I want to become a City lawyer — where should I do my GDL?

By on

Which factors matter most?

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one training contract seeker can’t decide where to study the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).

“I intend to start the GDL next year and secure a training contract during the course. I’m not sure which law school to choose. GDL at City is academically rigorous, but I’m worried it mainly aims to train future barristers; the GDL at other big law schools isn’t best known for academic rigour, but networking opportunities from surrounding incoming trainees are unneglectable. Which should I choose? Or indeed should I cross the pond and do a JD in the US, as some friends currently practising law suggest?”

The 2018 Legal Cheek GDL Most List

If you have a career conundrum, email us with it to



Don’t to a JD. You’ll end up in an endless money pit of debt that you’ll never climb out of.

Doesn’t matter where you do the GDL. Work hard, get as much experience under your belt as you can, network at careers fairs and you’ll be fine.



Second that. GDL route an efficient and cheap route to qualification in comparison to US system, which is a racket.



Depends. JD can still be worth the trade off if you have some financial aid at a top 5 – 7 US law school. Plus maybe some rich parents defraying a bit of the cost. If you get an Associate Job at a Big Law firm on 180,000 a year; you’ll pay off Law school debt in 3-4 years max then can get minted. It’s only worth it for the top 5 law schools or so. Plus it’s an amazing life experience to do a JD at those institutions in the US. Don’t know how academically gifted the questioner is. But other than a handful of US law schools, it’s absolutely not worth doing the JD if you have the chance to qualify through U.K.



Pay some $250k in debt (with fat interest accumulating) off in 3-4 years? After tax, living costs and other expenses associated with living in a city where such high salaries are on offer?

Are you retarded or pretending to be?



Savage burn


You bloody idiot. Don’t know the half of anything about personal finance. You can comfortably throw 60-70k at that debt a year and finish off in 3 or 4 max while earning 190,000 dollars plus if living in NYC, Chicago or elsewhere. Maybe not California which is extremely expensive. Paying off student loans is tax deductible for one. And like I said you can get significant financial aid from the top 5 schools I mentioned to the tune of a quarter shaved off your total JD cost. If you have parents chucking in a bit then that can shave another fifth. 70,000 in 3 years on debt is over 200,000. Plus every year in Big Law your salary will increase by 5 percent minimum with an extra year’s experience.

Over the course of a lifetime, US AM Law 20 lawyers still get quite wealthier than the equivalent U.K. qualified solicitor at magic circle or even US firm office in London. Plus they also have far more undergrad debt than Brits. They can’t all be dumb for following that path to get a JD.


To be frank, City firms do not care where you do the GDL. Just do your best on the course.



Wherever the City law firm which offers you a training contract before you fork out for the GDL tells you to do it.


The Court of Pie Powders

Second this, with a caveat. A GDL might improve your chances of getting a TC in a way that an LPC will not, so it is not an absolute waste of money, unlike the LPC/BPTC. That being said, you should only pay for it yourself if you or your family can afford it without borrowing or another significant sacrifice. If you need a job at the end of it to make it work, I would recommend waiting and trying to get a TC. And however fortunate your position, £15k with nothing guaranteed at the end of it is no laughing matter.

Also, if you have the time for a JD, a number of very good UK unis now do two year law degrees which aren’t that much different in price, especially given the difference in living costs outside London. Worth a thought?



This is good advice.

A lot depends on your ability to make money during the GDL. It is harder work than the LPC but it doesn’t mean you are completely tied up and you could get a part time job. There is no point working in a shop though, that won’t make a dent in the £15k. If you are a good looking woman you could consider making money by doing some erotic modelling or webcam work. You might be surprised how much you can make. Of course, if you are willing to do be a bit more adventurous the money would be better – just don’t do something you will regret.



They were all Mallooooooooooooo



Don’t do it. Pick a better career.




Law isn’t an utterly utterly sh1t career.

Most GPs work part-time for only half the week and are bringing home £120,000 plus a pension you can only dream of.

Even headteachers are bringing home £80k these days.

Don’t do it, don’t feed the beast



It takes 10 years to qualify as a GP (5 year degree, 2 foundation years, then 3 years vocational training). It only takes 6 years for an NQ solicitor to earn more than a GP at a US firm (3 year degree, 1 year LPC and 2 year TC).

It would take 10+ years to become a head teacher and earn less than an NQ solicitor (3 year degree, 1 year teacher training then 7-10 years post-qualification experience).


Man on the Clapham Omnibus

Firms don’t care where you study, but given you’ll likely be at BPP for the LPC I’d suggest BPP Waterloo for GDL.


BPP Survivor

Anything but GDHell at Waterloo, I beg you, noooooooo



I found BPP Waterloo extremely effective for the GDL – it delivered the course and got us through. Most of the staff were excellent. (There was a sole exception – our contracts SGS tutor, but she was new; I suspect that was a one-off.)

The facilities were also decent. By contrast, doing elements of the Professional Skills Course (“PSC”) at the University of Law (“UoL”)’s Bloomsbury campus was terrible. They have atrocious facilities, and should be ashamed of offering courses there. (UoL’s Moorgate facility is superb, but it wasn’t available for one of our PSC modules as it was being used for exams.



If you want to practise in the US, do a JD. If you want to practise in the UK, do the GDL. It doesn’t matter where you do the GDL as long as you do well on it. Never do a JD outside of the T14.



Just don’t do it at London Met, London South Bank, University of Westminster or one of those providers – use an established provider like BPP, ULaw, City Law School etc. You’ll be fine.



Do you have enough money to fund a JD in the US? It costs a LOT of money and unless you get in to Harvard or Yale, they will not cover the whole cost of tuition (they are the only two that provide need based support and cover the whole costs if you can’t pay but are smart enough to get in).

The legal market in the US is just as bad as it is here, it is very very difficult to land a job in the U.S unless you went to a top law school and have some kind of US citizenship (why should a law firm fill out paperwork and spend loads of money to hire you when they can hire a Harvard or Yale American graduate?).

As for the GDL, you can do it anywhere you want as long as you get the top grade possible. Some law firms (city law firms in particular) will actually state on their site that their preference is for ‘the university of law’, however there are people who went to other providers.

If I was you, I would ask myself why I haven’t already applied to firms, because if you get an offer from city firm, they will pay for your GDL and your LPC as well as give you some maintenance grants.

Any more questions let me know 🙂



The misinformation about JDs is on this site is laughable.



I do not know where you should do your GDL, but you should definitely go work for Greenberg Glusker.

Top top US firm, big dolla.



I hear they pay well, in the region of 5m Thai Baht. It is a good salary but a right pain getting it converted into £.



Wherever you pick, make sure it isn’t BPP and make damn sure it isn’t BPP Waterpoo



Why so?


Solicitor who solicits

Question is what are doing now? What experience do you have in your current profession? What subject was your first degree? From which uni?


High Street Approaching NQ

Will a US JD help my chances of moving on qualification to a firm like Cahill Gordon?



I’m hoping to make a move to Dorsey & Whitney, any advice?



Just apply for a training contract there.



Law firms don’t really care where you do the GDL unless you already have a TC and they have a sponsorship relationship with either BPP or UofL so insist you do the course there. But I would advise you do the GDL at either BPP or UofL only because of the network effects of meeting many people in a much bigger group who are in your same position especially if you are all hustling for TCs together.

I did GDL at BPP full time but hardly never went in for tutorials. Only some at beginning to get some basic foundations and meet people but after that you can prepare your notes yourselves by watching stuff online and reading them Study Notes. Basically I just crammed in the weeks prior to exams and still ended up with a high Commendation, two percentage points off a Distinction (which irks me but I can’t complain given the lack of consistent effort I put in, until like April). You can definitely work part time for 2 or 3 days until about April and still get a Distinction if you are organised and treat everyday as a 9 to 5 whether thats earning money or studying efficiently. Once you know format of how exam paper questions are, you can just prep for 3 or 4 topics max in each module and go in confidently.

I don’t know much about if this same schedule can work at U of L because from what I’ve heard they do assessments spaced out which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because you have more time to prep in between module exams but that also means individual module exams are harder and require more special individual effort. De instance at BPP you only do a fairly easy multiple choice EU exam (needing to only memorise like a sentence or two for about a 100 cases- basically trivia) but in UofL their EU exam requires writing and prep like English law core modules.

So in summary when choosing GDL provided it doesn’t really matter as far as firm and career choice. The most important thing about GDL is doing well in the exam so pick the provider with assessment that suits your study habits and daily schedule the best.

Good luck .



Sorry for the typos. Wrote on the phone.



Doesn’t mean you can’t proof read. Poor.



tl;dr – it doesn’t matter to firms where you do it, personal preference as to which course format/exam style you prefer, hours not too time consuming so you can work part time during the GDL



Best of both worlds would maybe so a 4 year degree at kings college which combines a LLB and a JD to give you a feel for everything.

If you do the GDL and want to switch to American state bars some would require 3 years as a minimum study.

Keep your options very open, it’s uo to you how international you want to be.



Unless you have dual citizenship, forget about the JD right now. If you are interested in being immersed in law (which the GDL does not provide), have a look at the syllabus for a grad law degree offered at the likes of Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, etc.

I agree with the person above who said that UoL or BPP is more appropriate for TC-hunters – you can network more efficiently and also will meet a lot of people who already have a TC and are being sponsored by their firm. If City law is your number-one objective, I’d also hold fire and wait until you have a TC offer. Self-funding (even if only partly) GDL is more appropriate for those going to the Bar or who want to dip their toe in to get a feel for the whole thing.

I did the GDL at BPP. From friends who did it at City (I have a fair few), it certainly sounds like the City GDL is more ‘academically rigorous’ in that the law school provides you with fewer notes and you have to spend a lot of time reading up on cases yourself. However, at City you only have tutorials every other week for the core modules, whereas at BPP it is weekly (and therefore better value for money, perhaps). The GDL at City is also 100% exam as I understand, whereas your final grade on the BPP GDL also takes into account your EU coursework essay and an Independent Research Essay you have to complete before the summer exams.

Teaching-style aside, all of the GDLs are tough. There’s a lot to pack into the year, and a recent FoI survey result suggested that people get Distinctions/Commendations etc in equal proportion at each of the schools. A certain school may be more appropriate for you based on your future career/networking needs, but I wouldn’t pick e.g. BPP thinking it is easier to do well in the exams just because they hold your hand more than City does. BPP is still a slog.

Hope that helps.



The GDL is not more academically rigorous at City. It is a standardised course – not one will give a **** where you do it. The only benefit might be the student support services you get but even then they aren’t that different really.



That was my thought. Why do people think that one GDL provider is more rigorous than another? They’ll be the same modules covering the same cases.

TBH I reckon with a copy of the syllabus you could get at least halfway there just by reading the standard texts and relevant cases.



They are very differently taught. The poster above sets out the differences pretty well. It is no more a standardised course than a law degree is.




SQE doesn’t give a shit where you do or do not do your GDL

Between you and me ‘GDL’ now stands for Get Developed Later


Canary Wharf

If you can get into Harvard or Yale, sure, do a J.D. there. But bear in mind there is no point working as a solicitor in London afterwards; you will never repay that atrocious student debt.

If you want to work in London, then BPP Waterloo for GDL. All good law firms (except for Linklaters, but that’s because they have their own tailor-made programme at ULaw) send their future trainees there, so you will get better networking opportunities and look more like their intake.

Bear in mind that you will need to have solid academics / extracurriculars from the US in order to stand a chance.



If you REALLY want to be a lawyer, suck it up and do a 2 year LLB at a real university! Nottingham, Birmingham, York, Exeter, QMUL, and a few other decent non-Russel groups. Even Bristol has their own version, the MA Law. If you’re first degree marks are awesome then you have the Oxbridge 2 year qualifying law degrees as well (assuming you have the LNAT/entrance exam marks).

You don’t have a TC secured yet so you shouldn’t be concerned with timing: you’re not going to secure anything for 2020 at a big firm anyways at this point. Return to university campus glory (mmmmm freshers and waking up at noon on Wednesdays). Plus you have access to libraries, gyms, campus bars, engaged alumni networks, etc.

If you take a good UK university LLB to the States, the American lawyers will be impressed. You take the GDL and they’ll just say “what the f*ck is that… a paralegal certificate or something?”


Comments are closed.

Related Stories