Careers: Meet the Transformers

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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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