GDL Route ‘Made Me a Damn Sight More Rounded Than If I Had Read An LLB’

OccupyTheInns backs Lord Sumption's recent pro-GDL comments, and draws paralells between drug shame pupil Henry Mostyn and new Spurs manager André Villas-Boas

After so much discussion recently about "accelerated" law degrees and legal apprenticeships, I was relieved to read over the weekend the ever-sensible Supreme Court Justice Lord Sumption standing up for the liberal arts route into our profession.

"I think that it is best not to read law as an undergraduate," Lord Sumption told Counsel magazine, with his comments subsequently carried by The Telegraph.

He proceeded to add: "The problem is that we have a generation of lawyers, and this applies to solicitors as well as barristers, who are coming into the profession with much less in the way of general culture than their predecessors.

Rarely have I ever read a truer word. As my regular readers will know, I took the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) route to the Bar, having previously studied a non-law degree at a leading Russell Group university. In order to preserve my anonymity, I won’t tell you which subject I studied, but I will say that it made me a damn sight more rounded an individual that if I had read an LLB.

Unfortunately, I fear that the apparent trend for 'getting education out of the way quickly' that we are seeing at the moment is leading chambers to discriminate against applicants who have undergone a broader education. This would account for several questions I have faced at interviews challenging the worth of gap year achievements and periods spent travelling. It is a worrying mindset.

An additional interesting point made by Lord Sumption saw the great man draw attention to the shameful insularity of many British graduates – in particular, highlighting their lack of wherewithal in the foreign language department: "It is very unfortunate, for example, that many of them cannot speak or read a single language other than their own,” he said.

Indeed, this is unfortunate. Having spent time in Asia, I am conversational in several of that continent’s languages. Furthermore, I have a good degree of fluency in both French, and more recently Portuguese following a language course I completed after two delightful recent visits to that charming country. These skills – and it is not just linguistic ability to which I refer, but wider cultural awareness that is invaluable when dealing with clients in a multicultural city like London – are held by too few. And I fear in this climate of educational utilitarianism that the situation will only get worse.

On a separate note,
may I say how disappointed I am for Henry Mostyn at not getting taken on for tenancy at 4 New Square.

Obviously 4 New has its policies, but it is a great shame to lose such a talent over something so trifling. I can only hope that Henry is snapped up by another chambers in the same way – transferring this to soccer – that Spurs have just potentially got themselves a great manager in André Villas-Boas, who many considered 'damaged goods' after his time at Chelsea but I suspect may confound the doubters.

OccupyTheInns graduated from the BPTC last summer, and was called to the Bar in July 2011. There's more from OccupyTheInns here.

23 Responses to “GDL Route ‘Made Me a Damn Sight More Rounded Than If I Had Read An LLB’”

  1. cjr1968

    You should study what you enjoy. I enjoyed every moment of my two law degrees. I found it a fascinating, rich and well-rounded subject. So why does that mean I am not as good a lawyer as if I had studied history, or the classics?
    It is not simply what degree you study that makes you the individual you are. It's travel, reading, the people you talk to, the life you choose. I know a lot about history because I choose to read about it, and that makes me a better lawyer. I didn't need to have a degree in it to enjoy it.
    I found at Bar School (admittedly two decades ago) that those who had done a law degree had better research skills: simply the ability to find a case, read it and pick the bones out of it. I think we'd had chance to develop those skills over three years rather than cramming them in to a conversion course. We were encouraged, having more time, to think about the development of the law. Why was it where it was and where would it go? (I particularly remember being taught Trusts by David Hayton and Contract by Tony Guest.) I think that having learned law in that way suited me.
    This is not to say that a non-law degree is not of any use and that law degrees are the only way to go. Different routes suit different people. I simply think that a law degree was a good thing for me and for many others.

    Reply
    • Uncle Solicitor

      Well this is an interesting observation from the good man, er Lord, who I see fits his self described ideal of the perfect practitioner by himself having undergone the experience of having another degree.

      The very interesting thing about humanities degrees is that one does not need to go to university to study their content. Further. the awarding of a humanities degree does not usually grant the holder a pre-requisite to entry into a profession. To spend the money and time at university studying humaniities rather than working or studying law (if one wishes to become an eminence gris practitioner in the mould of Uncle Solicitor) simply makes no sense: ones peers are likely to be slackers in comparison, even the lecturers will dwindle in the memory to become unimpressive specks in later years, and for the same money and time one could go to Mandalay and learn Burmese, go to Rome and learn ancient Roman History, work in a chip shop and learn management, or buy the easel, canvas and oils, and some good online instruction - and learn how to paint. In fact one could do all of these things before leaving school. Going to a university to learn these things is somewhat passe in the 21st Century - and if I know that then it must be true.

      One thing is certain - the humanities degree is a fine earner for the university - and as such if one wishes to fill the coffers of these places - by all means - enroll your sons and daughters in a degree in languages, arts, history or the like before they embark on a real degree, or start their working life at McDonalds with these degrees.

      A 23 year old with a degree only in one of these things strikes me as rather sad when you might compare them to contemporaries who hold law degrees, medical degrees or vet science degrees and have substantial knowledge in a complex and difficult body of knowledge and even an inkling of how to apply it.

      Remarkably, I never once had a client who wished that I had spent my valuable time as a young student learning the ins and outs of Ancient Egypt rather than spending time learning the very complex law of negotiable instruments, statutory interpretation, contract, crime etc. They all expected a level of competence in law. It would not have made me an more rounded to have studied a BA in Burmese at a university rather than traveling to Mandalay and learning the language in my own time. It would however, certainly have made a university richer and my wall more crowded with pieces of paper that impress no one (except perhaps, a select few).

      As for Mr Occupy, I am curious as to how he managed to become conversation in several asian languages - unless of course his idea of conversation is Hello, Goodbye and a few dozen other phrases. That to my way of thinking is not conversational. A 10 year old's command of language is conversation. Then again, I did not partake of a BA, so therefore perhaps I am not qualified to know.

      More whiskey Miss Murphy! Yes. I wonder if the master blender needed a degree in Whiskey History before learning his craft to undertake the creation of this fine blend. Yes, I doubt it very much.

      Reply
      • hmostyn [spoof]

        An excellent point! I think it is far better to study something intellectually rigorous, such as mathematics at Oxford. The Logic courses in particular were an excellent preparation for the Law, although I may have benefited from a fuller understanding of the intricate technicalities of it as they pertain to e.g. drug use and the Bar.

        Reply
      • BarBar

        Nah you're just a boring sod. Humanities degrees at good universities teach you about more than Cleopatra. It's about learning methods of critical thinking and analysis. Your approach to history will be inferior to a historian's. Lawyers are so arrogant, it's absolutely laughable.

        Reply
        • BarBar

          God I just read that again, Uncle Solicitor - you are a hypocrit. You rightly call up the occupy twat for lauding his own path through education as the best, only to peer down your nose at the humanities as "sad" and inferior to a law degree. I need to shower now, I can feel the smugness dripping off your fat fingers, through the screen and onto my skin.

          Reply
          • hmostyn [s(outhern)poof]

            Well done on being trolled. Does it feel good?

            (Hint: uncle solicitor is not an actual solicitor, OTI is just Alex having fun, and I'm not actually Henry Mostyn)

      • BarBar

        Especially when you can do the conversion courses and have a humanities degree plus the equivalent to a law degree after a year eh? Not exactly a barrier to success.

        Reply
  2. pibarrister

    It would be a mistake to assume that pupillage interview questions asking the interviewee to justify the worth of periods of travel/gap years, necessarily implies disapproval on the part of the interviewer. They may be simply testing your ability to argue a point.

    Reply
  3. hmostyn [spoof]

    Yes, OTI, your 2i from Warwick made you so rounded. Just like never having done any legal extra-curriculars before the GDL, being inspired to be a 'human rights barrister' (WTF is a human rights barrister? Do you even know the difference between the domestic Human Rights Act and Public International Law?) by seeing the WTC, and looking down on solicitors made you dedicated to a legal career. And just like being admitted onto a BVTC means you have been recognized as sufficiently elite for something.

    I'll take my top20 pupillage over roundedness any day of the week, and I did do the GDL. Not that my top20 pupillage has done me much good now :/

    Reply
  4. spodcrotch

    My God Occupy you really are fucking insufferable. This article seems like a bizarre attempt to 'reinvent' yourself and transition from straightforward moaning about your sense of entitlement and blaming everyone else for your own inadequacies to trying to parade your own brilliance in what might seem to you to be a tasteful, understated way but in fact shows you up to be the mediocre cretin that you are.

    Despite claiming that your education has made you so well-rounded, you trot out generic cliché after cliché and have proven in one fell swoop that you really are nothing special at all.

    Your poor reasoning ability is of course also on show as always, highlighted here by the assumption that Henry Mostyn was not taken on because of the drugs possession. What about the 3rd pupil who was also not taken on? Did he get caught with drugs too? Have you spoken to 4 New Square and been told that the drugs conviction was the sole and decisive reason why Mostyn was not taken on and he would have been had it not been for that? I'm sure everyone involved appreciates your superfluous analysis of the situation though.

    You have always shown yourself up to be an immature, whining little idiot but today you have really excelled yourself.

    Reply
  5. hmostyn [spoof]

    "Your poor reasoning ability is of course also on show as always, highlighted here by the assumption that Henry Mostyn was not taken on because of the drugs possession. "

    Come now, OTI gives you a column that involves an implicit comparison between 4 new square and Abramovich, and -that's- the best example of poor reasoning you can come up with?

    Reply
  6. spodcrotch

    That's my lack of previously studying a non-law degree at a leading Russell Group university showing... had I done so, I would have had the analytical toolset necessary to really get to grips with the complexity of Occupy's nuanced prose.

    Reply
  7. hmostyn [spoof]

    "That's my lack of previously studying a non-law degree at a leading Russell Group university showing... had I done so, I would have had the analytical toolset necessary to really get to grips with the complexity of Occupy's nuanced prose."

    Quite. I'd recommend the mathematics BA at Oxford

    Reply
  8. Titianish

    I had both an undergraduate BA in a non-law subject and a Master's degree before entering an accelerated (two year) LLB programme at a Russell Group university. And I'm glad I had that experience of "learning for learning's sake" before choosing to go more specific and career-oriented in reading law. I felt that a lot of my 18 year-old classmates were a little robotic and and inexperienced in their approach to law, whereas I felt much better grounded in most of the lessons having had a bit of "life experience" first. But if I had just stayed as an arts graduate I wouldn't be so bitterly angry about now not being able to find a training contract. Comme ci comme ca.

    Reply
  9. American D

    Well rounded yes, but it didn't get you a traineeship did it? Wouldn't you be even MORE well rounded if you did the same as your undergrad and then did a masters in something non-law related? You would be in exactly the same place in your law career.

    You could even get into complex analysis and study the annulus to become an expert in things perfectly well-rounded. How well-rounded would you be then?

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    The long hours and sedentary nature of the GDL made me well-rounded. I even had to buy a new pair of trousers.

    Reply
  11. Jade Ferguson

    A law degree ensures you develop certain skills which I think you would be hard pressed to acquire in other degrees in except say, political sciences? You learn how to see all the arguments, pick the best one and stand your ground when useless twerps in your class start banging on about irrelevant issues.

    Reply
  12. Counsel

    I was once told you did the GDL for one of two reasons;

    a) You didn't get the A-level grades to get on a law degree at a decent uni! thereby reading a different subject that requires lower grades.

    b) You are a product of a career change.

    Reply

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