If you didn't study law at undergraduate level but would like a legal career the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) will bring you up to speed

Changes to qualifying as a lawyer

  • Aspiring solicitors starting a degree in September 2021 will study for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), which will effectively replace the GDL and Legal Practice Course (LPC).
  • Transitional arrangements are in place, so those who have already started a law degree, GDL or LPC before September 2021 will be able to qualify via the traditional route until 2032.
  • This change to qualification will ensure that all new solicitors are educated and assessed to the same standard.

This Prospects webinar aired August 2021

What is the GDL?

The GDL is a law conversion course, which puts non-law graduates on an equal footing with those who studied a law degree. While changes are being made to the way that solicitors qualify in England and Wales with the introduction of the SQE, many institutions will continue to run GDL courses during the transitional period.

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 £9,850 and £12,250 depending on which campus you study at. City, University of London charges £12,200 for its full-time GDL, while Birmingham City University School of Law charges £5,900.

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 other full-fee awards. The University of Law also offer a variety of postgraduate law scholarships including the Business and Law First Scholarship worth £5,000, the Choose Law Scholarship, which includes full-fee awards 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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