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How Hard is the GDL?⠀

The GDL, or the Graduate Diploma in Law, covers the seven core law modules you study during the LLB over ten months rather than three years. Therefore, the course is considered to be very intensive. This page will guide you through how difficult the GDL actually is, and whether the time and effort is truly worth it.


Is the GDL Hard?

The answer? Pretty hard! Essentially, you’ll be condensing three years worth of study into just one year, so it’s important you understand the commitment you will be undertaking.

Is the GDL for Me?

The course is very intense, and therefore time management is essential, as Jagmaan, a former GDL student at The University of Law, explains:

“When I was doing the GDL we were told that as full-time students we would have to do 50 hours a week of study. Not every week will be that intense, but neither will it be unusual for you to be spending 30+ hours preparing for lessons during certain parts of the course.

That being said, you are encouraged to take breaks, especially during the weekends. You also get some relief around Easter before your revision begins.”

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Is the GDL Worth it?

With the difficulty, the costs and the time involved, you may be wondering whether the GDL is worth completing at all. The following section details the benefits of the GDL, and whether or not it’s right for you.

Benefits of the GDL

Whilst the prospect of the course may seem daunting, there are many benefits you can gain from completing it.

Firstly, the GDL allows you to progress onto the next stage of becoming a qualified lawyer if you haven’t completed a qualifying law degree.

You may be tempted by a number of other routes into the legal professional, including:

Whilst the former option is more cost-effective, it will only allow you to become a chartered legal executive, rather than a solicitor. The latter, part-time study and paralegalling, usually takes around four years, which is significantly longer than the single year it takes to complete the GDL.

If your aspirations are to become a solicitor or a barrister, the GDL is the fastest route you can take.

Secondly, as opposed to LLB students, it allows you to study a non-law subject at degree level. Firms and chambers have stated that the breadth of knowledge and skills a non-law degree gives students is very beneficial to their organisations.

Find out more about why firms and chambers like non-law applicants here >>

Thirdly, the fact that the GDL is known to be so intensive works in your favour. A student who has completed the GDL automatically asserts themselves as organised, good with their time and able to work under pressure to employers. An accredited course, this extra qualification provides another layer of credibility to your applications, and especially proves your commitment to law.

However, even if you know you’re going to be completing the GDL after your undergraduate degree, make sure you still work hard at your non-law degree. This is because firms and chambers will still be looking at your undergraduate grades when considering you for a training contract or pupillage.

So is the GDL worth it? Yes – if you want to become a solicitor or a barrister. You will need to learn how to prioritise your time effectively, but by working hard for a year, you open numerous doors to the legal industry.

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GDL Job Prospects

As mentioned above, employers really value students who have completed the GDL due to the positive implications around those who excel in it. Not only does it show your commitment to law and ability to manage a heavy workload, but you will also have a whole different skill set to LLB students from the completion of your non-law degree.

Therefore, job prospects for the GDL are very good and it’s a really viable path into law.

What Can I Do With the GDL?

You don’t just have to become a lawyer once you have completed the GDL; any career path that requires a basic knowledge of law will be available to you. This includes academia and legal journalism, both of which the GDL provides an excellent amount of experience to pursue.

It can also be a good entrance into the third sector, as understanding and completing pro bono experience can help you to understand the legal issues addressed by non-for-profit organisations.

With the GDL, you can go on to complete the LPC, which is the final course you will need to undertake before starting your training contract and becoming a qualified solicitor. Or, alternatively, the BPTC, allowing you to apply for pupillage and become a qualified barrister.

GDL Job Opportunities

Once you have completed the course and any following qualifications, you can start applying to training contracts or pupillage. Take a look at our Training Contract Deadlines Calendar to see more GDL job opportunities, or find out more about applying for pupillage through our Pupillage Gateway page here.


Learn more about the Graduate Diploma in Law:

Author: Isabella Ford

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