GDL student numbers jumped by over a fifth during the pandemic

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Covid disruption and SQE replacement contributing factors, report finds

There has been a surge in the number of students embarking on the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) during the pandemic, with enrolment increasing by over a fifth from 3,209 to 3,884.

These findings were contained in a newly released annual report by LawCAB, the central applications board for the law conversion and Legal Practice Course (LPC).

The report suggests the underlying driver for this growth appears to be predominantly Covid-related. Alison Hook, director of legal consultancy Hook Tangaza and LawCAB company secretary, said she thought the increase in GDL applicants was “90% driven by the pandemic”.

In times of uncertainty, it may be that graduates with non-law degrees look to the legal profession as more secure and stable. Indeed, the sector has fared well over the course of the past year, with many law firms posting strong financial results. We have heard gripes from some trainees, who had their training contract start dates pushed back by a few months, but on the whole, there have been no reports of firms cutting back rookie intakes in response to the pandemic.

The 2021 Legal Cheek GDL Most List

The report goes on to suggest the growing awareness that the GDL route to solicitor qualification will “disappear imminently” may also have been a factor.

The GDL is in its final year to be phased out by the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) from September. The course, which has been around for over 40 years, and is being replaced at most institutions by a more SQE-slanted option, will be offered for the last time in 2021/22 (apart from to those exceptional cases identified in the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s guidance).

Elsewhere, the report found there to be a marginal 6.4% increase in the number of LPC applicants for the latest academic year — enrolment creeped up from 6,896 to 7,338.

“Overall, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and the transition to the SQE, interest in professional legal education in England and Wales remains robust,” the report concluded.

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Any grads who want to go into law better do the GDL/LPC ASAP because the SQE is going to be a shambles for the next 5+ years.



Do you know until when is the GDL/LPC route going to be available?



If you can find a provider offering it the SRA will “honour” the LPC until 2032. For the LPC vs SQE I think you have to have “started your legal journey” before September 2021, but I can’t remember off the top of my head what that means – pretty sure that includes starting the GDL, but not sure if it covers doing an LLB for instance. Best to check the SRA’s website.



Thank you. And love the creative names that are spreading on LC! 🙂



Simply explained by low opportunity costs and a rush to perceived security. Natural reaction in a time of economic upheaval.

Candidates need to be aware of the other effect one sees at these times, which is a conservative recruitment approach by employers, not only as to numbers but also as to perceived risk. Candidates with a CV wrinkle or two are pretty much sunk for a few years.



I’m currently doing the GDL to convert my Drama degree into a law degree



And what is your experience in flipping burgers?


Still need a GDL

If you haven’t studied law you will still need the foundations that a GDL gives you otherwise you will not have a hope in hell.

My advise is stick to the current route (GDL/LPC) – dont be a guinea pig



Please can I clarify what you mean when you say “will not have a hope in hell?” Do you mean:

1) Without the prerequisite knowledge provided by a GDL, it will not be very difficult to pass the SQE; or
2) Firms will not want to recruit candidates who have only studied the SQE because the content is inadequate.

I suspect you might mean 2) and I’m starting to concur. I’m a chartered secretary by profession and I’ve begun studying the SQE through self study (I plan to take a formal course, but as I plan to work full time throughout my studies I’m trying to reduce the weekly workload through extensive pre-reading!) and I’m concerned at the lack of depth in Company Law in the syllabus compared to my ICSA studies. I’m also surprised that it is not required to recall cases in part 1; I would have thought that was essential for a future solicitor?

I’m quickly reaching the conclusion that I would be better off doing CILEx first and leaving the SQE until it is better established.


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