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Law Conversion Course - GDL

updated on 01 February 2023

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Find out which institutions offer law conversion courses by using our Course search

Until 2021, if you studied a non-law degree at university and wanted to become either a solicitor or barrister, you had to take a conversion course known as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Some institutions may refer to it as the Common Professional Exam, but this is the same as the GDL. Now, however, the GDL is only compulsory for aspiring barristers from non-law degree backgrounds.

As for aspiring solicitors, in September 2021 the route to qualifying changed with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) – see below for more information.

The GDL/PGDL or law conversion course is a one-year, full-time (or two-year part-time) course that results in a diploma equivalent to a law degree – it forms the common basis for non-law graduate entry to the barristers' profession. It can also be taken over two years either part-time or by distance learning. In the past, without a law degree or the GDL you couldn’t become a solicitor. This has now changed. Find out more below.


The SQE is a new system of exams that all prospective solicitors must now pass at the point of qualifying. As part of this route, non-law graduates are no longer required to take a law conversion course. Technically, anyone with a university degree (or equivalent) can attempt the SQE assessments without undertaking any legal training first (as long as they can afford the exam fees of £4,115).

To qualify via the SQE, candidates must:

  • have a university degree or equivalent in any subject (law or non-law);
  • pass the character and suitability assessment set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (this is the same as the old system);
  • pass SQE1 and SQE2; and
  • have two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE).

However, the SQE isn’t a course like a law degree, GDL or the Legal Practice Course (LPC) – it’s a series of exams. This means that people with no previous legal training are unlikely to pass the SQE without additional preparation (even law graduates are being encouraged to complete a preparation course). The GDL and other similar law conversion courses are therefore still a necessary stage of the journey for non-law graduates. In fact, some firms will even request that their future trainees complete a specific prep course before sitting the SQE assessments.

Many legal education providers are developing non-law specific preparation courses that incorporate the GDL, or aspects of it, and prepare non-law students for SQE preparation courses. For example: 

  • BPP University Law School’s SQE Training for Non-Law Graduates, which includes a law foundations course and SQE1 preparation with the option to add the essentials for practice and SQE2 prep.
  • The University of Law’s Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL) is a law conversion course that provides the foundation for non-law graduates to progress onto either its SQE1 Preparation Course, LLM Legal Practice (SQE1 and SQE2) or a Bar course. The University of Law also has an MA Law (SQE1) course, which includes The University of Law’s SQE1 Preparation Course and is designed for non-law graduates who want to qualify as a solicitor and gain a legal qualification at master’s level. It allows students to progress onto the education provider’s LLM Legal Practice (SQE1 and SQE2).
  • Nottingham Law School’s LLM Law and Legal Practice: SQE1 Preparation Course has been designed to prepare non-law graduates for the centralised SQE1 assessments.

Use LCN’s guide to SQE preparation courses to help you compare preparation courses based on location, cost and content, or use the courses search tool!

Other courses are more vocational and can therefore be taken by both law and non-law graduates – in which case people converting to law may find themselves taking two postgraduate courses to become solicitors, much like the GDL and LPC under the current system.  

Continue to check for updates about these courses on the providers’ websites and LawCareers.Net – we’ll have the information you need as soon as it’s available.


If you’re a non-law graduate who’s interested in a career as a barrister, you must complete the GDL or PGDL before you can progress onto a vocational Bar course.

Students must start the Bar course stage of training within five years of completing the GDL.

Whichever route you take, remember that it’s an intensive, demanding process.


Find out more

Who is eligible

What you learn

Where to study

Law school sponsorship

When and how to apply