Studying a law conversion course is always an intense experience, and undertaking the Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL) at BPP University Law School is no exception. As one BPP student cautions: “Be prepared to replace all of your friends with case law”. But where better to kickstart your legal career than one of the UK’s leading law schools, serving around 15,000 students?
BPP has very good links with City law firms. If you’re hoping to go down the solicitor route in the commercial and corporate sphere it’s worth considering that numerous leading law firms exclusively send their trainee solicitors to study at BPP. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, BPP delivers its PGDL course with a commercial focus, while many of the lecturers and tutors have been practising solicitors and barristers themselves.
In the capital, tucked behind the cultural quarters of the South Bank, BPP’s Waterloo campus is one of the biggest law conversion course providers in the UK. BPP’s business focus is immediately evident with copies of the Financial Times available for free every day. The quality of teaching here has mixed reviews. Insiders tell Legal Cheek that there are “excellent, committed tutors” but also one or two “truly dreadful” ones. But the majority of teachers are “on hand to answer queries relatively quickly” with “no sugar-coating”, which students say they appreciate.
Study spaces at Waterloo are functional — smarter than a typical uni, but some way off a Magic Circle law firm. Elsewhere some say Waterloo is due a refurb, and that the café leaves a lot to be desired. There is, however, coffee, two microwaves (very popular) and enough tables to go around, alongside sofas, a pool table and a giant game of Connect Four. These small perks on your lunch break take your mind off the impending exam hell.
Outside of London, BPP has five outposts at which to study the PGDL. A key advantage across the board: the price. BPP’s PGDL at these campuses will set you back £9,824 — a 20% reduction on BPP’s London-based PGDL which costs £12,296.
What’s more, BPP’s campuses are generally located in the heart of major cities around the country. Take the Birmingham campus, located in the thick of student life, and amongst a heavy concentration of law firms — DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland and Pinsent Masons all have offices nearby. If you’re thinking of securing a training contract at a top law firm, you don’t have to go to London to find one.
In terms of the teaching at Birmingham, students highlight as a plus “smaller classes” which means more face time with tutors. Feedback is “frequent” but “often lacking in how to improve and achieve the next best grade”. So you might have to ask for something more constructive.
For retail therapy to cope with the PGDL exam and deadline stress, Birmingham is home to the UK’s largest shopping centre, the Bull Ring. There’s also annual jazz, film, poetry and literature festivals for culture addicts to go to. And if you get bored of the city centre, the suburbs are packed with pubs and Victorian gems just a bus ride away.
While also based in a hugely vibrant city, students at BPP’s Leeds campus benefit “from an enhanced level of personalised contact that a regional centre can offer”, one happy student tells us. Glass-fronted BPP Leeds is a modern study centre. It’s almost as if it was built in the style of its surrounding law firms. Neighbours here include DLA Piper, Pinsent Masons, Addleshaw Goddard, Irwin Mitchell, Eversheds Sutherland and Squire Patton Boggs.
With a huge student population, you can really make the most out of your postgrad freedom in Leeds, before you start the hard lawyer life. Living costs are low, and activities are plentiful. There are free festivals throughout the year, including the colourful Leeds Carnival, which predates Notting Hill’s bonanza. For the night owls, Leeds is said to be the party capital of the north: there are hundreds of bars to discover, and the late-night curry houses are a hit.
There’s also lots of fun to be had in Manchester. BPP’s campus here is located in the Edwardian, grade II listed St James’s Building, on Manchester’s Oxford Street. The “quality of teaching staff” is recommended by one Manchester insider. The way you learn has also been described as “accessible”. There are tutors who will put you in good stead if you’re aiming for a commendation, or even a sparkling distinction: “Some of the tutors are excellent and do really prep you for exams”. The study space here is decent, despite some grumbles about the library temperature during winter. On the upside, there’s plenty of social spaces as well as a solidly “standard” canteen.
Manchester is home to numerous law firms, including DLA Piper, Pinsent Masons, Eversheds Sutherland, DWF, Shoosmiths, Addleshaw Goddard and Squire Patton Boggs. Known also as a huge commercial centre, Manchester houses 65 of the FTSE 100 companies. So if a corporate legal career is your plan, you’ll be surrounded by all the right places. Chambers also fill the city, among them Exchange, Doughty Street, Nine St John Street, Deans Court and Kings Chambers.
Down in the South West, BPP’s Bristol campus also has plenty to offer. Impressive buildings, such as the gothic Bristol Cathedral, Wills Memorial and the 105ft Cabot Tower are the focal points of the city. BPP’s Bristol campus is not itself the prettiest, but it is near the waterfront, and surrounded by impressive Georgian houses. The classes in Bristol “tend to be small”, so it’s “difficult to hide away”. But the upside is that PGDL students get “a lot of individual attention” and it’s “easy to get to know everyone”.
Much like BPP’s other city bases, Bristol also plays host to a variety of commercial law firms, including Burges Salmon, Simmons & Simmons, TLT, Osborne Clarke and Womble Bond Dickinson. Being the biggest city in the South West means that Bristol has one of the strongest legal hubs outside London. So if you’re looking for a vacation scheme and ultimately a training contract, BPP Bristol could be the ticket. For the future barristers: walk down to the Bristol Bar Society to find out which chambers offer mini-pupillages.
Offering something slightly different, studying the PGDL at BPP’s Cambridge campus might appeal to those who have always romanticised about cycling to law school down cobbled streets alongside quaint bakeries and picturesque buildings. Ultimately, however, for most students this course is about getting the necessary legal knowledge to land a training contract. The quality of teaching ranges from “generally good” to “all excellent” across BPP Cambridge student opinion. The Cambridge campus has a “friendly and welcoming atmosphere” with “helpful staff”. There’s also a student common room with “plenty of comfy sofas to relax and have a chat” with “free tea or coffee”, which is a rare perk. And “of course there is the punting, which we did for the afternoon to celebrate the end of our exams in June”.
A strong point for BPP across the board is its online resources. Your entire course is made available online – as one student notes, “Everything you need is there”. All lectures are uploaded onto the online platform, as well as reading and seminar materials for each module, and revision lectures closer to the exam period.
This could be why many students talk about a “spoon-fed” work culture. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; indeed the “get-the-job-done type environment” is a major plus if you’re doing the course part-time alongside working full-time.
Often students see the conversion course as just a “means to an end” and a “test of memory”, forgetting that it’s also a time for landing a job. In this respect BPP does offer some handy extras right across the country, particularly so in London. Students cram into the commercial awareness workshops, while the regular careers events and law fairs are an equally a big hit. Reporting on the standard of the careers service, one former student said: “I had one meeting with them over applications and they were very helpful — got me a TC!”