If you did not study law as an undergrad, you can still have a career in that field thanks to law conversion courses. There are two main options available at universities around the UK: the common professional examination (CPE) and graduate diploma in law (GDL). There apparently is not a significant difference between the two and the terms are often used interchangeably.
Over 1-2 years (full time or part time), law conversion courses cover seven foundational legal subjects: EU law, public law, land law, tort law, criminal law, contract law, and equity and trusts. The goal is for non-law graduates to get an education that puts them on the same level as those who did get a law degree in undergrad. Here are five universities offering law conversion courses in the UK:
The University of Law
Locations: Bristol, Birmingham, Chester, Exeter, Chester, Leeds, Guilford, Liverpool, Manchester, London, Nottingham, Reading
The University of Law offers a Graduate Diploma in Law at each of their locations and through online study. The course uses a modular style, which means that at the end of each semester, you take an exam covering what you’ve learned. Before beginning, students are required to take the online pre-course study programme on legal method. It takes around 50 hours to complete and once it’s done, you will be prepared for this GDL’s nine modules covering the seven foundational subjects.
To be eligible, you must have a UK undergrad degree with a 2:2 minimum or an equivalent qualification. For overseas graduates and mature non-graduates, you must apply for a Certificate of Academic Standing from the Bar Standards Board if you intend to become a barrister. If you intend to become a future solicitor, qualifications should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org for determination on whether you are eligible for this GDL.
All students must speak English and meet other requirements which are described on The University of Law’s page on the GDL. If you want to study online for the i-GDL, the requirements are the same. By choosing the online study programme, you have more flexibility as well as support and feedback from a University of Law tutor.
This programme from Bournemouth University is labeled as a GDL/CPE course. It’s only available as a full-time course (1 year) and is approved by The Bar Council and the SRA. It uses a small group style, so each student gets individual time with the teaching team and academic staff. Core units include Legal Systems, Skills, and Research; Constitutional and EU Law; Human Rights Law; and Criminal Law. There are eight taught units in total, and students will have the chance to complete a paper on a further area of law they are interested in.
Eligible applicants must have a Bachelor’s Honours degree with a 2:2 or equivalent. If you don’t have a UK or Republic Honors Degree, you must have either earned an equivalent overseas qualification with a minimum of 3 years full-time study; met the standards of The Bar Standards Board/Solicitors Regulation Authority for acceptance as a mature student; or possess an equivalent vocational or academic qualification that meets those standards. If English isn’t your first language, you need an IELTS (Academics) score of 6.5, with a minimum of 6.0 in writing and 5.5 in speaking, listening, and reading.
University of Brighton
This Law Conversion LLM from Brighton is recognized by the Bar Standards Board and Solicitors Regulation Authority. It’s a skill-based, practice-led course taught by lecturers and supplemented with guest talks from judges and local practitioners of law. Classes are small. Students can also choose from a selection of extracurricular activities such as moot court, pro bono work, and client interviewing. The course is available as a full-time or part-time study. Both are eligible for the UK government’s postgraduate loan.
To be eligible for the course, applicants must have a good honours degree given by a recognized UK or Republic of Ireland institution with at least a 2:2 standard. If an applicant has a non-standard UK degree or overseas qualification, they may need a Certificate of Academic standing. Future barristers should get theirs from the Bars Standards Board. If English isn’t your first language, you will need an IELTS 6.5 overall, with a 5.5 minimum in each section. Brighton states that if you are an international student with language skills that don’t match these scores, you should consider applying to the law conversion course through the Extended Masters programme at Brighton’s Language Institute.
The GDL at Cardiff University is an intensive course for non-law graduates that covers the legal foundations such as Equity & Trusts; EU Law; Land Law; Public Law; and so on. Students will also complete an extended essay at the end of their studies. Cardiff’s study model consists of regular classes for the first two weeks, but then you only attend school on Thursdays and Fridays. The rest of the time is for independent study. Lectures are delivered by email, which you can listen to on your own schedule. There are also many opportunities to talk to tutors in person.
Applicants for this course must meet Cardiff’s general entrance requirements and GDL academic requirements such as an Honours Degree from a UK university in a non-law subject. You must have a Class 2:2 at minimum. Overseas applicants or applicants with non-standard qualifications should apply for a Certificate of Academic Standing from the Bars Standards Board, if the goal is to become a barrister. For non-English speakers, you must meet the university’s minimum requirement for English, which is a grade C/4 at GCSE or IELTS (Academic) with an overall 6.5 and 5.5 minimum in each section.
Oxford Brookes University
The GDL at Oxford Brookes University begins with a 2-week induction course that brings students up to speed with the English legal system. Lectures topics include legal theory, problem solving, and legal writing. Students must pass (it’s a pass/fail course) this induction before moving on to courses such as Contract Law; EU Law; Tort Law; Equity & Trusts; and so on. Opportunities include national mooting, client interviewing, barrister mentoring schemes, and solicitor mentoring schemes.
Applicants are advised to have a second class degree or above in a non-law subject, but Oxford Brookes states that all applicants are “considered on their merits.” It’s essential, however, that all applicants show a commitment to the legal profession. If you intend to become a barrister but don’t have a UK first degree, you need a Certificate of Academic Standing. Applicants are advised to get their certificate from the Bar Standards Board. If English isn’t your first language (even if your degree is from the UK), you will need A-level English or IELTS score of 7.0 with a 6.5 minimum in each section.