Some FAQs answered for those considering a law conversion course

I recently received an email from someone I know who was thinking about converting his degree through the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), more commonly known as the law conversion course. He asked me some questions so that he could have as much information as possible on which to base his decision.

His questions were practical ones about the course, how I was finding it, and how I was funding it. They’re the sort of questions I wish I’d had answers to before I left university, and answers from a student on the course rather than from one of the course providers. I decided, having read and answered his questions, that to publish them might help others make a decision. My reply is extensive and, I’d like to think, thorough, but it won’t be comprehensive and my experiences will have differed from those of others, so please feel free to comment with your own thoughts and opinions if you have anything to add to the information.

The email I received read thus:

Hey Ashley,

I understand that you are currently taking the law conversion course. I’ve decided to look into it and see if it’s for me, and would just like to ask you a few questions about it, if you don’t mind?
Was it easy to get into with your degree?
Are you self-funding…and are most people on the course self-funding or are there lots of people already with law firms paying for them?
How difficult/intense etc is it, are you struggling or finding it a manageable challenge? Since we did similar subjects at the same uni I assume we’ve got a relatively similar skill set!
Are you in the process of applying for/have you got a Training Contract (TC)? From reading about it, this seems to be absolutely crucial yet also very difficult. How are you finding it and what would you do if you can’t get one? How easy do people seem to find it in general on your course, and do you need much previous law experience to help you get one?This is the one issue that really confuses me as I’m worried I wouldn’t be able to get a TC and hence waste a year!
Have you secured any work experience etc/ how difficult was that to achieve?

I know there are lots of questions, but any help will be really greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

A Prospective GDL Student

I gave the email due consideration, and thought about my experiences, both on the course itself and beforehand. I replied as follows:

Hi Prospective Student.

I’d be delighted to answer your questions.

1) The only true entry requirement is obviously that you hold a degree. Beyond that, if they have space available and you are able to afford the fees, you are likely to be accepted. By way of example, I know people who applied in March or April, well after the deadline for first round applications, to three law schools (which is as many as lawcabs.ac.uk allows you to apply to) and received offers from all three. The law schools were also still advertising places on the GDL well into September 2010 for the 2010/2011 Academic Year.

2) I am self-funding and so are many of my classmates. As I write, out of our class of 20, there are only 3 people who have secured funding already. I took a job straight from University, having thought that the training fees in law would be prohibitive for me, in order to work out what to do. It took me no time at all to realise that I didn’t want to do anything other than go into the legal profession, and so I used that year to earn the money for my GDL and apply for Training Contracts. There are ways to finance the courses – Nat West, for instance, do a specific “Professional Qualifications Loan” which some people here have taken up [11/02/2011 - I have just read that Nat West have withdrawn this scheme. For more details, click here] – and I will need to find a way to fund myself through the next stage if I do not manage to secure a TC this year. Whatever happens, though, the investment has been one worth making, as far as I am concerned. Some people said that it would be worth it back when I was worrying about it, but it seemed easy for them to say that, as they weren’t people who’d been through it. Taking the year to work gave me the perspective on my ambitions and the perspective on funding the course to be able to take the risk of funding it myself. I was surprised to find out how few people on the GDL have Training Contracts already.

3) There’s a lot of work for sure, but it’s manageable. I haven’t had any problems so far, although the volume increases between Xmas and the end of the course, with two pieces of coursework to do as well as the regular lectures and workshops (and revision for mocks). The trick is to keep on top of it. At uni I left most things until the last minute, even exam revision. With this, it’s impossible to do that; I think you’d quickly sink like a stone. So it’s just about being responsible and working consistently. Once you do that, it’s comparatively simple. Yes, our similar backgrounds are useful but law has so many disciplines in practice that it requires people from all backgrounds – the most common are social sciences, humanities, philosophy graduates, but there are two former musicians in my class as well. The course is open to holders of all kinds of degrees, so whilst your essay-writing skills may stand you in good stead, they’re not all that you need and they certainly won’t carry you through on their own!

4) I haven’t got a training contract yet, and am applying for them at the moment. In my opinion, the greatest importance placed on attaining a TC at the stage you’re at is in the funding. You obviously need to complete a 2-year TC if you want to qualify, but the immediate need is the money. If it’s possible to do the GDL and even maybe the LPC via another means of funding then I would do so. If you need to take a year or two to earn money to pay for it and apply for training contracts then that makes sense – I did it – but it helps to get on the path as soon as possible, in my opinion. The other important thing that a Training Contract gives you, though, is the security of knowing that you have somewhere to go after finishing your studies.

5) Firms like you to have experience because it shows that you have a commitment to law, but also because it shows that you know what to expect. [I wrote about this at length in my blogpost entitled "So, Candidate, why do you want to work at a City firm?"] More than just “any legal experience”, they want it to be relevant. They’re not looking for their trainees to know exactly what area they want to qualify into – and in many cases they prefer trainees not to know. But they’d like you to be sure that the type of law is what you want. For instance, if you’re applying to City commercial firms, having some work experience in a high-street family practice will only be useful up to a point. You can sell it on the basis of knowing you don’t want to work in that environment, but a big firm wants its candidates to be certain they want to work in the city world. It was explained to me recently that it costs roughly £250,000 to recruit each trainee at most of the big firms, so obviously for that investment they want to make sure, as far as they can, that the person is right for the job and will stay there for a while. The entire process is fairly arbitrary, I think, as what one firm wants, another firm may not. Also, it depends how the recruitment is done. Many systems are imperfect, especially in firms who give applications to busy lawyers to read.

6) Training contracts are, as I’m sure you know, recruited two years in advance when it comes to the big firms. They do this because that’s the amount of legal training that their students have to go through if they get them at the earliest stage. I know many people who have secured contracts with firms after they have started their training, and the years in between are not wasted, I can assure you! Sometimes the firms take their future trainees on as paralegals so they can gain experience and earn some money. Some take it as a gap year opportunity and go travelling, or undertake more study such as an MBA. Of course, there are also smaller firms who recruit for trainees from the pool of people who already have their LPC qualification, so even if you go throughout law school with no Training Contract, you may still be in a great position to apply to firms like that afterwards.

7) As I mentioned above, work experience is a real help when it comes to securing Training Contracts. In order to get the experience, though, sometimes you already need to have experience – it can be a bit of a vicious circle with Vacation Schemes in the City. My advice would be to write to law firms and to make as many contacts as you possibly can. Think of everyone who you know who might be able to give you some help or advice and ask them. Even if you don’t know anyone directly who can help, there are bound to be people around who can. Sometimes it’s useful to think laterally: for instance, most of us know people who have been divorced; ask someone for the contact details of their solicitor. Even if they can’t help you themselves, they may have contacts in the industry who are able to. Networking is absolutely vital. Recruiting firms don’t expect everyone to have extensive experience though, so don’t worry about filling a CV chock-full of it. Just enough to show that you have thought about the profession seriously will suffice.

I hope that this has been of help. If you have any more questions, you know where I am.

All the best,

Ash

Now, comprehensive though this may appear, it omits at least one major piece of advice that I wish I’d had – that of how to decide which provider to study with once you’ve made the decision to do the GDL. This is a difficult decision for many prospective students because of the dearth of information on the subject. The four major postgraduate legal education providers are BPP Law School, City Law SchoolKaplan Law School and The College of Law.

When looking to choose a university for your undergraduate degree, you can decide based on the surroundings, based on teaching league tables, on research, on course content, and many other factors. When the course content is identical, as it largely is with the GDL, the decision becomes more difficult. The majority of the information available comes from the providers themselves, rather than any independent source, and leaves a great deal to the imagination.

It’s difficult to make a wrong decision on this, and each of the major providers is regarded equally by most firms (some have agreements with a particular provider but studying elsewhere before securing a TC doesn’t preclude you from joining them in most cases). My advice would be to contact the providers and find out the full details of the teaching and any extra benefits: how many contact hours you would have, what materials would be made available online (are lectures recorded, for instance?), how big are the class sizes, what’s the careers service like, and so on. Then, once you have this information to hand, work out what is most beneficial for you. If you’re someone who can’t take notes easily in lectures, having recordings of them available online might be just what you need, for instance.

Once you’ve decided on a provider, you may find that they have more than one branch in the same city, as I found with the College of Law. Again, almost no information on which to base a decision over where to study exists, even less for deciding between the Moorgate and Bloomsbury College of Law centres than there was for deciding which provider to opt for. I chose the College because of their course structure, because I knew a larger number of people who had studied there than at any of the other providers, and because, if you do GDL and either the BPTC (the practical course for future barristers) or the LPC (the equivalent for future solicitors) with the College, you receive an LL.B at no extra cost and with no further exams, which is in contrast to other providers. I figured that if I didn’t get a training contract, I’d like to come out with an LL.B to show for my two years; if I secure one and the firm wants me to study for my LPC elsewhere, I’m happy to make that trade-off!

This was a personal decision, and the lack of information meant that it wasn’t built on the strongest of foundations, but I did as much research as I could and made my decision based on as much knowledge as I was able to acquire. I hope that through this post, some people will be able to be more certain of their options.

—————

As I said earlier, I am certain that I have missed some absolute gems of advice, and that people who have had different experiences to me will be able to provide valuable insights into other areas of the decision-making process. If you have anything to add, please do comment. Feel free also to comment in order to ask any questions.

An edited version of this blogpost was published on the AllAboutCareers.com website
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About Ashley Connick
Ashley Connick is a trainee solicitor at an international law firm. For a full profile, please visit the "About the Author" section of the blog.

39 Responses to Some FAQs answered for those considering a law conversion course

  1. D_I says:

    Do CoL still have open book exams? If so, I really wish I had known that before I chose BPP for the GDL.

    • Ash says:

      Excellent question, definitely a piece of information worth taking into account. At CoL, GDL exams are sat with a book of some relevant statutory extracts; I don’t know what the rules are at BPP, Kaplan or City. For the LPC, CoL exams are open book, which is very useful. The courses are taught in slightly more depth on account of not needing to memorise everything, and you can take in all your notes. This is, I think, what you’ve heard about, rather than the GDL.

  2. wanderlust82 says:

    Hi,

    I was just reading a law professors take on the GDL conversion course. As I am at the stage where I am considering my options I’m trying to get as much information as possible. Here is his analysis: http://lawyerwatch.wordpress.com/. Thoughts as you are currently on the course?

    Thanks

    • Hi,

      I’ve had many conversations with Richard Moorhead, who writes that blog, about the state of legal education. He’s particularly concerned with the reform of it and the ways in which the current system can be revamped. My advice to you, given that you’re considering the GDL course at the moment, might sound a little strange, but I feel that it’s valid: I would ignore what he is saying. Obviously, not completely – he talks a great deal of sense and it’s something I’m also very interested in – but if you’re looking at your options now, the things he’s commenting on are not going to be applicable for the next few years. Legal education isn’t perfect – nothing is. But if you’re at the stage where you’re looking at your options, you need to focus on what actually exists rather than the theory about reform.

      I hope that helps and that it doesn’t sound too obtuse. I just think that to worry about the particulars of the course is to miss the point – the fact is that if you want to become a lawyer, it’s something you have to do. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me.

      Thanks,

      Ashley

  3. Open book exams don’t, in my view, confer a significant advantage. The view I’ve heard from practitioners is that the result is that you’re marked more harshly as a result. Plus it’s not that practical in a three-hour exam to have to refer to your textbooks to answer the questions. If you don’t already know the law, a textbook isn’t going to help you that much in an exam.

    When I did the GDL at BPP all we were allowed to take in was a tabbed and highlighted statute book.

    I would choose BPP every time. They provide you with comprehensive manuals that explain the law clearly and in a relevant manner. I still use them on the BPTC. You have a much greater flexibility with lectures: as they are all recorded and put online, you can choose to watch them when you want to, and have the additional advantage of being able to pause and rewind when you miss something (which is likely if you’re taking thorough notes). It allows you to structure your own working week and save money on transport, with you only having to go into campus two days per week (though you’ll be working solidly for at least three further days of the week from home). If you happen to miss a tutorial you also get the opportunity to do a “second chance tutorial” the next week in the evening. This is all very useful if you’re doing mini-pupillages, FRU or other similar work (or you just happen to fall ill).

    The teaching staff are nearly all excellent and very responsive to the students. When problems cropped up, they went out of their way to accommodate them.

    In short, BPP gives you a level of flexibility and control that the other providers don’t. Or at least it did last year.

    • Excellent points.

      I agree with you about open book exams. Applying the definition that “open book” means having the textbook rather than a book of statutes, the College of Law exams are NOT open book. We are given a new copy of the statutes for the exams – not even tabbing and highlighting is allowed.

      I’ve got the CoL manuals, and I’ve seen the City manuals, and I think that the course materials are quite much-of-a-muchness. In my opinion, they’re not going to be the thing that swings the decision one way or the other. Things that do add value are the aspects that you mention about lecture flexibility – I wish that our lectures were recorded for that exact reason, though the CoL has a policy at the moment not to do that – and the ability to do a make-up tutorial without hassle.

      It’s difficult to judge without experiencing the other providers, but you speak in glowing terms of BPP and that can only be a positive sign. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Ashley

  4. Filemot says:

    Are they no distance learning GDLs any more? I did it that way with a few study weekends and it worked really well and I could pay the mortgage and the fees without going into debt

  5. Lynda Bewley says:

    BPP offers the GDL by distance learning with online supervision and optional face-to-face supervision. If your circumstances change after registration you can switch between modes and you can personalise your timetable during the core teaching period following induction.

    We offer support classes for the distance learning GDL in Cambridge, Dublin, Liverpool and Newcastle, in addition to one seminar per month in Dublin, Liverpool and Newcastle, and one per fortnight in Cambridge.

    You’ll find all the details here: http://www.bpplawschool.com/programmes/gdl/modes_study.htm

    I hope this is helpful and thanks to Ashley for offering us the opportunity to input on his blog post!

    Best wishes

    Lynda

  6. I’ve been meaning to add my two cents to this post for a while. Having attended the College of Law’s open evening tonight I feel a little more qualified to comment on providers.

    I studied Politics and French at university, a degree which provided me with a variety of skills and interests but no clear career path. After temping for a while I decided I needed more structure to my career and law was the natural choice. I had previously written off law due to the astronomical tuition fees of the GDL. As Ashley points out, there are a number of loans available but these should come with a serious health warning. Taking on such a large loan at a young age is a real gamble and if you are considering taking the loan my advice would be to take advantage of ALL of the opportunities you are offered whilst studying. The financial burden will pay off if you secure a training contract but prospective law students must be prepared to really show their commitment to the profession. Self-funding alone doesn’t show commitment. Its the extra-curricular activities, the range of activities you get involved in and the skills you draw from them which will be attractive to recruiters. Good grades is just not enough.

    I self-funded the GDL by studying part-time. I worked full-time in a role which put me under a lot of pressure at times but still managed to complete the GDL with a commendation. It is do-able. I think the part-time route is often over-looked by many students when they’re making their decisions. The part-time route may take longer but why rush? An extra 12 months is really not going to hold back your career. Its a great way to gain work experience whilst avoiding a huge amount of debt. Most providers offer a range of part-time options which has made the GDL far more accessible. I’m not going to pretend that its an easy route to take, it requires discipline and quite a few late nights but its completely possible to balance with a normal (i.e. social) life.

    Which brings me on to providers. For my GDL I went to a more “budget” provider. I chose the provider based on location and fees. The GDL is not a practical course so the provider you choose won’t necessary be the first concern of a legal recruiter. By and large the GDL is a memory test. If you’re a self-starter who gets more out of self-directed study and you’re worried about the cost of self-funding the GDL and LPC then don’t waste your money on a provider with all the bells and whistles. You can direct your own study if you are well organised and committed.

    I have recently made the decision to self-fund my LPC and will study part-time again from september. Once again, I’ve chosen part-time in order to avoid taking a massive loan. Yes, its a longer route and of course I wish I was in a legal role already but I will have the whole of the rest of my working life to be a solicitor. And with the current age of retirement as it is, that’s a very long time. When it comes to the LPC I do think the provider you choose is more important. The LPC is a course which teaches practical skills, skills which law firms are going to be relying on to get their work. So its probably worth the investment to choose a provider who can prove their worth by attracting the leading law firms. I visited the College of Law’s Bloomsbury campus this evening to help me make my mind up. Im not going to say I was impressed by the facilities, Im not, they’re pretty standard. Classrooms, check. Library with books, check. Functioning coffee machine, check, generic rows of computers, check. What really impressed me however, was the way in which the course is delivered. There are no lectures, a large proportion of the teaching is delivered online, and the College (as they like to call it) is committed to innovation in their digital offerings (evidenced by the attendance of friendly staff on hand to record opinions on how to improve the College’s multimedia resources). These are the kind of things which impress me and my GDL provider was seriously lacking in this area.

    Adding my comments has made me realise that the one piece of advice I want to get across is that prospective law students should see themselves as consumers. Shop around. Find a provider who suits your style of learning. Interrogate them, tell them how you want to learn. You will be making a huge investment. Find a provider who will allow you to tailor your experience to what you want to get out of your legal education. If you want to get involved with pro bono work (which you should as its the best way to get hands-on legal experience) then choose a provider with a range of opportunities. If you want an interactive experience then find a provider who understands the application of technology in legal education (they are out there). If you just want to jump through the hoop and pass the course, save your money and go to a cheaper provider.

    Its been a long day and most of the above has not been articulated in a particularly eloquent way so apologies for that but I hope this will help.

    Happy to answer questions / add to the debate further if required.

    Alice

  7. Jon Harman says:

    Many thanks Alice for your kind comments, we take innovation and investment in our learning media very seriously. Yourself and others may be interested in these recordings of live webinars we recently did with prospective students:

    How Our LPC will increase your employability – http://media.lawcol.com/Video_player/webinar_HowOurLPCWillMaximiseYourEmployability_4PM.htm

    Be A Lawyer – switch to a career in law – http://mediatest.lawcol.com/Video_player/webinar_Be_a_Lawyer_Switch_to_a_Career_in_Law.htm

    We will be doing further live webinars, please register interest for them here: http://www.college-of-law.co.uk/webinars/

    They are opportunities to ask questions about the courses and careers advice.

  8. Really interesting post Ashley – thanks for giving us the opportunity to comment!

    We reckon that what matters most when choosing a GDL provider is finding the law school and course that’s right for you. So it’s really important that prospective students take the time to fully research their short-list of law schools – check out the official information, but also speak to current/former students about their experience. You are making an investment in your future, so you want to be sure you are making the right choice. Attending an open day/evening like Alice did can be a fantastic way to really get a feel for an institution and how you will learn…

    In response to Filemot, The College of Law offers a range of flexible part-time GDL courses designed to help students fit study around other commitments:

    – 2 year part-time – evening (2 weekday study evenings per week)
    – 2 year part-time – day (maximum 12 weekday study days per year)
    – 2 year part-time – weekend (maximum 12 weekend study days per year)
    – 18 month S-mode (online study + 9 weekend study/exam days over 18 months)

    We also offer a 2-day timetabling option for our full-time GDL, where you can condense your face-to-face tuition into 2 set days per week.

    Visit our website for more info and locations:
    http://www.college-of-law.co.uk/Our-Courses/GDL/GDL-study-modes/

    Hope this helps – and more than happy to answer any questions!

    Holly Kilner, The College of Law

  9. I just wanted to leave a few of my thoughts on having done the GDL last year at BPP as a full-time student. I remember making my decision on the basis on recommendations, the 1:1 lecture/tutorial ratio and the online features. Also, I wasn’t certain I would go straight onto the LPC afterwards so the option of being able to convert my GDL to an LLB either through distance learning or a summer course appealed to me. I am currently taking a year out, and with my current schedule (mostly involving Come Dine With Me) – I think I am seriously considering taking it on.

    But having done the GDL at BPP, I would have to concur with Garrulous Law’s assessment of BPP’s delivery of the GDL course. But since I am an aspiring lawyer I would like to get a word in for the sake of it.

    At BPP (and perhaps generally on the GDL) you are pretty much spoon-fed all you need to know and its up to you how much of the resources you need to keep on top of the work set. This ranges from the manuals, online lectures, and second-chance tutorials to the revision materials (especially the revision lectures which are invaluable). The regular online lectures especially were a godsend as I stopped going to live lectures a month or so in and managed to timetable my studying the way I wanted to. I also found the teacher staff a lot more receptive and less aloof than in academia. Though they are bound by what extra material they can give autonomously, as BPP has some sort of policy on standardising course materials as much as possible.

    However, there is the feeling, especially at Waterloo where you feel as if you’re in a lawyer ‘factory’ as pretty much everybody in the building is on the GDL. And staying in the same room for all your tutorials is too much like primary school. I would guess it is the same as for any other provider. I think maybe BPP has a couple more assessments throughout the year which helps ease the pressure on end-of-year exams, not that you might feel it at the time.

    As for differences between providers – I am certain there no real ‘academic’ distinction between the four main providers as the course is standardised across the board, and the quality of teaching would vary within each institution as much as between them. Only CoL and BPP may have the advantage of more flexible study modes. My advice would be to see which provider ticks you boxes in terms of practicality (location/cost/study modes) and in terms of ‘added value’. If you think one provider offers you a better shot of building up your skills and experiences e.g. pro bono schemes, extra courses, talks, presentations, careers fairs etc. that you could get the practical benefit from if you put in the extra effort required – go for that one.

    Although all this can be avoided by getting a training contract in the first place and letting the firm choose for you. If only it was that simple.

    A more general point I would like to make is that though the GDL is the formal start for non-lawyers to start their legal training, it would help if you are comfortable and value doing the GDL on its own merit as well – especially if you are self-funding. Keeping open-minded about your options after the GDL is important and being able to step away and see the big picture. I have taken a year out myself to gain a greater variety of experiences, both legal and non-legal, and I would think that many self-funding candidates should be prepared to do the same in the event they do not get a training contract.

  10. Nicole says:

    Hiya,

    I was wondering what the assessment break up is like; how much are exams/ course work worth on the CoL GDL. Is it 100 per cent exams, etc.

    • Hi Nicole,

      At the College we have two pieces of coursework. The larger one is worth 13.5% and I believe that the smaller one is worth 6.5%, leaving 80% to be split equally between the 7 exams in the summer, one in each of the core subjects (Tort, Land, Criminal, EU, Equity & Trusts, Contract and Public). My numbers may be slightly off but that’s pretty much it.

      Hope that helps. Any more questions, please let me know.

      Ash

  11. lostandconfused says:

    Hi there

    I’m currently studying a foreign LLB in a common law country and I was wondering how to go about becoming a solicitor in the UK ? I’m considering to study a GDL at the CoL and I was wondering when to apply for a TC, after the GDL or before GDL in essence the firm will be one funding my GDL ? If after the GDL, I was also considering to study as paralegal to close the year gap while waiting for a TC as firms offer TCs two years in advance ? Or am I all over the place, lols. I need a structured way to go about this. Please help.

    • Hi,

      For larger firms, recruitment happens two years in advance of start date to allow for completion of the GDL (if necessary) and the LPC. If you are thinking of doing a GDL this September, you can apply for training contracts now, so that your year can be funded. Of course, once you have begun the GDL you can also continue to apply. If, as you say, you have a year in between (say, for example, you start the GDL next year and then get a TC for a 2014 start), you should be able to find work for that extra year. Many firms contact their future trainees first if they have a need for paralegals, and you are likely to be able to find legally-related work to fill your time. You might wish, though, to spend the year doing something a bit more exciting given that your career as a lawyer will hopefully be a long one!

      Hope that helps.

      Ashley

  12. Candice says:

    Hi Ashley,

    How did you find the level of difficulty to read exams on all the subjects at the end of the programme? I currently live in Hong Kong and will be using the GDL to gain admission into the PCLL program in Hong Kong. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postgraduate_Certificate_in_Laws) To be admitted to the better universities, applicants are required to achieve a high 2:2 in the GDL program. I heard the program is very intensive, in that case would you advice to complete the GDL program in 1 year?

    Thank you for your kind response.

    Warm Regards
    Candice

    • Hi Candice,

      This is a very good question. The exams were very tough and intensive, as you say. We had to sit 7 exams, each lasting three hours, in a period of 11 days. The course itself during the year requires you to work consistently but not ridiculously hard, but the exams were certainly a challenge. However, the fact is that the majority of students who attempt the GDL do so full-time (i.e. in one year) and the majority of students who take the GDL achieve reasonable results.

      I will be in a better position to answer this question once my own exam results have come out and I know how the exams are marked. What I would cautiously say, though, is that whilst the course material does not change whether you attempt the course full-time or part-time, the ability to do fewer exams in each sitting can only be advantageous if you need to get higher marks. But this must be balanced with the additional time it will take, and the fact that it will probably need to be combined with a full-time job, which may leave less time for studying. Contacting the colleges might be best as they can give you a better idea of the requirements in terms of your time during the course.

      Perhaps someone who has done the GDL part-time will give a more enlightened answer than I have been able to give.

      Hope that has helped.

      All the best,

      Ashley

      • Hi Candice and Ashley

        As a former and future part-time student, I can certainly add some perspective on studying for the GDL part-time over two years. Let me start by saying that part-time study is certainly not for the faint hearted. When you’re a part-time student with a full-time job, you simply can’t eat, sleep and live law. Having a full-time job with obligations and responsibilities is tiring enough before you throw evening lectures and weekend preparation into the mix. Full-time students have the advantage of being able to place themselves in a legal mindset 24 hours a day (if they so wish). Part-time students do not have this luxury (but often wish they did). When you’re studying part-time to lessen the financial burden of law school, the day job remains highly important and this means that everything law related is completed in your spare time. As Ashley mentioned above, the course is intensive and this is equally true of the part-time course. Exams need thorough preparation and I found that I needed to use nearly all of my annual leave for study purposes. Two years with very little spare time or time off work is a long time.

        Initially, I disagreed with Ashley’s suggestion that the ability to do fewer exams in each sitting can be advantageous if you need to get higher marks. If you are working in a demanding full-time job with limited annual leave, there is no advantage as you will have very little time to study. When I was studying part-time, we started with 60 on the course and after the first year exams, this number was reduced to 20. There were a handful who had to resit second year exams which means that only 15/60 sucessfully made it through the course on their first attempt. I’m not aware of the first time pass mark for the full-time GDL and obviously it depends on the quality of the provider and personal circumstances but it does highlight how tough it can be to study part-time. However, if you wish to study part-time and money is not a problem (for example if you can afford not to work at all or can afford to work part-time), taking the exams over two years will certainly be an advantage if you need to achieve high marks.

        What I would highlight is that law exams are like any others, the more time you can put in, the more you will get out of them. I think that this is more important than the full-time / part-time distinction. Studying part-time is tough but it is do-able. I completed the GDL with a commendation and have signed up for the LPC as a part-time student. At the end of the day, you’ve got to choose a route which works best for you and allows you to achieve what you are aiming for, luckily, there are a number of study options out there which will help you to do that.

        I hope this helps!

        Alice

      • Candice says:

        Dear Ashley and Alice,

        Thank you very much for sharing your insights about the program. Your valuable comments have helped me greatly in my decision making process =)

        Cheers,
        Candice

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  14. Redford says:

    I’m looking at Nottingham Law School’s GDL course, through Kaplan Law School, (http://kaplan-law-school.kaplan.co.uk/GDL/Pages/default.aspx) which is supposed to be one of the better courses in London. Have you had any experience/do you have a take on the GDL from Nottingham Law School? Studying it through Kaplan?

    • Kaplan are very highly-rated for a number of things, such as their class sizes and the focus of their teaching. They also have admission tests for entry which means the standard is purportedly higher than at the other institutions. I think that if I were to have the opportunity again, I would consider them much more seriously than I did when I applied for my GDL. Have heard good things about them, and they’re starting to attract the big law firms. Nottingham Law School has always been very well-respected.

      Hope this helps. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask.

  15. Olga Sviridenko says:

    Hi Ashley,

    I am not happy with my career in city and would like to apply for law conversion course, only one my concern is age.. Do you think it is too late if I am 37 now?
    My concern is also if I will able to find employmant after completing this course, I will be nearly 40..
    Your advice will be very much appriciated in this.

    Alexandra

    • Hi Alexandra,

      There are certainly risks attached to changing careers, and I am not the best person to advise you on the likelihood of acceptance. Nobody can discriminate on the grounds of age, but that does not mean that it is not more difficult for career changers to secure City training contracts. Your career in the City will help a great deal on this front, though, as it means you will bring experience and knowledge of the City and its practices (not to mention contacts) to the table. I cannot advise you on whether or not you should leave your job. It might be worth considering studying for the GDL part-time whilst working and sending off applications to law firms for training contracts.

      I hope this helps.

      Ash

  16. Zena says:

    Hi Ashley,

    I am currently pursuing a GDL from the UK, full-time and by way of distance learning since I currently reside in Dubai. I noticed that you have highlighted 4 law schools that are well renowned (BPP Law School, Kaplan Law School, City Law School, and College of Law). I have received offers from BPP as well as from The University of Huddersfield. After conducting my research, trying to decide which university would be right for me and considering that studying for a GDL at BPP costs twice as much as studying for a GDL at The University of Huddersfield, I felt more comfortable with The University of Huddersfield.

    My questions for you are, based on your experience, do you think I should go ahead with The University of Huddersfield as opposed to BPP? In your opinion, do grades matter more than which school you studied your GDL? My plan is to study for my GDL at The University of Huddersfield while applying for training contracts but in your opinion, would there be a higher chance of me getting a training contract if I were to be studying at BPP for my GDL?

    I do not know many lawyers let alone many that have studied in the UK, so any advice would really be helpful!

    Thanks!

    Zena Hamwi

    • Hi Zena,

      It is very difficult to assess exactly the merits of studying at one place rather than another on the sole basis of the chances of getting a training contract. There can be a whole range of reasons which go towards an institution’s ‘success rate’ for their students going on to get TCs, to do with location, fees etc.

      I have looked at the course fees, and can see that the gap is vast. I don’t know anything else about your circumstances, your undergraduate grades or the type of firm you want to work for, so you’ll have to factor those things in. What is undeniable, though, is that the reputation of BPP is far greater than the reputation of the University of Huddersfield, which may have an impact for recruiters from firms at the top of the market, whether consciously or unconsciously. Whether this is worth the price difference to you, only you can make that decision.

      I hope this helps.

      All the best with your studies,

      Ash

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Zena,

      Can I ask you which college you decided to study with? I am in a similar position to you in deciding what institute to go with for studying the GDL. I want to study it by distance learning as I am living in Abu Dhabi.

      Thank you,

      Elaine.

  17. Patricia says:

    Hi Ashley,

    I am so lucky to have found this blog. I was just accepted as an International student to COL. I was wondering if you had any information on international students and there views on returning to North America with either the GDL or after having completed the LPC or BPTC?

    Thank you

    • Hi Patricia,

      Thank you – always happy if this blog comes in useful. Congratulations on your acceptance. I’m afraid I’m not an expert in going from the UK to the US, but I do know a couple of things. The first is that different states in the USA have different requirements, but New York, for instance, does not accept the GDL as a qualifying law degree – it requires you to have studied law for a minimum of three years. California, it appears from the little bit of research I have done, will accept people who have done the GDL and LPC/BPTC but only after they have qualified. I got this information from a document produced by a university. I think the US legal graduate market is hard to break in to anyway – without lots of work experience, it appears to be a lot harder. I’m afraid I know even less about Canada.

      I wish you all the very best of luck, and suggest that if your only aim is to do the GDL and LPC/BPTC (I am presuming you know which of these you want to do – you probably should by this stage) and then go to North America, you do plenty of research before you take up your place at the College.

      Best,

      Ashley

  18. Catherine says:

    Just a thought for those of you who may never have considered studying for the GDL in Northern Ireland as an option.

    Queen’s University Belfast (which is in the Russell Group) offers a Masters in Legal Science (MLegSc) which is a two-year full time course and acts as a qualifying law degree as well as a masters course. Having recently graduated with my (non-law) undergraduate degree, I can vouch for the university’s excellent facilities and warm welcome for local, over-seas and international students. As the university fees in Northern Ireland have not increased alongside those in the UK, some may find that the university is more cost effective (although it is a two-year course, at aprox. £3,950 a year). Further to this – the cost of living is very reasonable in Belfast; I have never paid more than £220 p/month on rent and my current house is a two minute walk from the university.

    Finally – just to clarify, N.I. law is the same as UK law, so you will not encounter any difficulties if you decide to take your professional qualifications in England or Wales.

    Regards,
    Catherine

    • Carter says:

      Hi,

      I am about to start my GDL with BPP full-time via distance learning.

      I have also just been offered a mon-fri 9-5 job which is pretty relaxed.

      Do you think it is possible to do both and still get a good (commendation) result?

      I am willing to slog it out all day, all week until the weekend to acheive this.

      Any advice would be helpful, I know it would obviously be a nightmare but if people can offer experience then that would be great.

      Thanks!

      Carter

    • Sohail says:

      Hi

      I would like to commend this blog very much and would like to take this opportunity to ask/comment on a few things.

      I’ve gathered that the top law schools overall according to my 2-3 day research states that CoL,BPP, City are the good and final three, of which I consider CoL and City to be satisfying choices. For me it’s the conversion of the GDL to LLB that draws the interest the most. However, I’ve also gathered that GDL’s on their own are not exactly recognised internationally and an LLB is. However the CoL award the LLB after completion of the GDL Along with the LPC, it will have cost you an awful amount to get an LLB if you wanted an LLB out of it, purely doing the GDL for the LLB I personally think City and BPP is better and the latter does not seem satisfying since some recruiters prefer the LLB from a respectable university not so much of an argument but the fact that it exists is still something to think about. An LLB degree awarded by City after doing some modules in the summer after the GDL will be I think a respectable qualification since its not from a private “college” but a university.

      This is my take on the GDL for 2012 onwards and I’ve totally ignored the fees because I’m looking for the best options regardless of fees.

      Thanks

  19. Emma Tameside says:

    I’ve been considering a GDL for a while now, and this article was extremely helpful. My only concern is the financial aspect behind it, but from reading your article, I feel as though I should definitely secure a suitable job that’s near campus beforehand.

    Again, I can’t thank you enough, and I have this book-marked for future reference. Keep sharing, your articles are jam-packed with useful information, and count me in as a regular reader!

  20. Gumru Mehdiyeva says:

    Hi guys,

    I am writing you with regard to the GDL programme that I wish to pursue from January on. I have got accepted by both College of Law (London Moorgate) and BPP Law school(london waterloo) for full time GDL programme. I am myself a qualified lawyer back home (which is international and in order to practice as a lawyer in the UK I need GDL) and recently graduated from KIng’s College London (LLM Programme in International Business and Commercial Law). I need your advice to choose at which college to start my GDL. I kind of favour BPP Law school as, if I take two extra modules I can get LLB without a need to take LPC. But still some of my friends says me that College of Law has for more prestige than BPP. I considered all details (course fee, location) but both seem to have almost same conditions. So I ask your advice which one would you go for? Or if you have already studied at one of them which one would you recommend me?

    Thanks in advance..

    Regards, Gumru

  21. Emma Green says:

    Just come across this blog and the information has been really helpful! I am going to be applying for the GDL quite soon and I am looking to do it in London. So far, I have London Met as my first choice and BPP and College of Law as third. London Met is mainly my first choice because it is cheaper for me. I have looked and compared the course content and they seem the same. Do you think barristers chambers will be less likely to employ me because it has been at the London Met rather than BPP or Col?? I’m just really not sure I can afford the BPP!!
    Also my second question is, you apply through CAL with 3 choices. Does your application get sent to all 3 choices and then they make you offers and you can decide? Or is it sent to your first choice and then if you don’t get offered a place it gets sent to your second choice etc.? Thanks in advance!

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