7 things I wish I’d known before I started my GDL
Top tips for conversion course newcomers, courtesy of Durham Uni grad Sky Martle
Next month thousands of students are due to begin the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). And, though we are often told as non-law graduates that we have some great ‘transferrable skills’, there are some things that just cannot prepare you for studying the law.
That said, here are seven things I wish someone had told me before starting this whirlwind of a course.
1. Make a dictionary
I was surprised to learn how many words there are that I never even knew existed. From promissory estoppel to piercing the corporate veil, mens rea to malice aforethought, the rule against perpetuities to restrictive covenants and the cy-près doctrine to chattels. I would highly recommend noting down some of these tongue-twisters early on, perhaps in a dictionary-style document that you can add to over time. This may also come in handy for that nifty ctrl-f mid-seminar.
2. Find your support network
A support network throughout the course is key. For me, this came in the form of building relationships with peers who I could ask about tricky legal concepts or share the ups and downs of a path to a legal career. This was especially important doing the GDL from behind a computer. With students returning to in-person seminars, this point remains pertinent; you will go further together.
3. Create an applications diary
It will be Week 5 of the GDL before you know it and so this is an important tip for those of you yet to secure a TC. I’d advise making a diary mapping all the applications you want to complete this season. Set yourself deadlines, well in advance of the firm-imposed ones, and feel very satisfied when you have managed to get them in alongside your Week 7 land seminar prep. That is no mean feat.
4. Do the prep
I hear you say: ‘who doesn’t’. But trust me, as the course hots up it becomes really tempting to cut corners. I urge you, please don’t. It’s not worth it when you are sitting your exam and part B references a niche bit of the course you decided wasn’t relevant. I found doing the set prep questions were the best way to emulate exam-style questions.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
If you are anything like me, there will be some seminars that you just cannot get your head around. But you will be sitting among some smart people who also feel the same. I found that nine times out of ten my course peers were thinking of asking the same question. And, if they weren’t, they wish they had! You will only know the answer if you ask.
6. Perfect your work set-up in advance
You don’t want to be adapting your work environment once the course has begun. So, before you listen to your first lecture, make sure you have the right equipment for the way you work; this is a great excuse for a stationery spree. My best pandemic panic purchase was a monitor screen, so that I could have my seminar video open, along with legislation, prep notes and Google!
7. Factor in breaks
If you take anything from this, it’s probably that the GDL is full on. This is no secret. And it is made trickier by the fact that a lot of the learning is self-led. So, you may find work time blurring into relaxation time. Separating these requires discipline: mark time out in your diary, plan fun things to look forward to. It’ll be over before you know it — good luck!
Sky Martle is a junior events co-ordinator at Legal Cheek. She read history, geography and politics at Durham University, before going on to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law.
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