In defence of the GDL

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  • Being a "normal" Johnny Law Degree this article is a hard read, it will no doubt provoke debate amongst lawyers and GDLers alike.

    Obviously, having not studied law at University, many of your assertions lack knowledge. Whilst it may, indeed, be possible to "scrape through" first year with a comfy 40, the fact of the matter is that simply is not good enough for those wanting to secure vacation schemes and mini pupillages in year 2 - where first year grades count for a good deal.

    "Proper" law students do not have the luxury of doing trusts in their third year - that is entirely dependant on University - personally I read land law in first year and trusts in second year. Needless to say niether were "gifts" as you have it.

    As regards GDLers having the so called advantage of not having to rifle through old first year land law notes before interviews at traditional Chancery sets - as you will find out that is not what pupillage interview is about. If, indeed, you get an interview at the Chancery Bar, which I must say still is the most traditional and Oxbridge dominated, procedure and such like will dominate the agenda - academia is almost irrelevant. Another fully research assertion you make, obviously.

    I move on. "It is regarded as equal to a law degree". Another poor assertion. Quite how a diploma can be regarded as equal to a law degree is beyond my logic. However, the simple fact that, by your own admission, you are not afforded the "luxury of doing electives", points to a different conclusion. Those with a law degree have a much deeper well routed understanding of the law - a fact the GDL students seem to discover on the BVC. Legal Research will be a telling exam for those who have barely engaged in any such activity at all, I suggest you make a start - try the law student way and look up cases and articles ever day for three years and then your diploma may be equal to a law degree. Perhaps my logic is flawed.

    If one believes the GDL is hard work, I wish you luck on the BPTC. Many say it is more time consuming still.

    My conclusion is short and simple. A law degree gives a much fuller foundation for practice; legal research skills, a broader background outside of the core modules and a cemented understanding of key principles. None of these, in my humble opinion, result from the GDL, at least not to a satisfactory standard.

    Be careful of stats, they can often lie.

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  • Only a GDL student could have produced such a sub-standard article.

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  • Right, well, Johnny Law Degree you assert that 'Obviously, having not studied law at University, many of your assertions lack knowledge', however the same can be said of your ill informed concluding comment on the (sub)standard to which GDL students are taught key principles of law and legal research skills. You humble opinion is of course biased towards your own route into practice.

    While I do concede that it is important to not simply 'scrape through' the first year of a law degree lest you are looked on unfavourably by sets and firms offering work experience, it is not necessary to do mini-pupillages and VACs schemes later on during the degree and indeed even on the BPTC. My point therefore was simply that you get a year to, as it were, ease into the study of law, while us GDL students have little time to become proficient.

    You mention rather defensively that you studied Trusts in your second year and not your third. I do apologise, I did not realise this was dependent on university, however the fact still remains that you were able to study only a few modules per year, allowing you to devote greater time to them. This, you must concede is rather more helpful than having to learn every module at once. Then, given the tenor of your rebuttal perhaps not.

    As for your observation that pupillage interviews are largely procedure based with virtually no substantive law element to them, surely some law relating to the set's practice area must be retained for interview.

    As for regarding the GDL as equal to a law degree, that is simply in the context of preparation for practice. If chambers and firms were not satisfied that GDL students are as able as those with law degrees, they would simply stop offering training contracts and pupillage to those from the former category. However, as I am sure you know, they don't. Oh and you might ponder the fact that while you may have a law degree and a mere diploma may ordinarily pale in comparison, I will have a non-law degree and an LLB after completing my BPTC. I know what I'd prefer.

    As for Legal Research, it is foolish to think that GDL students do not research any of our own cases, of course we do. Furthermore, many of this year's contingent also took part in mooting which you may know also helps garner skills in legal research.


    One does believe the GDL is hard work and so this will be a good grounding for the BPTC if you are indeed correct that the BPTC is more time consuming. Anecdotally however I have heard more evidence to the contrary. Perhaps the many you speak of did law degrees.

    Best of luck with the rest of your studies and thanks for commenting so passionately, I was worried the article wouldn't be provocative enough.

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  • Any idiot can coast through the 3 leisurely years of an LLB and emerge with a Desmond, the GDL really sorts the wheat from the chaff. Half my course had vanished after a couple of months.

    Savvy firms and chambers know it. Many GDLers had former pressured careers, I worked as a manager at an investment company... the intense nature of the GDL is the most accurate mimic of life in the commercial world, the pressure and the pace that modern employers expect. The recruitment stats indeed don't lie, anyone clued up running a business would be daft to favour llbers over those who have passed the GDL.

    The GDL isn't just a 'diploma'... it converts an existing degree which is why it is called a conversion course - doh. Without an initial degree you need ten years managerial working experience to be allowed to take it.

    You can see the difference in the way tutors speak of LLBers compared with GDL students... the general feeling is that LLBers have to be spoonfed and wet-nursed but the latter are altogether a hardier and more self-reliant breed.

    If you're hiring it's a no brainer. Getting a commendation or distinction on the GDL says far more about the kind of performance you are likely to get on the job.

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  • "If one believes the GDL is hard work, I wish you luck on the BPTC. Many say it is more time consuming still."

    Utter nonsense ! It's a doss in comparison.

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  • The GDL is a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD). It is palpably absurd to compare it to an LLB. Nine tenths of the work in one third of the time? There's no skimping on the standard and what has to be learned, it's the same stuff, the exams and assessments are nigh identical.

    By any measure of logic the GDL is a much harder qualification to attain than the LLB and furthermore, speaks volumes to any employer about working under pressure.

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  • What utter rubbish Rajesh Vora.

    Yes the GDL is a difficult qualification to obtain due to the vastness of what has to be mastered, but one must bare in mind that most employers put far more emphasis on the first degree results than the GDL. This means, if one studies something easy like politics, and scores very high grades and then goes onto score 40s and 50s on the GDL - they still stand a far greater chance of obtaining a TC or Puipillage at a good place, over someone who studies the LLB at a quality university, like yours - and scores low 60s, high 50s. One may state that the politics student is more intellegent, which is certainly bollocks, because law is one of the hardest degrees to study.

    With regards to comparing your GDLplusbvc/lpc = LL.B to a proper LL.B is silly. University LL.Bs not only meet the SRA requirements, but also meet the universites own quality requirements, which varies from institution to institution. Lets stick to the proper pre-1992 Universites, and I will be suprised if anyone intelliegent will agree that this law school LL.B is worth the same as a LLB from a established university. Yes your GDL may have been assessed to the same standards as other pollyers your studying with, but it will not be anywhere near the standards of the top 20 law departments.

    Law firms recruit GDLers because the role of trainee and low ranking solicitors does not require a 1st class LL.B. However as one goes up the rank, the difference between real lawyers over the glorified admin assistants becomes apparent.

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  • "the fact still remains that you were able to study only a few modules per year".

    That makes no sense at all. The GDL has seven modules, most law degrees have six to eight modules each year. Your attempt at making a point falls flat on its face.

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  • “My point therefore was simply that you get a year to, as it were, ease into the study of law, while us GDL students have little time to become proficient.”

    What were you doing during your original degree? Surely after a three year degree you should be well used to studying. Your point fails.

    “surely some law relating to the set's practice area must be retained for interview.”

    Unlikely as interviewers don’t normally assume a knowledge of any particular area of law due to the different content of every university’s law courses.

    “As for Legal Research”

    Pointless capitalisation.

    “the general feeling is that LLBers have to be spoonfed and wet-nursed but the latter are altogether a hardier and more self-reliant breed.”

    I studied a law degree followed by one module of the GDL. The GDL module practically shoved a spoon in my mouth. Full notes, recorded lectures, full packs containing all reading material and copies of cases were given out by the college. The law degree had very little of that and I had to do almost everything for myself.

    “Getting a commendation or distinction on the GDL says far more about the kind of performance you are likely to get on the job.”

    No it doesn’t. Academia, especially in law, is no guide to how you’ll actually perform in any job.

    “One may state that the politics student is more intellegent, which is certainly bollocks, because law is one of the hardest degrees to study.”

    Full agree with this. My Russell Group uni virtually refused to hand out any mark above sixty.

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  • "suprised if anyone intelliegent"

    Not you then, if your spelling and grammar are anything to go by.

    I'm sure even a 'glorified admin assistant' could do better.

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  • It's not surprising that those who have completed the LLB want to see themselves as objectively superior - it must be galling to start at the same line as those who have only done 1 year instead of 3. Usually older students with more life and work experience (and confidence) - essential attributes for a succesful lawyer.

    It's the same attitude with most conversion courses or masters. My girlfriend did an IT conversion from engineering and although this is routinely sneered at by some who did the 'full' degree, her employers certainly don't see it as inferior in any way. It was almost regarded as a fast-track for high fliers.

    The fact that the GDL is taken at an ex-polly is irrelevant. They're simply the places which do most of these courses now. E.g: You can do the GDL at Manchester Met but not at Manch Uni - it just isn't available... the upshot of this is that you get some serious quality people on the courses at these 'pollys'. The current GDL year at Manchester Met has ex-broadcast journalists, the former deputy chief constable of Cheshire (no less) and many other high fliers (in former careers) studying there... 2.1s from good Unis are ten a penny. LLBers can hardly string a sentence together (as much of the grammar and spelling above would attest)

    To any GDL students out there, don't take any notice of a few bitter LLBers slagging off the GDL - after all, they would, wouldn't they?
    The employment statistics tell a very different story

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  • Everyone knows that 2 years out of a 3 year degree are spent getting pissed and trying to get laid. Students know this and employers who were students themselves know this. All degrees could really be 18 months if students were expected to work rather than ponce about having a party.

    That's all the GDL is, a law degree without the piddling about. It's a more mature qualification.

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  • Anyone who suggests that the GDL is in any way easy or inferior to a law degree is clearly deluded. I studied the GDL after completing a degree at the University of Durham. I can honestly say the year spent studying the GDL was by far more intense than the whole three years of my degree course combined.

    Not only did it require several hours solid work ,every day of the week, the financial pressures meant I had to squeeze in a part time job as well.

    The level of persistance and endurance needed to complete this demanding course will never be understood by someone who has not studied it.

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  • “Usually older students with more life and work experience (and confidence) - essential attributes for a succesful lawyer.”

    Unlikely. Most people take the GDL immediately after their degree, although a tiny number do have some experience that doesn’t amount to working in a shop.

    “The fact that the GDL is taken at an ex-polly is irrelevant.”

    That’s not how employers see things.

    “The employment statistics tell a very different story”

    Please elaborate on this.

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  • I've worked in recruitment and I can tell you that a significant number of firms specify a preference for GDL students. A lot of them already have work/life experience and are much better for commercial employers because they hit the ground running.

    Experience of another career is a definite plus. There's nothing more off-putting for a client than some clueless fresh-faced kid.

    The undercurrent in law these days is to recruit experienced people from outside the profession. Law is one of those areas (unlike meeja) where gravitas and experience inspire client-confidence.

    Anyone who thinks that GDL students are viewed as inferior is deluding themselves, the opposite is the case.

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  • My word! Some people are unbelievably sour! As the person above said, it really doesn't matter what we all think about GDLs, LLBs (I love how one individual was anal enough to write "LL.B"), "pre-1992 uni's" (what a snob!) and ex-pols...the facts in recruiting speak for themselves, it's always 40/60 or 50/50 and that continues right up the management chain. Think about it, do you want a firm where everyone has the same perspective, or one where peoples' differences enable them to engage with a problem from multiple viewpoints?

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  • Heh. Yes, you can tell which group feels most threatened with all their 'poly' inferior stuff.

    This shrill prejudice isn't reflected in recruitment... no indeedy... GDL is harder to get by far... firms know this.

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  • Some people are completely missing the point: GDL students aren’t people that just walk of the street, they already have a degree. They have spent the 3 -4 years as an undergraduate learning the skills and academic procedures absent from the GDL.

    For example, the reason the GDL ‘spoon feeds’ you where an LLBer would have had to research is because the majority (if not all) degrees involve a substantial amount of research, essay writing, requirement to master ‘technical terms’, etc. It does not take 3 years to master using lexis or any other law-specific search engine.

    The purpose of the GDL is to provide the fundamental legal knowledge required to practice law; it already (correctly) assumes they have the more in-depth academic skills and procedures that those with an LLB are meant to possess.

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  • Here is what the great Peter Birks (if you didn't do a law degree you'll have to google him) wrote about conversion courses:

    "You get what you pay for. You get a large number of lawyers, all of whom have studied, at breakneck speed, just six subjects and always exactly the same six, currently contract, tort, land law, trusts, criminal law and constitutional-cum-administrative law. The six-disease, one-year doctor is unthinkable. The six-subject, one-year lawyer is unknown anywhere else in the world. In Germany, where the competition will ultimately come from, a two-year vocational stage is preceded in the over-whelming majority of cases by five years' academic study of the law, and there is no way at all of reducing that five years to less than four.

    Advocates for the one-year course should be made to list the subjects to which they attach no importance: Comparative Law, Company, Competition, Computers/Information Technology, Conflicts of Law, Consumer Law, Environmental Law, European Law, Evidence, Family Law, Insolvency, Intellectual Property, International Trade, Labour Law, Legal History, Legal Philosophy, Public International Law, Race Relations/Ethnic Minorities, Remedies, Restitution, Sentencing/Penology, Succession, Taxation, Welfare and Social Security.

    A person knows nothing of any of these cannot be called learned in the law. And a practising profession which welcomes people who know nothing of any of them is neglecting its long-term, perhaps even its medium-term future..."

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  • "This shrill prejudice isn't reflected in recruitment... no indeedy"

    Rubbish - look at the Bar

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