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Lawyer-to-be Cat Pond is relieved to put the ten-month Graduate Diploma in Law behind her

A collective sigh of relief was heard in the corridors of the College of Law after the last Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) exam finished in June. Apart from the location of the nearest bar, the one topic that my classmates were discussing, though, was the Legal Practice Course (LPC) that we all aimed to start in the coming September.

We’d been told it was a different beast altogether, and various theories were thrown around – from the course being easy to downright impossible. Now, a month and half in, I decided it might be time to take stock of the reactions of newly-minted LPC students to their classes. A quick poll came back with some surprising findings.

The GDL was generally seen as a necessary evil, due to its intense seven-subject structure and emphasis on memorising things. One friend told me she felt that her intellectual curiosity had been stifled by the GDL teaching method, where every class is regimented to the last minute to fit in the required subject matter for that day. Any questions that did not fit in to the pre-approved structure – known as the “outcomes” to achieve – were often brushed off. The idea of reading around a field and engaging with your learning on your own terms seemed lost.

The LPC, on the other hand, is generally seen as more forgiving. More practical and vocational, it seems more flexible. But even just a few weeks in some concerns have been raised. The highly procedural nature of many of the core classes have been taught in ways described as ‘spoon-feeding’. Could this be continuing the idea that legal education, far from broadening minds, instead creates an army of sleekly trained automatons with no track record in thinking for themselves?

All is not lost, however. The slight downturn in intensity from the GDL’s mad crush of knowledge acquisition gives the organised LPC student more time to fill with extra curricular activities – crucial in the training contract hunt. In addition the tutors take time to regularly point out where the work being done will come in useful once students become trainees. For many, this gives a motivation that may not have existed during the seemingly never-ending parade of theoretical law to be learnt in GDL subjects.

So which one is harder? The intensity of the GDL suits some people who thrive on pressure and stress, and they may feel bereft when they encounter the slightly more laid back LPC. For myself and many of my current classmates, on the other hand, the LPC seems to give the opportunity both to enjoy the subject more and to tentatively even have a life outside of it.

Cat Pond is currently studying the LPC at the College of Law. Previously she studied history of art, then completed the GDL, and hopes to go on to work for a London firm.