Graduate Diploma in Law – or ‘Law Conversion Course’
What is a Graduate diploma in law – commonly known as a law conversion course? And what are the entry requirements? If you’re thinking of studying the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), this page will provide you with all the information you need before applying.
Want to hear directly from law conversion course candidates? Check out our GDL case studies from BPP and The College of Law. You can also read more about studying law as a mature student on our Mature Applicants page.
NOTE: As at today’s date, to pursue a career as a solicitor, you will need to complete the GDL following a non-law degree (unless you undertake a law apprenticeship). However, following the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA’s) announcement on 25 April 2017, the way solicitors will train and qualify will change dramatically once their new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) takes effect. The SQE is set to be introduced from September 2020, which will mark the phasing out of the GDL. To find out more, click on the link! The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
Should you convert to law? Take the quiz!
What is a Graduate Diploma in Law / ‘Law Conversion Course’?
The Graduate Diploma in Law (the GDL) (interchangeably referred to as the Common Professional Examination (the CPE) is essentially a law conversion course. It is fast-paced and intensive course intended for students who have graduated in a non-law degree subject wanting to convert to law and qualify as a solicitor or barrister.
It is therefore the proverbial stepping stone to either the:
- Legal Practice Course (LPC) (if pursuing the traditional route to practice as a solicitor); or
- Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) (for those wanting to practice as a barrister).
What Subjects are Covered by a Graduate Diploma in Law / ‘Law Conversion Course’?
It condenses a law degree down into a one year course (full-time) or a two year course (part-time) focusing on the core legal subjects of:
- Contract law
- Criminal Law
- Equity and Trusts
- European Union Law
- Land Law
- Public Law
- Tort Law
What is the Format of the Graduate Diploma in Law / ‘Law Conversion Course’?
The exact format of the law conversion course will vary from provider to provider, but generally, the GDL is made up of a combination of lectures and tutorials spread over the week. It is not uncommon to have 14 contact hours per week on full-time courses, with significantly less on part-time courses. In addition to the allocated contact hours, you will be expected to spend 2-3 hours preparing for each tutorial you attend. Preparing thoroughly provide you with the best chance of success of the GDL!
To give you an idea of how the course may be structured, Izzy, in our GDL Case Study – BPP, said that her course was split into 2 lecture days and 2 tutorial days with one day off. A typical day at BPP involved two or three hours of lectures or tutorials, with the rest of the day being spent finishing tutorial prep in the library. The earliest start Izzy had was 9am and latest she would typically finish was around 6pm.
You can read more about studying law as a mature student on our Mature Applicants page.
What are the Benefits of the Graduate Diploma in Law / ‘Law Conversion Course’?
Many law firms and barristers chambers view candidates who have come via the GDL route positively for a variety of reasons:
- Non-law degree/GDL candidates are considered to possess a diverse breadth of transferable skills and knowledge
- Completing the GDL on the back of a non-law degree shows clear commitment and motivation for the study and practice of law
Which is better – a law degree or a conversion course? Read the full debate here and make your judgement!
Graduate Diploma in Law / ‘Law Conversion Course’ Entry Requirements
Most institutions will expect you to have completed a UK undergraduate degree (with a 2:2 as a minimum) or equivalent qualification.
Note however that a large proportion of law firms and chambers will expect you to have gained a 2:1 at undergraduate degree level (unless extenuating circumstances exist). This, coupled with significant course fees should be seriously considered when deciding to apply for the course.
Where Can I Study a Graduate Diploma in Law / ‘Law Conversion Course’?
Take a look at GDL Course Comparison Table to find out more about where you can study and how much it is likely to cost.
Usually you are free to decide where you wish to study. However, if you have already secured a training contract, your law firm may have an exclusive arrangement with a particular provider meaning that any choice is removed and you must complete the course there.
Full-Time Graduate Diploma in Law / ‘Law Conversion Course’ – The Application Process
All full-time course applications must be submitted through a centralised system known as the Central Applications Board (CAB). Any subsequent offers will then come direct from the providers themselves.
The CAB require you to submit:
- The CAB application form containing up to 3 choices of institution (in order of preference); and
- A registration fee of £18.
The application for requires you to include the following information:
- Personal details (your name and address)
- They type of lawyer you want to be (solicitor/barrister/undecided)
- Any exemptions to study
- Your employment history
- Who will pay for the course
In addition, the application form requires you to include a law personal statement of up to 10,000 characters. Guidance on the CAB website suggests that you should try and keep your personal statement as generic as possible, as it will be released to all the institutions you apply to. CAB also provides examples of information you may wish to include in your personal statement, including:
- Why you are applying for the course
- What interests you about the course
- What motivates you
- Skills and achievements
- Work experience
For further hints and tips on the content and structure of your law personal statement, click on the link – Law Personal Statement.
The CAB release applications to the various institutions on a rolling basis. Note that they will only release your applications to your chosen institutions on receipt of your form and fee, along with formal references from the referees nominated on your CAB application form.
Tip: make sure that permission is requested from any elected referee prior to submission of the application form.
Timings For Full-Time Graduate Diploma in Law / ‘Law Conversion Course’?
Applications should be submitted for full-time courses during the final year of your undergraduate studies.
Deadlines for full time GDL applications
There are no specific deadlines for applying for courses, although the Central Applications Board suggests making applications at your earliest convenience to limit the possible risk of not securing a place at your preferred institution.
Part-Time Graduate Diploma in Law / ‘Law Conversion Course’: Application Process and Timings
Applications for part-time courses should be made direct to institutions rather than through the CAB. It is advisable to check each institution’s website for full application details and deadlines in respect of part time study as these may vary.
The Cost of a Graduate Diploma in Law / ‘Law Conversion Course’?
Depending on the your chosen institution, course fees range between £5,000 and £10,000. If you secure a training contract prior to the commencement of the course, your law firm may cover your course fees and even offer a living allowance. If, however, you do not have this luxury, you will be expected to cover course fees and any living costs (accommodation, travel, food etc) personally so it is vital to ensure that you have access to the necessary funds before signing up to a course – and you are certain you want to go ahead with the course!
Funding a Graduate Diploma in Law / ‘Law Conversion Course’?
How you intend to fund your fees and living expenses needs serious consideration. Ways in which funds can be raised include:
You may consider securing a part time job to help fund your studies. Note, however, that this comes with a health warning, especially if you are enrolled on a full-time course. With all the preparation and study required in addition to attending attending classes, time will be limited. What you don’t want is for any part-time work to jeopardize and inhibit our performance on the course. As such, proceed down this route with caution.
- Law School Scholarships
- Law school flexible pricing structures
Skills to Employ to Successfully Study on a Graduate Diploma in Law / ‘Law Conversion Course’
The GDL is excellent preparation for a career in Law. The skills you need to employ to succeed on the GDL are the same as those which a trainee solicitor or barrister require, including:
- Effective time management
- Attention to detail for picking out the relevant facts from the questions and applying them to specific points of law
- Teamwork (a lot of the tutorial sessions centre on group activities)
- Commitment and stamina, especially during the difficult patches
What’s it like to study the GDL?
You can read our case studies with different students here:
- Max – studied the GDL after an undergraduate History degree
- Izzy – studied the GDL after an undergraduate French and Linguistics degree
- Diane – studied the GDL after an undergraduate degree