Taking the non-law route to a training contract

Half of my trainee intake didn't study law as a degree subject. Here are my top tips for studying the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).

06 January 2017

By trainee solicitor Nicola Turley

There are 28 of us in my intake of trainee solicitors at Burges Salmon. 14 of us didn't study law as our degree subject, so how did we end up here?

Most of us studied the Graduate Diploma in Law, otherwise known as the GDL or the law conversion course.

About the GDL course

Most people choose to complete the GDL studying full-time over the course of one year, although some GDL providers do offer part-time or online options.

The GDL introduces you to the English and Welsh legal system, as well as legal research skills. The seven foundational subjects studied over the course of the year are:

  • Contract law
  • Criminal law
  • Land law
  • Law of equity and trusts
  • Law of the European Union
  • Public law
  • Tort law

Successful completion of the GDL qualifies you for entry onto the Legal Practice Course (LPC), which is the final vocational stage for becoming a solicitor in England and Wales.

Top tips for studying the GDL

The year I spent studying the GDL was undoubtedly the most intense of my academic career. The course involves consuming, grasping and memorising a lot of information in a short space of time; however, I really enjoyed learning so many new things every day.

1. Consistency is key

My top tip would be to treat the GDL like a job: it’s best to work hard week by week, rather than relying on a period of intensive cramming just before exams. I would suggest you make revision notes as you prepare for or consolidate each lesson as you’ll probably be too pushed for time to do this during study leave. Similarly, the earlier you can start attempting practice questions the better, whether that's by yourself under exam conditions or with a few course mates scribbling the answer on a whiteboard together.

2. Keep calm

Don’t worry if parts of the course seem confusing at first: it wasn't until I'd almost finished studying land law that the content of the first few lessons finally made sense! Keep going, and if you find yourself struggling at any point, make an appointment with your tutor to run through the topic one more time.

3. Make time for applications

If you haven't secured a training contract before you begin the course, make sure you factor in plenty of time for completing applications. For example, during application season, I used to return to the library on a Saturday to concentrate on vacation scheme and training contract forms. Your time will be best spent focussing on five or so key firms that you’re really keen to work for, rather than going for a scatter gun approach.

4. Bonus bits

The GDL isn’t just about work and applications. Going to law school also gave me the chance to partake in unique pro bono opportunities, such as teaching an A-level law class and assisting at a contact centre where children saw their non-resident parents.

In a way, studying the GDL felt more like being at school than university as I spent every day learning with the same 18 classmates. This meant I got the chance to develop proper relationships with my fellow GDL students and became close friends with some of them in the process.

If you want to find out more about pursuing a career in law as a non-law student, I would highly recommend attending Burges Salmon's insight day for non-law students and graduates on Tuesday 18 April 2017.

More from Nicola

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Taking the non-law route to a training contract

Don’t worry if parts of the course seem confusing at first: it wasn't until I'd almost finished studying land law that the content of the first few lessons finally made sense!
Nicola Turley, Trainee Solicitor

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