How accessible is the legal profession?
No matter your starting point or your story so far, joining the legal profession makes for a challenging, yet rewarding chapter. Whether you spent your undergraduate years grappling with existential questions, buried under books of poetry or locked in the lab, it’s never too late to take a sharp turn towards a career in law.
Of course, no one becomes a successful lawyer overnight. However, by opting for a law conversion course, post-graduates can fast-track their way into the legal sector without undertaking another three year degree.
An alternative route to the legal profession
Since its inception in 1977, the Graduate Diploma of Law (more commonly known as the conversion course) has trained and developed post-graduate students from non-traditional backgrounds to an extremely high level, covering the seven core foundation subjects that are prerequisites for progression to professional legal training.
From here, freshly qualified students are prepared for their next level of study: the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for trainee solicitors or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for prospective barristers.
Taken full-time, the GDL lasts a minimum of 36 weeks, and can demand up to 45 hours of lectures, tutorials and personal study each week, followed by a final written assessment. When taken in a part-time capacity, the course lasts around two years. Nevertheless, it requires a great deal of self-discipline – a key component of a successful lawyer.
The introduction of this course paved the way for a new dawn in the profession: no longer was it limited to those who knew from day one their interest in the law. Instead, it invites a diverse range of academics to challenge themselves once more while giving them the choice in the time-frame of completion.
But does it measure up to the same calibre of the LLB, and do legal employers favour the traditional route over a conversion course?
GDL or LLB: which do employers prefer?
Currently, the standard requirement for admission into the legal profession is a degree from a university in the UK or Republic of Ireland.
In light of this, most legal employers tend not to place too much importance on whether a student qualified through the GDL or traditional LLB route. Since techniques such as textual analysis, research, forming logical arguments and creating written and oral presentations can be acquired through a wide range of disciplines, hiring managers from law firms and chambers prefer to focus on the individual strengths of the applicant rather than their chosen route of study.
That said, there’s no denying the increase in the number of City firms appointing a particular law school as their preferred provider.
While doing a GDL with a particular provider you’ve heard is favoured by your firm of choice won’t get you into their good books alone, it might give you the chance to attend certain industry events or mingle with peers who have a training contract with your firm of choice: this could give you the leg up you need to secure your own contract.
Of course, those who have completed an LLB will argue the depth of knowledge of the law gained through their chosen route is totally incomparable with a GDL. On the other hand, a GDL-qualified lawyer would reassure you that the skills gained in your previous degree would be transferrable; that there really is no need to invest more time. However, if one thing’s for certain it’s that entry into the legal profession is increasingly accessible through alternative methods such as these.