LLB v GDL: Which one is REALLY the best?

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By Millie Pierce and Monica Davis on

A law degree lover and loather pitch for their course — Dragon’s Den style


Is it better to study law at university, or do a non-law degree and then a law conversion course? It’s an age-old question no one has quite been able to answer; the perfect setting for another great Legal Cheek debate.

Today, we hear from Millie Pierce, a second year law student at the University of Warwick, and Monica Davis, who recently completed her Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) after studying languages at the University of Southampton.

The pair go head-to-head in the quest to prove which route is better. Who do you agree with? Take our poll down below to let us know.

Millie Pierce for team LLB

For me, doing the LLB was a no-brainer; it was the only thing I could see myself studying and still being interested in three years down the line.

There is so much diversity between modules and areas of study. Many LLB-ers agree that a factor in choosing their degree is the number of optional modules, which broadens their depth of the law in general.

Understandably, an argument from people who have studied the GDL might be this: optional modules are unnecessary in the quest to qualify. Many LLB students, including myself, would respond that, actually, the optional modules have helped them to refine exactly which area of law interests them and then tailor their career options and training contract applications to these areas.

The depth of knowledge of the law gained in the LLB is totally incomparable. Sure, the GDL-ers would argue that it’s pointless learning a module such as the social theory of law or legal history, but the depth and breadth of knowledge that such modules provide helps them have an advantage over their GDL counterparts. This advantage comes both in terms of commercial awareness in many a commercial module option, and purely a greater understanding of law in the world around them and the jurisprudential side of law.

Another reason to choose the LLB is because of its reputation. Even if a graduate decided not to pursue a career in law, many sectors would agree the challenges faced during a law degree — as well as the high quality of students produced — would make a law student a very appealing candidate.

Perhaps the most obvious and practical enticement the LLB boasts over the GDL is that a law degree equals a year less study; this means LLB students are ahead of the game and are earning money sooner. Included in this bonus is the prospect of a year’s less university debt, which is weighing down on GDL grads’ shoulders.

Monica Davis for team GDL

You don’t need a law degree to be a lawyer, so why put yourself through the pain of one?

The GDL is a good route if you want to actually enjoy your time at university by studying something that interests you academically such as history or English literature. You are more likely to be a happier person and get higher marks this way rather than studying an LLB just because you think it sounds better.

Commercial law firms claim to take around 50% non-law students because they too have a lot to offer. Law grads might think they are the only ones who can critically analyse vast amounts of complex information, but so can students from other subjects like philosophy and engineering.

Non-law degrees enable you to develop new skill-sets and widen your opportunities. I personally decided to study modern languages so I could improve my fluency in two foreign languages; these are not just academic skills, but life skills. Studying other subjects like sciences, engineering or IT, to name a few, can open doors in other industries that law just can’t. They may even be able to give you a better understanding of industry sectors that lawyers eventually end up specialising in anyway.

The LLB is a theoretical, academic subject, which doesn’t give you a practical view of the vocation. While my LLB counterparts will argue that having more options on their degree will help them to choose their speciality, the reality is that studying an area of law is very different to practising it. LLB-ers may be limiting their options based on what they liked studying, rather than on the realities of practice. Besides, once you’re in a firm, seat choices may be limited anyway. At least GDL-ers may be more open-minded.

I enjoyed the GDL because while it is seen as an academic stage of training, it is very practical. The GDL is less about whether the new reforms blah blah and more about problem solving. You learn to analyse and apply relevant law to your client’s situation in order to advise them, which is what you will be doing on the LPC and in practice.