The GDL is for ‘spineless’ losers, says Bristol Uni law student

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By Judge John Hack on

Graduate Diploma in Law is for those with a half-hearted interest in legal profession, claims LLBer, amid decline in popularity of conversion route


A Bristol University law student has lambasted the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) course as a waste of time and the refuge of those lacking in the capacity for original thought.

The first-year LLB student — whose name has been anonymised — recently launched a fiery broadside against the law conversion course — on which around 4,000 students enrol annually — which appeared on The Tab website.

According to the article, the law student’s cousin — who is set to start a GDL course later this year at an unnamed institution — triggered her thoughts. And that relation might now be wishing that she had kept her rather demoralising opinions to herself, rather than broadcasting them on a renowned student website.

The gist of the argument is that only students that are not true to their hearts will sign up for the GDL. In other words, they don’t have the gumption and courage to stick with a first-degree subject they enjoy and pursue a career in that field.

In the law student’s world, there are only two reasons students opt for the GDL — and neither of them is commendable.

Reason one: you’re putting off going into the big, bad world and forgot that a masters would probably be more enjoyable.

The second reason?

You made an unspoken pact with your parents you’d do it if they’d let you study a fun arts degree first.

Indeed reason two attracts significant vitriol from the writer, who is is identified only as the secretary to Bristol University’s journalism society.

If that sounds like you,” she writes, “you are completely spineless. Live your life for yourself, not your parents; you’re over 20 and should be able to make your own decisions.

Whether you agree with her not, the anti-GDL sentiment chimes with recent stats that show student interest in the course bombing since the financial crisis. According to statistics from the Central Applications Board, the body administering the online applications system for the GDL in England and Wales, there were 5,980 applications made to do a law conversion course in 2008-09, but by last year that figure had plunged to just 3,690.


Most of the law student’s short diatribe is not in fact directed at the GDL itself, but at the force behind its decline in popularity: the narrowing prospects of comfortable employment in the modern legal profession.

She rehashes figures highlighting the disparity between the number of law degree and GDL graduates, Legal Practice Course students and law firm training contracts and bar pupillages.

The law student is a little bit wobbly on the distinction between being admitted to the roll of solicitors and actually being able to practise. And she also cites an average starting salary for law graduates of less than £20,000, without pointing out that trainees in the City earn more than double that wage.

But, hey, she’s a first-year student, so perhaps she’ll be cut some slack on the detail of her argument.

The main point ultimately is this message to anyone considering the GDL:

Do yourself a favour and find something more original to do. The world’s got enough lawyers already.