The Graduate Diploma in Law - GDL CPE or The Law Conversion Course

What is the GDL / Law Conversion Course?

GDL is the abbreviation of the term ‘Graduate Diploma in Law’. This is the course which is taken by graduates of any university degree who wish to become a barrister or solicitor.  

The GDL is the newer version of the traditional Common Professional Examination (CPE) but there is no real difference between the two. Other courses which offer the same law conversion may be known as senior status law degrees, postgraduate LLB’s or GDip (graduate diploma).

Who needs to complete the GDL course?

If you do not study towards a law degree at university but wish to be a solicitor or a barrister before you can proceed to the vocational section of your training by completing either the Legal Practice Course for solicitors or the Bar Vocational Course for barristers, you must first study the GDL.

This is a postgraduate course and therefore you must have already have obtained an undergraduate degree in a subject other than law from an institution based in the United Kingdom or a foreign institution which the governing body, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, considers to be equivalent.

It may also be possible for a student who holds academic and vocational qualifications to study towards the GDL if the Solicitors Regulation Authority deems these qualifications to be equivalent to a degree.

Another possibility is if the student is over 25 and either a member or fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives the Solicitors Regulation Authority may allow entry to the GDL.

Even if you have studied towards a law degree and that degree is not a ‘qualifying law degree’ you must also complete the GDL. A non-qualifying law degree is a degree in which you study law but do not complete the required modules in order for the degree to be ‘qualifying’, these modules include subjects like contract, tort and European Union law.

Who offers the GDL course?

There are now a number of institutions which provide the GDL. These include some universities and some legal course providers. Each will have their own specific entry requirements with regards to the students’ previous grades but a 2:2 is usually the minimum entry requirement. However, a legal career and training is very competitive and many students will have gained a 2:1 or First in their undergraduate degree.

Many institutions offer the GDL in addition to the Legal Practice Course or the Bar Vocational Course so it may be worth considering if you wish to remain at the same institution when you have completed the GDL for your further studies.

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For more information on:

  • How long does the Course last and what do you need to study?
  • Should you study the GDL?