Have you completed a non-law degree but are now interested in moving in to the law? There is an option for you to do this, through completing a conversion course.
Does it matter if your first degree is a law degree or not?
No. All that matters is that you get good grades, whether it’s in law or not. For prospective barristers or advocates, a 2:2 is the absolute minimum required. Better grades mean you have a better chance of getting the in-work training you’ll need to finish qualifying as a solicitor, barrister or advocate.
What is the law conversion course?
A law conversion course is the first step non-law graduates can take towards a career as a solicitor or barrister. The courses bring non-law graduates up to speed with law graduates in one year, or two if taken part time or as an MA.
What it involves
The course is intense, due to the fact that you would be learning everything a law graduate learned during their three years of study at university.
More specifically, the GDL consists of seven core modules. Most courses teach two or three other modules, covering research and an essay of a topic outside of the curriculum, one piece of coursework, and introductory tests on the English legal system.
The latter often takes place within a couple of weeks of starting the GDL and covers learning regarding the court structure, how to read a case, the process of creating legislation etc. It’s all systems go from the second the course starts.
Because there is a large quantity of information to go through in a short amount of time, it will be a difficult workload. The course is delivered at a high pace, with each week’s material building on previous weeks.
How long it takes
The GDL fits approximately 18 months’ worth of content from a three year law degree into one year full time or two years part time. On a weekly basis, you will have around 45 hours of lectures, tutorials and self-study, with a three-hour exam focused on each subject.
Cost – is there funding?
You should expect to pay between £3,400 and £10,000 for a 1 year GDL, plus living costs. Fees for GDL depend entirely on where you choose to study. A full-time course for example, might cost £9350, or £11,650 at the University of Law. University fees for the course will also vary, with Cardiff University charging £8950, while the University of Manchester charges £9250.
Some law schools provide scholarships. Check out this guide here to learn more about funding postgraduate study. So check with an individual institution to see what it offers. Some law firms however, will sponsor their future trainees’ studies. If you’re looking for a career at the Bar, you can apply for scholarships from the Inns of Court. So you’ll need to be looking at law firms at least two years in advance.
Tips for choosing which one
Visit different institutions: Meet students, lecturers and view the facilities you could be learning in.
Work experience: Work experience in a law firm prior to completing your GDL shows that you have a passion for working in the industry. This will go down well on your application.
No funding? Go part-time: You can gain relevant work experience whilst you study part time and spread the cost of course fees. The resources available online make distance learning or part-time study more accessible than ever.
Choose your law conversion course carefully: Research the structure, content, teaching and assessment methods of prospective courses and decide what’s better for you.
Take your time: Conversion courses are intensive, so you’ll need self-discipline and the motivation to pull yourself through what will be a tough year/couple of years.
How to apply
The Central Applications Board (CAB) has an online system for processing full time applications for the LPC and GDL. You can check this website for application deadlines and costs. Art-time applications however, go directly to course providers.
Submit your application as early as possible in the autumn term. There is no closing date and applications are managed as they are submitted. By submitting your application (usually about £15 registration fee) earlier, you have more flexibility on where you would like to study.