Everything you need to know about law conversion courses in the UK | Top Universities

Everything you need to know about law conversion courses in the UK

By Chloe Lane

Updated October 8, 2023 Updated October 8, 2023

If you want to work in law in the UK but haven’t studied law at undergraduate level, you might want to consider doing a law conversion course. If you think this is the route for you, and you wish to study in the UK, you will need to study the GDL.

What is the GDL?

The Graduate Diploma in Law, known more widely as the GDL, is a one-year full time law conversion course (or two years part time) which brings students up to date with the knowledge they need to become a lawyer. The course may also be referred to as the Common Professional Exam (CPE). The course fits three years’ worth of law knowledge into a year and is intended for students who already have an undergraduate degree in a different subject and wish to change their career path towards law.

What will I study?  During the law conversion course, you will study the seven core foundational areas of law. These are:

  • English Legal System and Constitutional Law (including Retained EU Law)
  • Equity and Trusts
  • Public Law (including administrative law and human rights law)
  • Land Law
  • Contract Law
  • Tort
  • Criminal Law

Students can then choose to choose to study one further aspect of law. This may be a further module in a topic of your choice, or a research project where you will write an essay related to the area of law you want to study.

What is the difference between a GDL and an LLM (master’s in law)?

An LLM is a master’s in law, designed for students who have already completed their LLB undergraduate law degree or their GDL course. It is, however, possible to earn a place on an LLM without having completed an LLB or a GDL, so long as you can demonstrate that you have significant legal knowledge. This knowledge may be gained during work experience in vacation schemes across different law firms, or in other forms of work experience.

The difference between a GDL and an LLM is essentially your career aspirations. If you want to be a lawyer (a solicitor or a barrister) then you need to either complete a bachelor’s degree in law or have studied another subject at undergraduate level and completed the GDP. If you want to specialise in the legal area of the subject you have studied at undergraduate level (such as medical law), then the LLM will enable you to do that.

Where can I study the GDL?

There are many universities around the country where you can study the GDL law conversion course. Many institutions offer both part-time and full-time courses and some even offer distance learning courses, so you can earn your qualification while working.

You should also find out as much about an institution as you can before applying; including career prospects, whether it’s reputable amongst law firms and the school’s links with law firms around the country.

Several institutions that offer the GDL include:

GDL Provider

Location in UK

Cost of Course (full time)

University of Law

Birmingham, Bristol, Chester, Exeter, Chester, Guilford, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Reading, Nottingham, SheffieldLondon and online

Outside London: £10,100

In London: £12,550

Bournemouth University



University of Brighton



Cardiff University



Oxford Brookes University



Nottingham Trent University



How much does the GDL cost?

The cost of the GDL varies across universities, so it is worth checking the price of the course when you decide which institution you might wish to study at.  According to The Lawyer Portal, the cost of the GDL course is around £5,000-£12,000, but this might be higher or lower depending on the institution. Unfortunately, you cannot use a student loan to fund the GDL, but many institutions offer GDL scholarships, which will help reduce the cost slightly.

What comes next after completing the GDL?

After completing a GDL course, if you still want to become a lawyer, you must decide whether you would rather be a barrister or a solicitor. Barristers specialise in courtroom litigation and advocacy. They are independent and so can work on different sides in legal disputes. Alternatively, solicitors can deal with conveyancing, the drawing up of wills and other legal matters. The path you decide is right for you will influence what you do next.  

To become a barrister, you will have to complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). This is a one-year, practical course which helps to provide the training specific to a junior barrister. You will then have to complete a pupilage – a work placement which lasts twelve months.

If you choose to become a solicitor, you will complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC), a one year, full-time course which is both skills based and knowledge based and will prepare you for doing the work of a trainee solicitor when you start your training contact.

This article was originally published in November 2019 . It was last updated in October 2023

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