishing what I started here after the LPC. I remember sitting in the Guildhall with my mum sat a few rows behind me with her iPad waiting excitedly to take my photo when I collected my certificate. I was proud of myself. It was three days after my first relationship broke up and I was heartbroken but at that moment I realised something, my life was starting a new chapter.

I am getting ahead of myself. Before the Guildhall and the LPC was a LOT of hard work. The GDL or graduate diploma in law as it is known is a recognised legal conversion course. This allows non-law students to begin professional legal training without an undergraduate degree. Unlike a three-year law degree, this is undertaken in one academic year (January or September start dates). Applications for full-time places must be made through the Central Applications Board.

There are seven foundation subjects.

  • Contract Law
  • Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Law of Torts
  • Land Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Law of the European Union
  • Law of Equity and Trusts

In addition you will also study a Research and English Legal System module.

I studied my GDL and LPC with BPP law school; however, there are several course providers and I would recommend researching these before selecting one (part-time and full-time study options are available). Most offer similar course details but some firms have a provider preference.

My GDL was assessed in the following way:

  • One examination per module
  • Statute analysis test
  • Case analysis test
  • EU Project and CBT assessment
  • Multiple choice test on the English Legal System
  • Independent research essay

The GDL is fast-paced and voluminous, stacks of seminar notes, lecture notes and online resources are at your disposal. Highlighters, tabs and lever-arch files become your best friend. My top piece of advice would be to find a study buddy and to pool your notes (only if this is something that works for you and you should not feel pressured into sharing if you do not want to do so).

Review, review, review- after every seminar it is really good practice to consolidate. When it comes to revision this is a fantastic starting point. But also this method will highlight any areas of confusion and allow you to ask questions before moving on to the next topic.

Revision- don’t drown in every topic! Play the game and win. Pick no more than 5 or 6 topics minimum 4 for each module and revise these well. Practise previous exam paper questions tailored to these 4 or 5 or 6 (6 if you want a back up) topics. When you are in the exam hall read the questions carefully and always start your answer with a plan; either a spider diagram or bullet points (do not cross this out- if you run out of time the examiner can see what you were going to write even if its in rough draft).

Overall, I made some great friends on both my GDL and LPC! And… I was lucky enough to study History as an undergrad and then do the GDL. Perhaps now with the university fee increase this is not such a feasible option. It is work investigating which firms fund the GDL and/or LPC (without its an expensive journey but remember… and something I keep telling myself, its an investment that will hopefully pay off).