You Have To Go All The Way With The GDL – But An LLB Gives You Options

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When I was 16, I received my GCSE results and discovered that I had got a B in maths. I was absolutely delighted, given that I was expecting something more like an F. But it still represented a narrowing of options, with my B acting as confirmation that I was destined to do something wordy with my life. So I decided to do law (a choice vindicated by the nightmares about long division that I still have). Why not? Might get me a job (this made more sense in 2005). Perfect. I got an offer from UCL, and off I went…


About half way through my first year, I started to wonder if I’d made a dreadful mistake, but I stuck at it. Happily, things changed as soon as I started actually having some choice over what modules I could study.

Nevertheless, it had become pretty clear by then that legal practice wasn’t for me; I like finding out about things for their own sake, and, as I discovered during work experience, I’m not good with form-filling. I still might change my mind, though, and it’s good to know that I can still jump straight onto the Legal Practice Course (LPC).

Until last week’s Legal Cheek podcast I’d always taken the options I still have about my long term future for granted. But an observation made by our guest, Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) graduate Alex Pritchard-Jones, made me see how things could have been different if I’d come to law later. “If you’ve done something else and then the GDL,” said Alex, “and then you fail to become a lawyer…well [you can’t]. You have to go all the way if you convert.”

I agree with Alex in that I would feel a much greater pressure to become a lawyer if I’d taken the arts-degree-followed-by-GDL route. In that sense, people with LLBs have a bit of a leg up. They save themselves a year of legal education, and in doing so they’re allowed a bigger range of options. If I never become a lawyer having done a law degree, there’s no harm done. But if I were to never become a lawyer after having done the GDL and LPC/ Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), I’d be bordering on bankruptcy with a qualification that’s almost worthless…

Tom Webb is Legal Cheek’s editorial assistant and a masters journalism student at City University.



I completed the BVC (when it was so called) and haven’t gone on to work at the Bar, yet. I decided instead to do a PhD in competition law and my completion of the BVC allowed me to do it.

I might at some point in the future decide to go to the Bar, but with a small family and at the moment, a flexible schedule, I don’t know if it is now what I want.

I don’t really see a doctorate and a career in academia (hopefully) as failing.



It’s not a failure, but it seems to be a bit of a waste of time (and money). If you want to be an academic in law and know this ahead of time, it seems more sensible to do a three-year-law degree in the first place (and I would have thought a lot of academic institutions would expect this plus Masters or PhD in Law, from someone who has not qualified or been in practice). I am not really sure what the GDL adds for an HR professional even in the legal field; it doesn’t reflect practice so you won’t really understand what fee-earners have to do every day.


Tom Webb

I’m frankly baffled that they let me in.



Why a waste of time and money if in 4 years I have a very similar skill set as an LLB graduate + my original degree? I’ve paid less than 2 3year degrees would cost, gained invaluable experience and have a way of combining my two fields of study. An LLM or post grad requires me to have a GDL not an LLB because to many (but obviously not you) people who study the GDL study the same core subjects and have done so in essentially 8 months straight through and are therefore far more used to the pressures of such a fast paced work environment if that’s where you choose to go. The GDL is designed for people who have achieved a high grade in their first degree and are familiar with the amount of work it takes. HR has plenty of opportunities for persons with GDL or LLB, most of the people I know on GDL are going into advising on employment issues.



A GDL certainly does not prove that you are used to a fast paced work environment. It is a intensive and challenging study course that proves you can assimilate key legal information quickly and that you have good academic discipline, but it is nothing like the reality of legal practice, which I’m guessing you haven’t experienced yet and which requires managing pressures and deadlines that GDL and Law undergraduate students can only dream of in their worst nightmares.

The GDL is not designed for people who got a high grade in their first degree. It is purely and simply designed for people who didn’t initially study law but now want to become lawyers (and have a spare x thousand to do so). With that in mind it always has been and remains an odd and expensive way to spend a year if you don’t intend to work in legal practice. Also, not many of those studying the GDL have a first degree that will be valuable in practice. It may be that you are one of the exceptions and have a science degree for example and will ultimately practice in a related area (this is pretty rare) or languages that you will use in practice (though most degree courses are not a high enough legal standard for top level legal drafting in another language), but an English or History or Philosophy degree for example – and let’s face it, random humanities subjects account for a lot of GDLers – is neither here nor there.

I am sure people do the GDL and then work in HR in law firms but that doesn’t mean the GDL is particularly useful for the purpose or worth the time and investment. Most people you know on the GDL are going into advising on employment issues? That sounds bizarre. Recruitment consultants, maybe.



*an intensive. And no doubt there were other typos ;)


alecs rees

I have 4 years experience in legal practice as I’ve worked in a Criminal Law firm since 2009 and always wanted to do a law conversion. Its like you’ve never heard of the field socio-legal studies!


alecs rees

Also you’ve have to have at least a 2:1 to be entitled to study on the GDL.


alecs rees

*you have


Jeannette Rodgers

Hmm, I’m in two minds over this myself. I am a ‘mature’ student of the GDL, and I have a very solid information and research career in law firms, both MC ones and top 25. I know how lucky I am to have the career I have and to have actually worked in a law firm; I was astounded at just how many people in my class have NO EXPERIENCE of working in any sort of legal environment, it took me years to decide to do the GDL simply because I was aware of how tough the market was and I wanted to wait it out to see if my money would be properly invested. I took the GDL knowing exactly how hard it is to get a TC anywhere, even with my experience in law firms; my mistake though was that I decided I didn’t have 3 years (longer if I took it part time) to study for a law degree and I wanted something more intensive. The GDL looked perfect, and I’m glad I’m taking it, though sometimes I do wish I took a law degree instead. However I think the fact that I kept my options open and CAN qualify as a lawyer (realistic expectations in mind) if I want to, is important.

What institutions SHOULD do is offer extra modules to achieve an LLB whilst studying the GDL and the LLM when doing the LPC. Some institutions only let you study for both on the LPC which in my mind is a bit of a rip off, why not let us do the LLB options in the GDL?

Anyway, my point is, if you come from a legal services background, whether that’s from a ten-a-penny legal secretarial role or a specialised role like my own, it isn’t a waste of time to do the GDL if you don’t want to become a lawyer ‘necessarily’, providing you have a solid career plan behind you.


Alison Benson

My law conversion course required me to write a long essay. My final qualification includes LLB, CPE and GDL



Can you cite the 2.1 minimum requirement for the GDL? It is a 2.2 at most places as far as I know. Even if you do need a 2.1 (doubt it), this again doesn’t prove the course is designed for high achievers. It is designed for wannabe lawyers. I have no doubt whatsoever that it is a rigorous and taxing course. However it bears very little recognition to legal practice and is of zero to no use outside of a legal professional career.



Okay I’ll admit that I was under the impression that it was a 2:1 requirement because that was the requirement for my university.

“…GDL is also relevant to those wishing to enhance their job prospects in areas such as business management, the probation service, forensic psychology, trading standards, politics, human resource management, education and many, many more. In fact, a Times newspaper article recently declared that there are 101 uses for such a qualification!”

Also there are other people on this page telling you that there are relevant career paths outside of standard legal professions, who don’t see their GDL as a waste of money but as a gateway for other careers, can you cite an authority for what you say – “However it bears very little recognition to legal practice and is of zero to no use outside of a legal professional career.”? Or is it simply your own unfounded opinion?



alecs, my opinion is based on working in legal practice for some years and knowing lots of other lawyers, plus other people who have done the GDL and LPC and not managed to make legal careers. If you consider my view unfounded, so be it. We can agree to disagree if you like, but it seems your opinion is founded on being a GDL student, similarly to other posters, and not in legal practice, or in seeing what happens after the GDL. That’s fine, but I am not seeing any real-life examples of people here who have actually gone and found the GDL useful in practice, other than lawyers. Quoting law school recruitment text doesn’t prove the point either. There are plenty of people who forked out for law school, and got nowhere.

By and large the point made in this article by its original author was an extremely sound and valid one, and very good advice to anyone considering the GDL. I am sure you can think of 101 potential uses for a GDL if you really wanted to, but set against its cost and the effort involved it is not a sensible way to spend a year for anyone not interested in law. Jobs other than being a barrister or solicitor or similar just don’t require it. I don’t think that is an unreasonable view in the slightest, and I don’t think it is good advice to any casual visitors to this page to insist that a GDL will stand them in good stead for all kinds of things given what is involved in getting it and the fact on a CV it will look like “wanted to be a lawyer but didn’t get TC or pupillage or got disillusioned or ran out of money.” You can object to this view if you like – I’m just telling you how it is seen in my experience. I am not casting aspersions on the course or the prospects of anyone who does it.



Doesn’t the BVC/BPTC expire after 5 years??


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