Graduate Diploma in Law – GDL Law Conversion Course
What is a Graduate Diploma in Law and what are the entry requirements for the GDL law conversion course?
If you’re thinking of studying the GDL law course, this page will provide you with all the information you need before applying.
Need some more help deciding on law? Take a look at our page for non-law students.
the non-law student guide is here
What is the GDL?
The GDL, otherwise known as the Graduate Diploma in Law, is a postgraduate law conversion course for non-law graduates who want to pursue a legal career.
Also known as the Common Professional Examination or CPE, the Graduate Diploma in Law is a year-long intensive course for students who have graduated with a non-law degree subject. For GDL students, the aim is to qualify as a solicitor or barrister.
The GDL is the stepping stone from a non-law degree to either the:
- Legal Practice Course (LPC) – if pursuing a career as a solicitor;
- Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) – if pursuing a career as a barrister.
Those wishing to enter either of the above professions must complete the GDL law conversion course if they haven’t completed a qualifying LLB law degree.
GDL Law Conversion Course Structure
The structure of the law conversion course varies from provider to provider, but generally, the course is formed by a combination of lectures and tutorials.
GDL students generally have 14 contact hours per week on full-time UK GDL courses, with significantly fewer hours on part-time courses.
In addition to the allocated contact hours, as a GDL student, you will be expected to spend 2-3 hours preparing for each of your law tutorials. Preparing thoroughly gives you the best chance of success and gaining a coveted GDL distinction.
BPP student and contributor Izzy, in our GDL Case Study for BPP, writes about the structure of the course on her blog post.
For daily tips and tricks on how to succeed with your law conversion course, join our Non-Law Students Facebook Help Group!
Join the non-law students facebook help group
The Graduate Diploma in Law / Common Professional Examination condenses an LLB law degree down into a one-year full-time course or a two-year part-time course.
The topics of study are the same as the LLB subjects studied during a traditional undergraduate course:
- Contract law
- Criminal Law
- Equity and Trusts
- European Union Law
- Land Law
- Public Law
- Tort Law
GDL Application Process
All full-time GDL applications must be submitted through a centralised system called the Central Applications Board (CAB). Any offers will then come directly from the GDL universities.
The Central Applications Board requires you to submit:
- The CAB application form containing up to three institution choices (in order of preference)
- A registration fee of £15.
The GDL application form requires the following information:
- Personal details
- They type of lawyer you want to qualify as (solicitor/barrister/undecided)
- Any exemptions to study
- Your employment history
- Who will pay for the course
The CAB release applications to the various institutions on a rolling basis. It will only release your applications to your chosen institutions on receipt of your form and registration fee, along with formal references from the referees nominated on your application form.
Tip: make sure that you ask permission from any elected referee before submitting the application form.
When to Apply for GDL
Applications for the GDL open around the 1st October for courses starting the following year. This means that, as a future GDL student, you should apply for the GDL during the final year of your undergraduate studies.
There is no GDL application deadline. Applications are dealt with on a rolling basis. However, the Central Applications Board suggests submitting yours as early as possible to ensure you secure a place at your preferred institution.
GDL Personal Statement Guidance
The GDL personal statement is a core part of the Central Applications Board’s application process. This piece of text must be up to 10,000 characters (around 1,500 to 2,000 words) and explain why you are interested in converting to law from a non-law degree, among other things.
The Central Applications Board suggests that you should try and keep your GDL personal statement as generic as possible, as it will be released to all the institutions you apply to.
The CAB also provides examples of information you may wish to include in your GDL 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 more law personal statement tips, visit our guide by clicking the link below.
the non-law student guide is here
To study the Graduate Diploma in Law, most institutions will require you to have completed a non-law degree and gained a minimum of a 2:2.
However, a large proportion of law firms and chambers will expect you to have a 2:1 at undergraduate degree level (except for in extenuating circumstances).
This, coupled with significant course fees, should be seriously considered when deciding to apply for the law conversion course.
See a full list of Graduate Diploma in Law providers and their entry requirements with our GDL Comparison Table.
Where Can I Study a Law Conversion Course?
Usually, you are free to decide where you wish to study and there are GDL courses in institutions all over the UK.
However, if you have already secured a training contract, your law firm funding your GDL may have an exclusive arrangement with a particular provider meaning that you must complete the course there.
How Much does the GDL Cost?
The cost of the GDL varies institution by institution. Like with other undergraduate and postgraduate courses, GDL costs are higher in London, so if you want to save money on the price of your GDL, you should look for courses in other UK cities. Check out our GDL courses page to compare GDL fees.
If you’re worried about not being able to pay for your studies, there are various GDL funding opportunities available to aspiring lawyers, such as scholarships and law firm sponsorship.
Should you convert to law? Take the quiz!
How Will the SQE Affect the Graduate Diploma in Law?
Currently, to pursue a career as a solicitor, you will need to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law after a non-law degree (unless you undertake a law apprenticeship).
However, following the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) announcement on 25 April 2017, the way solicitors will train and qualify will change dramatically once their new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) takes effect in September 2020.
To find out more, visit our page on The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
After your Graduate Diploma in Law, you’ll be able to progress onto either the Legal Practice Course for aspiring solicitors or the Bar Professional Training Course for aspiring barristers.
If you’re planning on becoming a solicitor, you will have to think about getting a training contract after the GDL and LPC.
If the barrister route is your chosen career path, a pupillage follows the BPTC and is the last stage before qualifying as a barrister.
If, after you finish your law conversion course, you decide that a career in law isn’t for you after all, there are plenty of other jobs for you after your GDL, such as in politics, journalism and the police force.
GDL Online and Distance Learning
GDL distance learning is a good option for mature students studying law. It gives those in full-time work or with family commitments the flexibility to juggle other responsibilities while studying.
You can read more about studying law as a mature student on our Mature Applicants page >>
Benefits of the Law Conversion Course
Many law firms and barristers chambers view candidates who have come via the law conversion course route positively for a variety of reasons:
- Non-law degree candidates are considered to possess a diverse breadth of transferable skills and knowledge;
- Completing the Graduate Diploma in Law on the back of a non-law degree shows clear commitment and motivation for practising law.
For more benefits, take a look at our guide for non-law students here>>
The Big Debate
Which is better – a law degree or a conversion course? Read the full debate here and make your judgement!
What’s it Like to Study the Graduate Diploma in Law?
You can read our case studies with different students here:
- Max – studied the Graduate Diploma in Law after an undergraduate History degree
- Izzy – studied the law conversion course after an undergraduate French and Linguistics degree
- Diane – studied the Common Professional Examination after an undergraduate degree