Law Conversion Course (Or The GDL / CPE)
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A 3 year university law degree is no longer required if you want to become a solicitor or barrister.
This is thanks to the law conversion course. Now you obtain the necessary requirements in just one year if you have a non law degree.
The course has many names; the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), Common Professional Examination (CPE) and the postgraduate law conversion course. They all refer to the same course which can get confusing since the course has undergone a few changes during its existence.
You need to complete the course if you want to become a solicitor or barrister but didn’t study law as an undergraduate. Let’s get stuck in and find out what the course is about.
Who is the GDL for?
The GDL/CPE is for anyone who already has an undergraduate degree which isn’t in law, and wants to convert this degree to a qualifying law degree. They simply take the one year course (or two years if it’s done part time) and at the end of it, if at least a pass grade is achieved, they will have a qualifying law degree. This means that they will be able to apply to the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and further their legal career.
The degree doesn’t even need to be anything to do with law – music, science, maths – all should be accepted.
The graduate diploma is also for people who have a strong interest in law and simply want to learn more about it, or working professionals who need to complete the course for advancement at work. It should be noted that the course is very intensive and certainly not easy. There is just so much law to learn in a short period of time! It requires lots of effort and dedication.
If you’re already a solicitor or lawyer in your home country and have decided you want to work in English Law then you need to take the QLTS (Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme). It also allows barristers to convert to being solicitors.
Who can study the Graduate Diploma in Law?
The requirements to apply to study the post graduate diploma differ depending on which institution you’re applying to. Here are some general entry requirements, but be sure to check the course providers website for exact details. You will need:
- A 2:2 undergraduate degree in any course (Some require a 2:1)
- A good command of the English language
- An interest in the British legal system
If you don’t have an undergraduate degree you may be accepted onto the course if you can prove relevant work experience. For example, if you have worked as a conveyancing assistant for 10 years you may be admitted as a mature student. This in theory means you don’t need a degree to study the GDL but you do need to gain a lot of experience for this to happen. You should consult with a course provider to get exact details on the experience requirements.
You can convert from any course. It doesn’t need to be anything to do with law at all. Although you may find certain courses are more suited to the GDL than others. For example if you convert from a subject like history, philosophy or politics you’ll probably have some of the required key skills. Likewise if you studied accounting or business you may familiar with some of the law. But all subjects will have ways in which they help during the conversion course.
You can study the course at one of two places. A college of law or a university. Both course providers offer qualifying law degrees as defined by the SRA. However a college of law will probably be focused on legal practice, where as a university will be more focused on the academic side of the law. But this is not always the case. We encourage you to go to open days at the institutions you’re interested in. Here is a quick list of the course providers: In major cities like London, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool the following law colleges should have an institution:
These universities also offer the course:
- Birmingham City University
- Bristol Institute of Legal Practice
- Cardiff Law School
- The City Law School
- Keele University
- Leeds Metropolitan University
- London Metropolitan University
- Northumbria School of Law
- Nottingham Law School
- Oxford Brookes University
- Sheffield University
- University of Birmingham
- University of Wolverhampton
There is quite a long list of GDL providers; this is not all of them. Just google “GDL + [university name]” to see if the uni you’re interested in studying at does the course.
How do you apply for the GDL?
Once you have selected the institution you want to study the GDL at you must make an application. This is done through the Law Central Applications Board. The CAB website is the only way you can make an application to study the conversion course, however the institution you have applied to will have the final say in your application.
Some institutions may offer a “guaranteed places scheme” in which they will guarantee you a place on the LPC on the successful completion of the GDL (there may even be a discount too).
There is a ton more information on the course above. Make sure doing the course going to be beneficial in the long run. The last thing you want is another £6,000+ being piled onto your student debts!
Note: Some institutions may offer the LL.B for graduates. This is something you should consider if you want a more in depth understanding of the law. You will be awarded the full LL.B at the end of the course rather than a GDL diploma. This is good if you plan to work overseas as not all countries recognise the GDL. The LL.B on the other hand is widely accepted.