COVID-19 and conversion courses

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing uncertainty around whether the 2020/21 academic year will begin as normal. While universities remain hopeful that they'll be able to run courses due to start this autumn as planned, this depends on the lifting of government restrictions.

Institutions will only reopen fully once it's safe for them and their students to do so.

If you're worried about a course you're due to start this September, regularly check your university's website for the most up-to-date information. If you contact your institution to enquire about your course, please be patient when awaiting a response.

You can still train to become a lawyer if you don't have a relevant law degree. To start a career in the legal profession you'll first need to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)

  • The GDL is a law conversion course, which brings non-law graduates up to speed on legal knowledge.
  • The course takes one year if studied full time and two years part time.
  • You'll need at least a 2:2 degree in any subject to be accepted on to a course.
  • Applications for full-time study are made through the Central Applications Board (CAB) in your final year of undergraduate study.
  • Fees for full-time courses range between £5,700 and £12,050.

Courses put non-law graduates on an equal platform with those who studied law at undergraduate level.

Please be aware that changes are being made to the way solicitors qualify in England and Wales with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). From September 2021 new students will study for the SQE, which will effectively replace the GDL and Legal Practice Course (LPC). Transitional arrangements are in place, so those who start a law degree, GDL or LPC before 2021 will be able to continue qualification via the traditional route until 2032.

The process to convert to law in Scotland is different and the equivalent of a GDL is the Graduate Entry LLB/Accelerated LLB, which takes two years. Find out more about training to be a solicitor in Scotland.

What does the GDL involve?

In addition to providing non-law students with a basic foundation in legal theory, there are seven core modules covered on the course. These are:

  • contract law
  • criminal law
  • equity and trusts
  • European Union (EU) law
  • land law
  • public law
  • tort law.

You'll also have to study an eighth subject, which may be determined by the institution or a free choice from a set list. This could include:

  • directors' duties
  • immigration law
  • legal ethics
  • patent law.

To find a conversion course, search for GDL courses.

How long does the GDL take?

The course fits approximately 18 months' worth of content from a three-year law degree into one-year full time or two years part time.

Each week you'll have around 45 hours of lectures, tutorials, and self-study culminating in a three-hour final exam on each subject.

How do I apply?

Students apply in the final year of their undergraduate degree. All applications for full-time places are made through the Central Applications Board (CAB), while part-time applications go directly to course providers. Search for part-time law conversion courses.

You need to submit your application as early as you can in the autumn term as there is no closing date and applications are dealt with as they are submitted. This means that the later you apply the more flexible you will have to be about where you study.

There is a registration fee of £15 for submitted applications.

How much does the GDL cost?

Fees vary depending on where you choose to study.

For example, a full-time course at the University of Law costs between £9,700 and £12,050 depending on which campus you study at. City, University of London charges £11,960 for its full-time GDL, while Birmingham City University School of Law charges £5,700.

Some courses expect you to pay a deposit when you accept your place and then you need to arrange how to pay the remainder of your fees.

Is funding available?

Some law firm's sponsor their future trainees' studies and this will mean looking at the law firms that recruit two years in advance.

Students intending to pursue a career at the Bar can apply for scholarships from the Inns of Court.

Some law schools also provide scholarships. For example, BPP offers four postgraduate law scholarships, including the Career Commitment Scholarship worth up to £2,000 and three full-fee awards. The University of Law also offer a variety of postgraduate law scholarships including the Choose Law Full-Fee Scholarship, Law First Scholarships, which are worth £3,000 to GDL and MA students and the Career Changer Scholarship.

You need to check with an individual institution to see what it offers.

Discover more about funding postgraduate study.

Find out more

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