Careers: Meet the Transformers

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  • My "radical switch": fighter pilot to solicitor (Ok maybe not so radical: fighter pilot to aviation lawyer).

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  • I do not believe these stories are representative of the current legal workplace. It is telling that some of these transfers occurred many years ago when the law was not so over-subscribed and was slightly more flexible. It would be much harder to transfer successfully today with law being even more conservative and openings even fewer than ever. Good luck if you want to switch from being a nurse to being a solicitor now; I would be stunned if you make it to a training contract let alone partnership. No way HR in any City / West End firm would even contemplate (or understand) promoting a candidate with a slightly alternative career path (unless they can bring a "following" of course).

    There is so much competition firms simply focus on candidates with no less than a 2:1 from a decent Uni, lots of (unpaid) work experience in the law, being the right fit and being the right age to be worked very hard for 5-7 years before being cast aside.

    Considering an older candidate with other life skills is too challenging (and potentially threatening) to most law firms. They may also have families and not want to dedicate 14+ hours a day to the firm which doesn't help in the current climate. Good luck to those who try.

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  • If the GDL could scrapped and career changers truly interested in law (rather than money, prestige and ego) had to do the LLB, the job market for lawyers would be much better. "Hey, I did a degree in XYZ. It had no prospects so I short-circuited the LLB, did a GDL and now I find myself way ahead of those oiks who slogged their guts to get an LLB."

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  • In response to Up North, as someone who did a GDL many moons ago, I can't agree more. Most barrister and solicitors in the top sets/firms seem to come from the GDL route. In hindsight, I don't think it makes for better lawyers. If you want to come to law late, you should do an LLB or something close not the by-the-numbers rote learning on the current GDL. The GDL doesn't pretend to give you legal training - just enough of the answers to get you through. I agree that the GDL needs overhauling, if for no other reason than to stem the overwhelming flow of people trying to become lawyers when there isn't room.

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  • You should be able to start life as a solicitor or barrister at any age, like Mary Smillie at 2Birds (50 years young). Yet the process is so geared towards the 20-22 crowd at certain firms that if you're any older the process can feel awkward.

    I took the GDL / LPC route and after enjoying a 6-year career. I've had vac scheme workshops on how to talk to clients. Great for freshers, not so for someone who does that on a daily basis. The TLT graduate site is decorated with cartoons such as a man sitting on a rocket about to shoot to the stars. It looks like a 5 year old's bedroom wallpaper.

    Considering that any job should be accessible regardless of candidate's age, I think some law firms are shooting themselves in the foot and, some might say, guilty of indirect age discrimination. Thoughts?

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  • I'm a 38 year old mum of two and just commencing the second seat of my training contract. My employer certainly recognises the added value that life experience brings. For the record, I really did start from the bottom. Following a career in the public sector and no degree,I gave up my job, embarked on the LLB and finished with a first. I was lucky enough to secure my training contract between graduation and commencing the LPC. My age and having children was such a help as it gave me the focus and determination I needed to succeed. I am enjoying every minute of my training contract and can't wait to combine qualification with hitting the big 40!

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  • I am 41, a mum of 2 and about to start my training contract having completed the GDL and LP after a successful career in the civil service. There were many other 'career changers' just like me on my course, many of whom have also secured TCs. Age and background are no bar to a successful (second/third) career in law, but in my experience, you do need to be wise as to which firms will consider a candidate like me. Do your research - a quick look at the 'current trainees' profiles on the web page will give you an insight into the mind set and attitude of the firm towards the people it recruits, while the presence (or absence!) of any diversity stats can also be quite telling! My future employer has been nothing but positive about my past career and the experience and skills I can bring to the firm. I am also looking forward to a new career as a solicitor which, in response to Up North above, has nothing to do with money, prestige or ego, but pure old-fashioned job satisfaction...

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  • If you want to be a doctor, you do a medical degree. Want to be a lawyer in the US, then you have to obtain a juris doctorate from a qualified law school. I still can't understand why we let people who have spent three years studying philosophy or media studies undertake a 1 year paint by numbers course and then be on the same route as those who have spent three years studying law on an LLB. There is no substitute. Whilst everyone should have the ability to change, if I want to be a doctor I have to go and do a medical degree. A law degree should be a per requisite. I can generally tell those trainees who work for me who have not done a law degree.

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  • @ Anonymous 7:24am: these days a medical degree is not a prerequisite for becoming a doctor, you can do another degree (normally in science, but I don't think it's essential) and then do a fast-track conversion course. Basically it's the same as the GDL, but takes a bit longer. So your junior doctor might have a BA in history or a language or whatever without you knowing. The same goes for a lot of professions these days.

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  • Thanks for the replies; an interesting discussion. Please also see my earlier comments in this article:

    http://l2b.thelawyer.com/courses/legal-practice-course/national-college-of-legal-training-terminates-lpc-and-gdl/3005253.article

    Please note that my rhetoric is not that people who wish to career should not be allowed it. My empathy, rather, is with LLB undergraduates and graduates who embarked on a legal career from the outset and now despair at being rejected from jobs because somebody else with a diploma and a non-law degree was chosen over them. Unfortunately, university snobbery is also rife here, and I lament HR recruiters who have naff all to do with law, but hold the key to someone's career- they can decide, so easily, where you're going in life, because you went to a polytechnic and did an LLB, but someone who studied Classics at Cambridge then did a GDL was better than you.

    My belief is that if you wish to embark on a legal career, then get to the back of the queue. Lawyers seem to be allowing for the destruction of their own profession by allowing any old person to come along and proclaim, indeed be, a lawyer. As 'Down South' explains above, the GDL from their own experience was vastly flawed. I;m grateful to see that a non-LLB graduate agrees with me.

    The GDL undermines the LLB and those who worked hard to graduate with one, and who worked hard to build a portfolio to demonstrate they have had their eyes set on a legal career for a very long time indeed, perhaps with nothing else considered. This is in contrast to someone who did not like their job (because if they liked it, they'd have stayed) or faced the music and accepted that their degree in philosphy was, realistically, not going to get them very far in terms of career prospects. Now imagine being an LLB graduate and competing for the same job as someone who did a GDL, and then had to note that that person got the job in the end.

    How would you honestly, yes honestly, feel in that scenario? Again, I am not saying you have no right to become a lawyer, but that the route to be taken should be uniform. The GDL is a shortcut and an escape route, purely and simply. I am certain that if the LLB was the starting point, most career changers simply would not bother. If the legal profession is to survive, we need to get back to basics and combat the ego and money (I disagree that those are not factors in some, I said 'some', not 'all' career changers) elements that drive many lawyers. Those lawyers should also be weeded out as their attitude demonstrates no commitment or caring to the legal profession.

    I'd also disagree with the point above about certain firms not taking on people of a certain age. I have seen trainee solicitors at corporate firms; however, not every young graduate wants to strut around a city centre in a suit, and many can see straight through the glossy propaganda and brochures churned out by corporate firms. Those graduates do genuinely want to work for high street firms for the average person. Those firms are not the reserve of the more 'mature' lawyer.

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  • Anonymous | 20-Aug-2013 7:24 am : 'I still can't understand why we let people who have spent three years studying philosophy or media studies undertake a 1 year paint by numbers course and then be on the same route as those who have spent three years studying law on an LLB.'

    Neither can I. What this means is that you don't need a law degree to become a solicitor or barrister. It would sound surprising, if not horrifying, to hear.

    I can teach myself dentistry; so can anyone, but what kind of profession are we developing whereby a degree in the discipline itself can be side-stepped?

    The legal profession is now a free-for-all and it shouldn't be. Such a shame.

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  • I think it was Jonathan Sumption QC (a history don and allegedly one of the cleverest lawyers ever to practice at the Bar) who said: "doing a law degree stifles creativity and numbs the brain". I have no idea what point he was making.

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  • Ramon, Sumption was educated at Eton and Oxford and studied, as you mention, History.

    So three things:

    1) He has class status and clearly was not a serf;
    2) He did not study law;
    3) He is of the upper crust.

    It is precisely this elitist snobbery that the legal profession needs to combat. Of course anyone without a law degree can fob it off as irrelevant once they've bulldozed their way in, but Sumption has clearly proven my point about Oxbridge/elitist alumni having an easy ride.

    Again, I do not care about his status or his academic credentials. If he did not do a law degree then he is in no position to pass comment and his absence of an LLB means he is a custard short of a pudding. Indeed, and especially with that sort of arrogant dismissiveness, he should have gone to the back of the queue inside of riding on his elitist academic background.

    If you agree with his comments then you imply, perhaps without realising it, that he and others like him are so good, that his opinions (and the opinions of those like him) are the benchmark. I disagree with that mentality. If anything, the law degree (as I have said before) could do with an overhaul: more practical aspects geared towards the professions. Who knows, perhaps intercalation could be offered, as medical students do.

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  • An LLB is not a pre-requisite of being a good lawyer in the same way that an MBA does not a good businessman make.

    When I recruit somebody to my team I am looking for somebody who is going to be a good litigation lawyer. They may have an LLB, they may not.

    On a personal level, my history degree has proved more useful to me in my career as a litigation lawyer than the CPE(GDL) and LSF(LPC) combined.

    What is important is education, not training. A good education at degree level, in whatever subject, will equip you with the real skills you need as a lawyer. The reality for most solicitors is that, unless you are brave enough to become a generalist high street lawyer (and I take my hat off to those who do) you can forget 90% of the law you learnt and will never miss it.

    As for the suggestion that you can tell which trainees have not done a law degree - well yes you can. In my experience they are often the ones with the most rounded skills, honed whilst their LLB peers were stuck in a library researching some arcane point of jurisprudence.

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  • I think those saying 'LLB only' are looking at it from the wrong way round. Do non-law degree holders make decent lawyers? Might they be able to use non-law related experiences in the work place?

    The answer to both of these must be yes otherwise they wouldn't get recruited. Therefore, asking for change doesn't seem very sensible.

    Saying they should 'get to the back of the queue' also sounds a bit like sour grapes.

    ...."All the foreigners are taking our jobzzzz"

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  • Ramon, you say Jonathan Sumption QC is 'allegedly one of the cleverest lawyers ever to practice at the Bar'. Well I'm sorry to anyone who thinks he is, but this narcissism towards those at the top and this submission in complete awe to those at the top is one of the banes of the legal profession. Based on what standard or scale is he 'one of the cleverest'? Because of his schooling?

    Doesn't mean anything to me, sorry!

    And (yes I know it's not correct grammar to start a sentence with 'and') he did not study law at university, he studied history, so how can he possible comment on a law degree? If the narcissistic sycophantic flatterers of Mr Sumption et al. truly believe those remarks, then the same can be said for studying any degree, including history. Although having said that, how he can say that, after studying history and then stumbling into law, history allowed for him the opposite of stifling creativity and numbing the brain, is completely beyond me.

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  • Anon. above says: 'Do non-law degree holders make decent lawyers? Might they be able to use non-law related experiences in the work place?

    The answer to both of these must be yes otherwise they wouldn't get recruited. Therefore, asking for change doesn't seem very sensible.'


    Would a non- engineering degree engineer make a good engineer? Possibly. Would you prefer a doctor with a medical degree over someone who did a conversion course? Almost certainly.

    I don't know what you mean by 'non-law experiences'. How do you mean? Please enlighten me on how someone, to quote Up North, with a degree in classics might benefit the legal profession with knowledge of the Battle of Troy? How might a history degree holder benefit the legal profession with knowledge of Tudor England?

    So the answer isn't 'yes', it's all about pieces of paper, snobbery and numbers.

    As for The History Man (above), who says: 'As for the suggestion that you can tell which trainees have not done a law degree - well yes you can. In my experience they are often the ones with the most rounded skills, honed whilst their LLB peers were stuck in a library researching some arcane point of jurisprudence.'

    What rounded skills?

    People skills? Eccentricity? Able to engage in a bit of non-legal conversation? Showing off the fact they did a degree that would lead to a dead end? If LLB students 'were stuck in a library researching some arcane point of jurisprudence' (which isn't exactly true, although were you sadly of the impression that an LLB is a mickey mouse degree?), then firstly what is the point in doing a degree in anything if you're not going to learn about it, and what benefit to the legal profession are history graduates who were stuck in a library researching some arcane point of the War of the Roses? Your argument does not make sense. Anyone would have more faith in a lawyer who studied law inside out than a so-called 'lawyer' who did a rushed, basic diploma in law known as a GDL, and anyone with the slightest bit of sense would know that in so most professions and disciplines, many people find a niche (and there can be overlap, of course). For example, between organic and inorganic chemistry, English language and English literature, podiatry and opthalmology.

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  • I studied the GDL and am in agreement with those who say that it is not fit for purpose. The idea of being able to do a 1 year course and be up to speed with someone who has done a 3 year LLB is laughable. There are a couple of points made above by some people who start with that premise with which I disagree though.

    I am not sure that I equate the academic study of law with the practical application of it as a solicitor. Perhaps it is because I have not done a law degree, perhaps it is because I am following the solicitor rather than barrister route. Regardless, I think that performance in any academic, essay-based degree shows whether or not someone has the aptitude for becoming a solicitor. I believe the skills developed on those degrees are those which are essential for practising law; research, comprehension, analysis, eloquence, critique etc.

    My first degree was geography, which is perhaps seen as a dead end degree by some. However it is not the knowledge of geography that I came out with which I cherish and use the most; it is the skills I developed in my learning and this is why I think the GDL is useless. You are spoon-fed information, with no chance to explore the subject and develop research and writing skills. That was not a problem for me, and others who had studied similar academic, research and essay-based subjects. For those who had not and yet who still passed the GDL, they did not and do not have the skill-set that I think is necessary to be a solicitor. It’s not degree snobbery, it’s just a fact that your learning should be appropriate for your goals. My geography degree and subsequent legal qualifications would be pretty useless for other fields.

    I would also argue that not everyone who has done a law degree is suited to becoming a solicitor or barrister. I think conflating academic study and professional practise is a mistake. The GDL/LLB issue is really a separate one to aptitude at work. I believe the GDL is ridiculous because it is supposed to equate, academically, to the LLB. This is clearly not the case.

    I think that a conversion course should be permissible, however I think that entrance to it should be based on having a ‘qualifying degree’ as with the medical short course; to be eligible for that, it is necessary to hold a relevant science-based degree. What is wrong with compiling a list of degrees which provide the relevant skills for legal study? It should not be a case of ‘any degree will do’.

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  • I think it reflects more upon the inadequacy for purpose of a theoretical law degree that a non law graduate can rock up and do just as competent a job at trainee level.

    Trainees learn for more useful 'stuff' about being a good lawyer on their training contract than anyone learns on an LLB, GDL or LPC. Once the contract is completed, I very much doubt non law NQs are of lesser quality.

    The issue here seems to be about LLB graduates who are a bit cheesed off that those with a bit less direction (or a bit more foresight) have an easier route into the career.

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  • 'The issue here seems to be about LLB graduates who are a bit cheesed off that those with a bit less direction (or a bit more foresight) have an easier route into the career.'

    No. The issue is not as simple as that, and it is not simply a matter of 'foreigners taking our jobs', but given you're so dismissive, you obviously carry snobbery with you into the legal world which is a contributory factor in its demise.

    The difference between a foreigner taking jobs and a foreigner taking jobs is that the former is doing jobs nobody else wanted to do but the tabloids don't portray it that way. With the latter, an LLB graduate wants to work in any legal capacity but is denied this. If the degree could be more in-depth, stringent and for a longer duration, this might help, but if anyone can come and exercise any profession through a flash-stop course, then all professions are certain to deteriorate. I do also believe that if an LLB was compulsory, most chancers would not bother, which demonstrates a lot about their mindsets and attitude towards a career in law and the wider profession.

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  • I obtained a Classics degree from a top University and started working in a law firm afterwards and loved it. I had found my niche and wanted to make it formal so I phoned Nottingham Law School to find out more about the PGDL and nearly had my hand snapped off with them wanting me to join and a month later was on the course.

    I took the course over two years on a parttime basis whilst working full time as a legal secretary/paralegal. I then gained a Distinction on the Legal Practice Course.

    Gaining an LLB in Law doesn't make someone a better lawyer - having the skills and the aptitude for it does. I work in a top National firm now - my lack of an LLB has not held me back in the slightest.

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  • I am about to start the GDL so I hold my bias out to you from the outset. I have a successful career elsewhere and if the route was LLB then I agree with Up North in the respect that I would probably be unable to change career, however this would not be because as Up North says I 'wouldn't bother' but purely because of the financial implications of the LLB prior to what will go on to be an expensive route anyway.

    As has been mentioned previously, medicine has graduate entry, psychologists have conversion courses and there is a huge list of conversion course entry careers. This does not mean that converters who go on to practice are less qualified, given that completing the GDL doesn't mean anyone is yet fit to practice and needs to a) pass the GDL, b) be accepted by university tutors who are often qualified themselves and stand out within the oversubscribed applications process for the LPC/BPTC c) succeed there d) training contract/pupilage and so on so on, you know the route - surely if the GDL were not fit for purpose or not broad enough then those who complete it would fail at the next hurdle especially in competition with LLB graduates. A surgeon who started out on a medical degree may not have a steadier scalpel hand than a graduate entry medicine surgeon!!

    Being accepted onto a GDL in itself is an indication of achievement elsewhere within academia - as others have mentioned even GDL is oversubscribed. Do you not trust universities who decide that perhaps a BSc in Politics may be more relevant and show more achievement than a BSc in modern dance (no offence to those graduates - it just seems a few more steps away from law than politics) and then they accept the best candidate with the most relevant qualification. Possibly you don't trust their decision making but they do need to pick the best candidates.

    If as up north said earlier a GDL person finds themselves 'ahead' of the LLB graduate - if GDL is a shortcut then that LLB person should take a close look at themselves and ask why this is, rather than lamenting their position!

    If people with LLB lose out on the job front to those with GDL, if GDL is such a lesser route then maybe the LLB person would need to reflect on their own qualities as to why they lost out. You could argue that to convert evidences commitment as this is a brave choice, adding years of study and training, and no doubt you may say that to have chosen the route from undergrad indicates someone who knew what they wanted to do and sought out to get it from the outset, thus demonstrating commitment. Maybe the person with the GDL would have to sell their knowledge of law more than the LLB person and the LLB may have to sell their life experience more.

    I think someone mentioned that their experience of the GDL was not satisfactory. I am not going onto the GDL deluded into thinking that I will be spoonfed all I need to know about law in a year - I go onto it in the knowledge that I will get to know the basics, a scaffolding if you like and I will need to add to this myself. I will however progress on with a different career behind me that has taught me a lot and will actually help me if I am successful in going on to practice law, and I won't be afraid to demonstrate this to help me get a training contract.

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  • Good to hear about the Nottingham part time GDL success story (Anonymous, posted 23 Aug 12:32) - I am about to start this particular course. Any tips?

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  • Why shouldn't those who have a degree in a different discipline have the opportunity to advance their career prospects and enter the legal profession? The GDL obviously isn't as in depth as an LLB but those with a serious intent on furthering their education and learning the law will make of it what they will - and furthermore, who knows what skills and knowledge they will be bringing with them from their previous degrees/careers?

    In order to obtain, successfully, a GDL is hard work - learning the law in less than a year requires a dense concentration of study and in all honesty I have the utmost respect for those managing to do this full-time whilst working to earn money concurrently. It is not a walk in the park.

    For those saying that GDL graduates are fast tracking their way into the profession - you are not completely wrong; however, if your concern is that these "fast-trackers" are stealing job opportunities from the dedicated legal minds who obtained an LLB, your opinion baffles me. Candidates should not be judged on the journey through which they obtained a knowledge and understanding of the law, but on their suitability for the job in question, the skills they have to offer and their ambition to succeed in the legal profession.

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  • For those saying that GDL graduates are fast tracking their way into the profession - you are not completely wrong; however, if your concern is that these "fast-trackers" are stealing job opportunities from the dedicated legal minds who obtained an LLB, your opinion baffles me. Candidates should not be judged on the journey through which they obtained a knowledge and understanding of the law, but on their suitability for the job in question, the skills they have to offer and their ambition to succeed in the legal profession.

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  • A simple answer to the article's question is "an accessible one".

    As someone who came from a small working class town in the Midlands, and had no role models of the profession prior to going to university, a LLB-or-nothing route would have prevented me from experiencing a rewarding career.

    It would also seemingly discriminate against those who weren't brought up by affluent parents in affluent areas and/or don't have the money to finance an LLB whilst also paying rent/a mortgage/supporting a family.

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  • An interesting discussion. Cards on the table - career changer (with, yes, a degree in classics) heading into the GDL. I'm hugely interested in how this debate is being presented. The suggestion from the pro-LLB camp appears to be that having an LLB is both necessary and sufficient to make someone into a good lawyer - perhaps with a bit of work experience around the edges, undertaken in those long university holidays. That seems to be quite a narrow point of view, and a route that will breed quite a narrow range of lawyers. Technical knowledge, after all, is only a part of being a successful lawyer - it has that in common with medicine, the military and the wide range of consulting professions. In each of these, your ability to work with a client, in a team or on your own initiative are crucial - perhaps even being more important than technical ability. After all, nine tenths of genius is simply knowing where to look things up.

    The comparison with engineering is false - that's a profession where technical knowledge and ability count for a great degree more. That's why you can't do a one year course in bridge building and then get your CEng. But because the law demands a very different array of skills, those who go into it having gained other experiences and those who spend three years studying at university can compete on a level playing field. They may not be quite so sharp technically, but they outdo the LLB grad in other - equally crucial - areas. If gaining an LLB (rather than having an LLB) were essential, then those who do the conversion course wouldn't be able to compete.

    Note that I'm not saying that those who do other degrees necessarily have a wider array of skills than those who do an LLB. I don't entirely accept Lord Sumption's view of the LLB in that regard. But I do think that it's virtually self-evident that those who change career to law will have a wider array of skills than either - and law being a discipline which demands that wide array of skills, that gives them something of an edge. That said, such an edge is neither sufficient or necessary - just like the LLB.

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  • I don't really understand why people take this so personally.

    The simple fact is that employers do not discriminate between the routes. That doesn't mean that one doesn't provide better legal training or that the other brings more other experience. It just means employers treat them equally.

    If you want to study something else and convert to law (learning the basics in a practical setting) for a job, do the GDL.

    If you want to study law in detail and in an academic manner, do the LLB.

    I dd the GDL route and I must say the breadth of LLB grads' knowledge on the LPC was impressive. But in terms of knowing what they needed to know for the LPC, they seemed generally behind. Often, they said "I haven't even thought about Land Law since first year".

    I think that learning depth and detail is great... If you can remember it!

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  • Is it not better for a firm's clients to have the benefit of a team that can approach their problems from differing angles as a result of the team member's varied backgrounds? Don't forget that in addition to the intensive GDL course, those on the course will have been required to have also slugged away for three years.

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  • In response to Up North, someone with a degree in classics from Cambridge is probably likely to be bright than someone from a polytech with an LLB. In my career to date (and especially if I cast my mind back to the LLB) intelligent people have always grasped concepts quicker than those less intelligent people. I generally would prefer an intelligent "conversion course" lawyer than a polytechnic LLB lawyer as I've generally found them to be brighter and, as such, better lawyers.

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  • Try not having a first degree and convincing firms that a certificate of academic standing (for exceptional professional experience) from the Law Society is a 'degree in life' worth having.

    A distance learning PgDL and LPC look positively normal from where I'm standing and while I use the principles learned, the specific knowledge is either forgotten or irrelevant in practice. As are the 1984 A levels and grades I was recently asked about when applying for a new role!

    Still, I made the transition from music producer to employment solicitor; so I'm still the middle man between the client and their dreams ;-)

    Please don't think that (age) discrimination isn't rife in the recruitment of trainees or solicitors; it is, as it's a basic psychological fact that employers tend (whether they know it or not) to recruit in their own image (which, by definition means from the educational mainstream and standard age profiles).

    However, mature entrants and applicants need to use the lawyerly skills of guile, creativity and dogged determination to make it through; the same skills that they will need to represent their clients' best interests when they finally do, so it all comes out in the wash...

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  • I don't have a law degree, but got into a major law firm via PGDL. UpNorth seems to think that only LLB-holder should become lawyers. Well and good to that - provided it is clear that they should not be allowed to become anything other than lawyers.

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  • I am a Fellow of CILEx and entered law when I was over 40. I have a first BSc(hons) & a MSc. When i was looking for my first job in law, Jan 2007 I was interviewed by Clyde & co, so some very big firms look at the person and not where they got the degree. I qualified in 2010 and am well respectd locally. As I have life skills, which graduates straight from Uni don't have, I bought varied, useful skills to the job. The judges dont look down on me because I dont have a law degree. The degree should not matter, being able to talk with your client, analyse the problem and give an effective answer should be what matters.

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  • I am surprised to read a lot of negative comments towards lawyers who did the GDL and with some who say that they are inferior lawyers to those who did a traditional law degree.

    My degree was in computer science. After working in the IT industry, I did the GDL. I trained at a US firm and I now specialise in IT and IP law. As a side-note, many said it would be impossible for me to get a training contract as I am i) non-white, ii) mature, and iii) without an Oxford/Cambridge degree. However, hard work as a paralegal, demonstrating knowledge of the law and perseverance paid off.

    Does an IT degree and GDL make me a better lawyer than those who did a straight law degree? I have no idea as there are some excellent IT lawyers who did a straight law degree. However, numerous partners have appreciated my technical knowledge on IT matters when going through agreements and advising on regulatory issues. I was also asked to write articles regarding legal issues to do with the internet as I was the only one in the department who understood the architecture of the internet.

    To suggest that I fudged becoming a lawyer by not studying a law degree is unfair and misses the point. With the technical knowledge gained during my IT degree, I am able to communicate well with clients and understand what they are talking about which in turn enables me to advise appropriately. At the end of the day isn't that what a client wants - someone who understands their problems/issues and comes up with creative solutions?

    Looking at this debate, should I be denied the opportunity of doing the GDL and becoming an IT lawyer by virtue of having an IT degree instead of a law degree?

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  • I’m afraid Up North is wrong to suggest that an undertaking the LLB will make someone a better lawyer than taking the GDL as there is so much more to being a successful lawyer than knowing the Law. As many of the comments made on this article so far suggest, much depends on the kind of lawyer you want to be as some areas of law require significant non-legal knowledge if a lawyer is to meet the needs of their clients; be that, for example technological understanding, medical knowledge or an understanding of the particular industry sector in which the client operates. Some people decide to enter the profession with this knowledge in place through previous study or work experience and then learn to be a lawyer; others learn to be a lawyer and then develop the specialist knowledge they need in their area of interest.

    In addition, even if you are not intending to work as a lawyer dealing with commercial matters or in-house for a commercial organisation, lawyers also need to understand how a business operates as law firms and chambers, even those dealing with publicly funded legal work, are businesses and without an understanding of the needs of a business a lawyer won’t be in private practice very long. Lawyers also need good interpersonal skills, the ability to present arguments orally and in writing, attention to detail and a myriad other skills all of which can be just as easily developed in academic disciplines other than Law or through employment both within and outside of the legal sector.

    It should also be taken into consideration that the academic stage of the qualification process is just step one. Barristers and solicitors then have to complete the BPTC and LPC respectively before going on to their “on the job” training in the form of a pupillage or training contract. Even then the learning process isn’t complete as a good lawyer will continue to learn more about their area of expertise throughout their legal career, particularly given that what constitutes the Law changes regularly and, in some practice areas, often.
    I’ve met many fine lawyers who have studied the GDL and just as many who came through having completed a Law degree. My argument isn’t that one is better than the other just that an LLB doesn’t necessarily correlate with being a good lawyer any more than having undertaken the GDL correlates with being a bad lawyer and, as Mark | 29-Aug-2013 8:35pm quite rightly points out in his comment above, none of this takes any account of people who become excellent lawyers through CILEX.

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  • I appreciate solicitors with a law degree might be aggrieved that those who don't get the same treatment but I have to say Chartered Legal Executives get a real raw deal on the job front considering they have the equivalent of a law degree and often much more practical training and experience than many solicitors let alone converts. I do get irritated that in this day and age job adverts through agencies only target solicitors when CILEX individuals are even eligible to be on the judge circuit. The recruitment industry needs to come out of the dark ages and educate itself in the various qualifications and what they actually mean and offer to the profession!

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  • Cards on the table - LLB Graduate, wanted to be a lawyer since the age of 12, trained with a City law firm, now an in-house NQ (after deciding in-house life was more for me during a TC secondment).

    Actually I totally disagree with the other LLB graduates on here - being an LLB graduate doesn't make you a better lawyer.

    I studied the LLB because I already wanted to be a lawyer and it was the course that sounded the most interesting the same way that my friends that read history thought that about their course.

    In my trainee cohort we had a ten year age range (roughly 23-33 at the start) and a variety of LLB and GDL. It did not make any difference or make any particular trainee a better lawyer.

    You learn almost everything you need to be a good trainee on the job, its about other skills - communication, organisation, professionalism, flexibility - these are transferable skills that you can learn from any degree and its about how well you apply them when you are put in the real life situation of a training contract.

    So I'm going to step away from the rest of the LLB graduates and say that despite being one I don't think it should be necessary for everyone to be one. I think you should study whatever interests you at university as then you will get the most out of your experience and gain the best skills. You should, however, do work experience, as there is no comparison for actually experiencing life in a law firm...but then maybe I just don't have a GDL sized chip on my shoulder because I'm an LLB graduate who secured a TC?

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