Routes into Law: Ultimate Guide to the GDL

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Routes into Law: Ultimate Guide to the GDL

There are many routes in law. You can start by studying law at A level and going on to study law at university, or you could take your first steps by completing a law degree and then following on from there.

There is another alternative route, that of the graduate diploma in law. This is a one-year course covering all essential modules of the law degree, including all the exams, and study, which can be intensive for any student. To embark on the graduate diploma in law – or the GDL for short – you can first complete a degree in any subject, and having achieved a 2:1 or higher, go on to study the GDL.

A lot of students are taking this route into law, and it is not surprising given you come out with a recognised qualification capable of allowing you to go onto study the legal practice course (LPC) or bar practice course (BPC), to become a solicitor or barrister, respectively.

Those taking the more traditional approach to the law, a qualifying law degree, or LLB, can expect to achieve a 2:1 also before being accepted onto the LPC or BPC, although more and more universities are accepting 2:2 graduates.

If you have completed a degree and want to know what to expect on the GDL then keep reading. As mentioned, you can expect to cover all the essential modules, there are seven in total that covers the groundwork or foundations of your knowledge of the law. The subjects are as follows: contract and tort law, criminal law, public law, equity and trusts, land law, and European Union law. Alongside this, you will discover how the legal system works in England and Wales, and you will come to understand how the legal process works and how the courts function.

When completing the LLB you will also be able to choose an elected module for your final year and it is the same with the GDL, the difference being that you complete more at one given time on the GDL.

Other routes into the field of law, which is vast and expanding, include taking the CILEX course, to become a chartered legal executive. This is a lesser-known but effective way to become a lawyer and comes with its own recognition in the form of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. The added benefit of taking this route into law is that you may be a paralegal looking to upgrade to the equivalent of a solicitor, with absolute potential to become advocates or judges, as any other lawyer does. The incredible thing about this route is that options exist for people without a law degree, or any degree for that matter, as training can comprise apprenticeships or learning and work before achieving a qualification, then there is the graduate process. It is arguably a cheaper alternative to options like the LPC and BPC, both of which can cost students around £15,000, which is higher for London students.

In summary, there are three main options to entering the world of law. Aside from working within a law firm as a paralegal or secretary for example and working your way up to become a solicitor or more, these are the main options available and the most popular routes into law. A qualifying law degree, the graduate diploma in law, or the chartered legal executive.

From a financial point, funding the graduate diploma in law would be the hardest, as it is not eligible for student finance, not even a master’s degree loan. However, there are scholarships available from universities and from the Inns of Courts. You can also secure funding through a loan, or through the generosity of a law firm you work for. The costs are upwards of £6000 for the one-year course and you can expect to pay a lot more including your accommodation. Doing the GDL part-time might allow you to work alongside the course, and you could use the money to fund it.

By Thomas Maxwell Harrison

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