I found the GDL much more structured than my university degree (BA in French and Linguistics). Because you’re essentially cramming the seven core modules from a law degree into one year, the GDL is very regimented to ensure you get through it all.
It also means you spend much less time on and reading around topics than at university.
Having done a humanities degree, it meant I had fewer essays to do, but overall my weekly workload was more.
The exam style is completely new. Writing a legal answer is a completely different skill to the academic essays I was used to at university. There is a strict structure to follow and questions are generally based on factual scenarios rather than essay-style questions.
The environment was different too. At university, there was a campus with hundreds of different students. Whereas on the GDL, you’ll likely spend most of your time with your one tutor group for the whole year in a one-building site.
I made the definitive decision to do the GDL and apply for training contracts during my year abroad after doing a number of legal placements.
By the time I started my GDL, it was a relief to finally understand a lot of the legal concepts and jargon I’d come across. It was also reassuring to know that I did enjoy law and had chosen a career that was right for me.
Initially getting used to a completely new academic area was quite challenging. There are a lot of new concepts and terminology, and the time-pressure means that you don’t have long to get your head around them! Therefore, time management is key given the amount of content on the course.
The nature of the course also means you have all or nothing end-of-year exams. This meant that the exam period was a lot more intense than my university experience. There, I’d had three years of modules building up to my final grade.
The GDL is really good preparation for a career in law. The skills you need to employ to succeed are the same as those which a trainee solicitor or barrister require.
Firstly, effective time management is hugely important.
Attention to detail is also key for picking out the relevant facts from the questions and applying them to specific points of law.
Although all the assessments are individual, teamwork is hugely important. A lot of the tutorial sessions centre on group activities, and having friends who could help clarify certain points during revision was invaluable!
Finally, commitment and stamina during the difficult patches will definitely help you do well.
As the GDL is so structured, it is easy to allocate a specific time each week to a specific task. On most GDL courses, you are likely to do seven modules (Land, Equity & Trusts, Criminal, Contract, Tort, Constitution and Administration, and EU) and you’re likely to have a lecture and a tutorial to prepare for in each module every week.
As my timetable was the same each week, I did the same piece of work prep (e.g. Land Tutorial) at the same time each week (e.g. Monday at 10am for two hours). And when that wasn’t possible I had to be prepared to do some evening work or a few hours on the weekend.
My GDL course was split into two lecture days, two tutorial days and one day off.
A typical day involved two or three hours of lectures or tutorials, and spending the time in between finishing tutorial prep in the library. The earliest start I had was at 9am and latest I would typically finish was around 6pm.
Only having 14 contact hours a week does mean that you have flexibility to fit your days around other plans. So some days I would start a bit later and work later if that’s what was best.
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