Editor’s weekly: Law v GDL

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  • I think it just demonstrates that many law firms are looking for more diversified trainees, rather than the same old traditional law student.

    A trainee who has studied for example Biomedical Sciences, may be able to lend his/her expertise when it comes to IP law, and will be able to much better integrate with the client, if they understand what the technical terms actually mean.

    Before I'm accused of siding with the GDL crowd, I followed the direct law degree path.

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  • I live in a house of 6.

    2 of us are lawyers and spend a lot of time in the library and miss out on nights out as a result. The politician doesn't leave his bed most days, let alone the house, and is going to start his dissertation 3 weeks before it is due in - regardless of this he is almost certainly guarenteed a 2.1. As is the historian who doesn't get up until 1pm most days and spends a lot of his time recording for his university radio show. The two aviation students don't do so much work either and they tend to watch a lot of iPlayer. However, they're both going to get a 2.1 and one of them may get a 1st.

    The fact that law firms insist on a mandatory 2.1 degree before they read your application surely acts in a detrimental way to law students because we must work so much harder to achieve it that standard.

    They ask that you do lots of extra curricular activities to show a rounded personality - it's much easier to do said activities when you aren't in the library as much as the law students which is another factor which goes against lawyers.

    However, the one that confuses me the most is that the law firms want you to show dedication to a career in law...How can an English student or a first class basket weaver show more dedication to a career in law than a law student who has seen out 3-years of it? This may be the reason why Slaughter and May closed their applications to non-law students - because you simply don't have as much to do as us to safeguard a 2.1 so if you're really dedicated you should have handed it in already!

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  • I sympathise with the full law students - it must be irritating to do a vary difficult degree, and seeing those often taking less time consuming ones get an equal shot, as Anon. above suggests. However, the arguments of the 'law-yers' simply do not stack up.

    There are three main contentions as far as I can see:

    a) Non-law-yers do easier degrees so have more time to bulk up their CVs.

    This is underestimating HR departments. Those I spoke to knew the exact details of every course - they knew my Uni marked notoriously hard in the second year of history for instance. If you do an easier degree they will know - and expect some seriously spectacular extras on the CV in that spare time. Do a hard law degree and they will know it, and respect a 2.1/first more. Also, if there is extra time for non-lawyers to bulk up CVs, so can the law students while we're doing a GDL surely?

    Furthermore, this argument does not account for harder degrees ie. the sciences. Where should the line be drawn?

    b) Non-law-yers have not demonstrated a commitment to law.

    This again underestimates the firms selection progress. As I non-lawyer myself (you guessed it) I had to justify my choices. I did work experience from the age of 15 in law - I didn't do a degree in it because I wanted a wider experience in my life, a few years before committing my entire life to the law! My degree gives a valuable angle to practice from, and I worked hard during recruitment season to show my dedication .

    c) Non-law-yers simply know less law.

    Initially this may well be true, although the difference can be overestimated. Most academics think the GDL is comparable to a two year law degree, such is the volume of work squeezed in. Furthermore, because of the style of learning on the GDL, many LPC tutors fell GDLers perform much better on the LPC, a similar structure.

    In practice, for commercial law, all the lawyers I have spoke to say they rarely, if ever, use the theory from law school in their work. What they learn on the training contract and on the job is what matters.


    All degrees are tough. The GDL is tough. The process is tough, and thorough beyond belief - if you lacked dedication or endeavour, you will be found out. Trouble is, people from all backgrounds can show these qualities in a variety of ways. And law firms like that.

    However, the funding provided for the GDL does seem overly generous considering law-yers don'f get it in their penultimate year before the training contract. It may not be there for much longer however.

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  • I think we're approaching this all wrong. Everyone is saying similar things. Yes the law degree is too much work (if you want any sort of existence outside of the libray) and the GDL is very intensive. I did the straight law route and am now close to completing my LPC. I still don't have a training contract. The problem, in my view, is with the law degree itself.
    I regret, absolutely, the choice to do a law degree. I think a non-law degree, followed by the GDL is a much better way to get through the process. The law degree is, quite frankly, a massive waste of three years. Everything you actually need from the degree can be picked up, I would estimate, in about 6 months. During the degree one spends too much time on very abstract, academic points and one's ability to understand and discuss these points has absolutely nothing to do with practicing law.
    I would urge anyone who is yet to start their degree but is contemplating a career law to rethink. Do a degree in something which is fairly demanding, but something you will enjoy. Sciences are good (the IP point made above) but also the more theoretical subjects (such as History, Politics, Philosophy) will do just as well. University really should be about shaping yourself as a person, not spending day after day in the library trying to find the rationale behind the judgments of Denning or whoever it may be.
    I think that as it is possible to get into law without doing a law degree, people should take advantage of this; and this coming from someone who did a law degree.

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  • In fairness it is possible to do a law degree and also show you have embraced different ways of thinking to the general 'principle + authority' route via for example, subjects such as legal history and jurisprudence. The fact is, an LLB is a damn sight more hard work than a general history or languages degree just in sheer work load alone, let alone if you wan to do well. And a first is a lot harder to achieve if you want to amass some extra-curricular form as well.
    I have doubts that HR can analyse to the extent suggested above, but they should take into account that an LLB student with a good portfolio of extra-curriculars is likely to be not only motivated, if not driven, to succeed in law but will be better prepared for the slog ahead at TC stage.
    Also, if the (Oxbridge especially) non-law/GDL students were not so bloody condescending on vac schemes (in my experience) it might help stop the angst that arises between the LLB/GDL factions.

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  • In the olden days, there were no lawyers but kingsmen ruled their subjects efficiently. To me it is total nonsense when law is classed so high in society. Why can't people from other degree do the GDL and attain the same status as LLB? I believe if you give anyone who is literate and wise the chance to study just the basics of law, the person can even end up being a better lawyer than some LLB grads. Afterall, when it comes to justice it varies in most countries. It is just like people eating different kinds of food and different languages all over the world. It is all about common sense and protocols. I think Technologists are even more knowlegable in society.

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  • Taking the GDL route costs a huge amount more money and takes longer - surely that is proof enough that students taking this option are dedicated to a career in law? I appreciate the plight of the straight law students, but to claim that all students on other degrees are work-shy and 'have an easy ride' is just plain snobbery. The profession needs variety not hordes of students all educated in the same way, in the same discipline.

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  • Well the GDL is only considered equivalent to a law degree partly on the basis a GDL holder needs to hold a full degree in another subject first. In reality the GDL is 2 years' worth of a Law degree. Where it is much more demanding than an LLB is time pressure: you having to cover 7 legal subjects plus research in 9 months. It is far more intensive than the LLB that will inevitably be slightly more wide ranging and leisurely. The GDL student will have to abandon the more discursive analysis used in his/her previous degree and be far more efficient in writing and time management. This is possibly why law firms DID take on so many GDL/CPE/PGDL holders. Indeed it might be said a GDL holder is more ready for the pressures of LPC and BVC (BPTC) than an LLB graduate. And perhaps has a more pluralistic outlook having studied something else

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  • The GDL should be banned.

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