Is there still any chance of me getting a training contract here in the UK?

International law student ponders life in England


In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one international law student — who is about to embark on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) — questions whether she has done enough to land a training contract here in the UK.


I just finished my GDL in July and unfortunately failed two of my exams. I retook them in August and passed. Before embarking on the GDL, I obtained my undergraduate degree from an American university and went on to work at a top commercial law firm for a year as a paralegal. I am an international student so I decided to leave America and pursue my GDL in the UK. I have since decided to wait until the January LPC start date and have been working as a paralegal at a law firm in the mean time. I am just wondering if there’s any point in trying to pursue a career in law in the UK i.e. is there still any chance of me getting a training contract?

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I wouldn’t book a flight home just yet. Depending on your definition of ‘top commercial law firm’, your paralegal experience should stand you in good sted.

Savage bastard

“I just finished my GDL in July and unfortunately failed two of my exams.”

Hahahah, that must’ve been some top American university you attended beforehand. 😂


Cannot be laughing at failing the GDL mate, it’s 3 years undergrad stuffed into 1 years worth. Don’t think you’d be laughing if you took it on


No it’s not. The GDL only includes the absolute minimum. Law degrees do many more modules than those prescribed.

This lie needs to die down.


Bollocks. Law degrees do not contain ‘many more modules’ in a single year. The GDL puts students at maximum capacity. This is not to say it is a uniquely difficult course, but there is not one distinction level student who did not dedicate themselves to work 100%; the course demands it.


Yes, but its a memory test which actively discourages independent thought. So your mark, while commendable, does not make you clever. It just tells us that you’re a neek


Recently complete the GDL and obtained a distinction. Failing it is a joke

This post has been moderated because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


I completed the GDL two years ago and got a Distinction, 74 overall average. It took everything I had though. The two months prior to exams, I literally did not move from my desk. Went out for one 20-minute walk per day. The concentration and stamina needed was intense. It sure isn’t a 3-year degree stuffed into one year, but it’s also not easy. I agree though, to fail a module either means a candidate completely misunderstood key elements of law, or didn’t bother revising hard enough, or bottled their time-keeping in the exam.


Anonimoose, just out of interest, can I ask what your degree was in prior to the GDL, where you studied and how you performed?

P.s. Congrats on 74%. That is seriously, seriously impressive stuff.


Not the guy you’re asking.

However I averaged 73% on the GDL recently. I studied classics at a RG uni and obtained first class honours.

I would second that the GDL is intense and requires long hours, but that’s to get a distinction imo. Passing is pretty easy, failing takes a monumental cock up.

Chris Grayling

I’m not sure if you’re originally from the US, but I’d check the news before you decide to go home.

City trainee

Only people with advanced forms of dementia and/or brain damage fail any of the GDL exams. Sorry, but that’s the overwhelming consensus in top City firms.

I brought up this article to my supervisor’s attention in the office today and he laughed so hard he farted. I love the lad.


Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of truth to this.

The GDL is hard to do well on. Few people get a distinction, and very few people get a good distinction. There are a great number of very able trainees/associates at MC law firms, and in some case even juniors at the commercial/chancery bar who could only manage a merit on the GDL.

However, virtually everybody passes. The GDL is very hard to fail.

Quite aside from how employers may view your CV, I think you should consider why it is you failed.

Former GDL Tutor

It’s not true that hardly everyone fails the GDL. The majority pass it, but plenty have to retake at least one paper. Source: used to teach on the GDL.


Agreed, not everyone passes it. However, I think the overwhelming majority, especially including those with TCs, do well enough to get through. Most of my friends managed to achieve at least Commendations.


I would imagine, though, that the majority who fail a module are not native English-speakers? There were quite a few people on my course who didn’t have English as a first language, and they really struggled with the exams. You need to be able to write like the wind, remember all the quotes and phrases and formulate your arguments coherently etc. Doing this under time pressure is tricky, and I would understand if someone failed because they didn’t have the linguistic ability to do it under time. However, if the OP is from America, they have no linguistic excuse here

Former GDL Tutor

No, not necessarily people with language issues. Quite often native speakers would fail one of the papers. You do have to remember that it’s a fairly intense course that requires you to get your head around some quite tricky concepts in a relatively short period of time. Sometimes people who have had pretty successful academic records struggle with one or two of the topics. It really isn’t unusual. It’s great that so many of you considered it to be an easy course, but not everyone has the same experience and I certainly wasn’t aware of its ‘easy’ rep before reading these comments.


With all due respect, I do not doubt that a fair number fail. I do however doubt that a fair number fail who have a TC or who then go on to obtain a TC.

Former GDL Tutor

I don’t have those statistics to hand I am afraid. Maybe that’s the case. However, most firms don’t require a particular grade on the GDL, just a pass. Therefore, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that someone who retakes Equity and ends up with an overall Pass ends up with a training contract. As I said, people who did well at undergrad sometimes struggled. If they had a 2.1 from a good university, I don’t know if firms would automatically turn them down because they only have a pass at GDL. Maybe, but I am not a graduate recruiter.


Your supervisor farts? Sounds like you work at Irwin Mitchell.


Having recently completed the GDL last year, I honestly cannot comprehend how anyone could fail it.

No, I do not believe you have a chance of a training contract at any respectable firm. They’re never going to look past failing one of the easiest courses out there.


Your high horse doesn’t seem so tall from those of us sitting on our LLBs. Get a life.

P Gardner

If you have very strong mitigation to explain failing the GDL then conceivably they’ll look at you. Otherwise you’ll have to aim pretty low and do well on the LPC to show it was a fluke.


Self-funding a ~£14k course with little to no chance of gaining meaningful employment? Wow, that’s some quality advice right there.


I took the risk and managed to obtain a training contract through interviewing well. I have never worked as a paralegal but did work as a legal secretary in a London practice. I consider myself to be extremely lucky but I am proof that it can be done.


The number of firms who are willing and able to support you with a work permit for a training contract is actually fairly limited. These firms tend to be international commercial firms with high expectations of their recruits.

You will need an exceptional application outside of your GDL results to stand a decent chance of a firm supporting you with a Tier 2 visa. That will include very strong academics outside of your GDL (undergrad yearly GPA scores, SATs, LPC results), but also your work experience, extra curricular activities, career motivation and the written style of your application. If any of the other areas are lacking, then you will struggle where firms have to prove they couldn’t recruit someone within the UK/EU who is of the same or higher standard as you as an applicant.


Yeah mate, I think he’s trying to say your chances are f*cked.


I have no idea what your chances are. But would you want to work with people like those who have left condescending comments here? Solicitors’ offices seem to be full of preening blowhard tossers.

Turn your back on law and do something more useful and more interesting.

Holiday Banta

Wah wah wah. Soz you didn’t manage to bag a TC brah.

P.S. If you think other professional roles in London aren’t full of preening, blowhard tossers you clearly ain’t seen nothing yet.


Having a quick squint at the comments above, it looks like the general consensus is that you won’t get a TC – at least not at a decent (top 50?) firm in the UK.

I’m 4 years PQE so I’m probably a little out of touch, but I’m not so sure. I think if your CV is good enough elsewhere (and it sounds like it might be) then it’s worth a crack. Especially if you can dream up some decent mitigation for failing.

My real point here is this: HAVE. A. GO. There’s no cost to making TC applications, especially if you can keep paralegal-ing whilst you do. I’d say limit yourself to 8-10 *max* and make sure they’re really good, really focussed forms. Only once you’ve tried this strategy can you genuinely say whether or not there’s any point.

My one codicil, however, is this: for the love of all that’s holy, do not do the LPC yet (unless you’ve paid the fees, I guess…). The LPC is completely useless unless you do a UK TC, so don’t cough up for it until you have to. Some firms may even sponsor; no firms will reimburse for fees already spent. And recruitment is always a couple of years in advance, so you have time to do the LPC between getting the TC and starting. You never know, if you impress enough at your current (paralegal) place, they might chuck you a TC anyway.


I got my LPC fees reimbursed and was recruited 2 months before my TC began at a SC firm.


Incorrect use of codicil. It should only be used in relation to an alteration to a Will.

Female lawyer

I think it really depends on how your CV looks overall.

If you’ve graduated summa cum laude from an Ivy league university and have some impressive extracurriculars then I would have thought you’d get a look in. If it’s a liberal arts college, even a well-regarded one, you might have more of a problem, simply because employers here probably won’t have heard of it or understand that it is an accepted route in the US.

Also, is the GDL capped at a pass or something? That might be a problem.

The best thing to do may be get a masters at a very good English university and do very well on it.


Do you seriously think an Ivy League graduate with a summa would end up failing two modules on a monkeyjob like the GDL? Are you for real?

Female lawyer

Well clearly I was using that example as an extreme… My point is that having “a degree from an American university” can mean a lot of things and precisely what kind of degree from which university is going to make a huge amount of a difference.

However, I wouldn’t assume that this student is completely un-academic. To be honest I came from a high achieving background and I didn’t find the GDL to be the walk in the park that people are suggesting here. Also there are no major examinations in high school or university in America, so the GDL would be the first major set of examinations that this student had done. Add to that the fact that the student had moved to a new country and would be expected to do a lot more “self-study” on the GDL (if they did it at one of the more academic providers) than they did on their US course, and I can see how things could seem overwhelming and go wrong for a student.


Complete nonsense: unlike some British/Australian universities, American university students get examined and quizzed far more often. I did a one year scholarship exchange at an Ivy League institution and we had quizzes almost every other seminar, in addition to finals at the end of semester, on top of the requirement for active class participation, presentations etc.

US grad

“Also there are no major examinations in high school or university in America”

You clearly know absolutely nothing about high schools or universities in the US. Complete and utter bollocks.

Qualified in US and UK

If I were you, I’d just sit for the California bar exam then after passing go back to the UK and complete your SRA Qualification exams for reciprocity and skip the training contract altogether.


Most of the advice on here is pretty rubbish. Firms will look at your undergraduate results and university. They will expect you to have passed the GDL, which you have done. Most firms will be OK with a pass on the GDL rather than merit or distinction. You have good work experience. The best way of finding out is to start making some applications. Good luck.


This is simply bollocks.

There is a key condition in my training contract requiring me to pass the GDL “on the first attempt”. Firm’s care if you fail, they care a lot.

Almost every TC application asks you whether you’ve ever failed an exam.

Furthermore, many firms would like more than just a pass. For example, Osborne Clarke require a commendation at LPC level.

Most firms would be totally unhappy with a candidate failing to get at least 40% on the GDL on the first attempt.

Derp derp

Hear hear. Vast majority of law firms profiled on this website require their candidates to achieve Commendation grades as a MINIMUM on both the GDL and LPC – this is a written condition of their TC offer. There were such who managed to fail one or more exams on the GDL/LPC, only to have their TC offers withdrawn and compelled to pay back the fees and living grants (Herbert Smith used to be extremely harsh with this requirement a few years back).

Having said this, your firm might forgive you if you manage to just scrape by with a Pass (even though you’ll look like an utter idiot), but most shops will actually boot you out if you downright fail. Given the OP does not even have a TC to start with and considering how competitive the legal market is, OP’s chances are close to zero.

Too bad, should’ve studied harder.


Got some strong egos on here. They should teach emotional intelligence on the GDL to put some of you in better shape for dealing with people.


Some of these comments are truly illuminating. There really are some pretentious twerps on this website.


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