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Graduate Diploma in Law - GDL

Course Description

Gain a solid foundation in law and fast track your career on this transformative Graduate Diploma. Start your future in law here.

Who is it for?

Students come from leading institutions across the world and from a range of undergraduate disciplines including history, economics, English, and policy, philosophy and economics. Students often know whether they want to become a barrister or work as a solicitor when they arrive, but some students use the programme as a means to make that decision. A significant proportion of our GDL students go on to become barristers.


The City Law School’s Graduate Diploma in Law programme is nationally renowned. Since its inception in 1977, it has trained students at an extremely rigorous level, covering the seven core foundation subjects that are prerequisites for progression to professional legal training.

The programme is unique in that it introduces students to legal ethics as well as covering the core content. Students are encouraged to think about their reasons for practising law, and how they will find value in practice. The course has also been designed to be accessible and student-focused; at The City Law School we welcome students’ questions and offer significant one-to-one support.

From Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, to Dinah Rose, the QC Barrister who helped Julian Assange fight his extradition from the UK to Sweden, our alumni set the benchmark for legal practice across the world. Our academic team is also globally renowned and includes Professor Panos Koutrakos, the Jean Monnet Professor of European Law and Joint Editor of European Law Review, and Professor Martin Dixon, Specialist in Land Law from Queens’ College Cambridge.


Placements are not a formal requirement of the programme, but gaining experience of legal practice is encouraged. If students secure a mini pupillage, (a week in chambers), we support this use of their time.

Academic facilities

As a City Law School student you will benefit from everything City has to offer including the Learning Success department and Lawbore, an online resource designed to help you find the information you need for the course modules.

The City Law School has its own dedicated administration team and you also have access to two legal libraries, one at the Gray’s Inn campus and the other based on site at our Northampton Square campus.

Within the Gray’s Inn library you will find rooms for group study sessions and rooms for recording demo advocacy sessions.

As part of the University of London you can also become a member of Senate House Library for free with your student ID card.

Teaching and learning

The seven foundation subjects and additional legal ethics course are taught over one year by lectures and tutorials which occupy around 16 hours each week. Every week you will attend a two-hour lecture in six of the seven foundation subjects (Contract law lectures are in an online format) and a tutorial in each subject every fortnight.

In addition to The City Law School's own lecturers, you will also be taught by visiting lecturers from other prestigious institutions, including Cambridge and Oxford. There will also be time for personal study to prepare for lectures and tutorials. Instruction in the use of legal materials and in legal research methods (including use of electronic retrieval systems) is also an integral part of the course. The City Law School's award-winning Lawbore website also offers an online portal of resources from a legal link directory to a careers and alumni blog.

As a student at City, University of London you will have unlimited access to City's Careers, Student Development & Outreach service where dedicated careers advisors will provide you with tailored advice. Our strong links with the profession mean that we can bring the legal world to you.

Throughout the year we organise a variety of events, so you can build your network and meet representatives from leading solicitors’ firms and barristers’ chambers.

At The City Law School we run an annual internal mooting competition where you can act as a counsel to argue a point of law before a judge. Mooting is a great way to develop your research and analysis skills whilst also learning how to structure and present a legal argument.

Another way in which you can gain invaluable experience and develop your legal skills is to volunteer with one of our pro bono organisations. Pro bono work gives you an excellent opportunity to use your time and knowledge to offer legal advice to those who may otherwise not have access it.


Formal assessment is based on written examinations held at the end of the course; formative coursework set throughout the year will help to prepare you for these examinations. You will be awarded City's Graduate Diploma in Law upon successful completion of coursework and examinations.


In just one year, you will study the seven core foundation subjects that you would cover during a qualifying undergraduate law degree. The academic programme and examinations are of first-degree level with some elements of Masters level study, and involve work that is normally covered by undergraduates over at least 18 months. A strong emphasis is placed on developing your analytical and research skills to make sure you are fully prepared for practice.

Foundation subjects - the seven foundation subjects are taught over one year.
-(LD3002): Contract law (30 credits)
-(LD3003): Criminal Law (30 credits)
-(LD3004): Equity and trusts (30 credits)
-(LD3005): European Union law (30 credits)
-(LD3006): Land law (30 credits)
-(LD3001): Public law (30 credits)
-(LD3007): Tort law (30 credits).

In addition to the foundation subjects, you take another academic law subject unique to City: Introduction to legal ethics. This subject directs your attention towards the ethical challenges which lawyers might face in practice and to the values that characterise the profession.

You will also take a 10 credit English Legal System module and a five Credit Research Requirement module. You also have the option to convert the GDL to an LLB degree by taking further law modules.

Career prospects

By successfully completing this course students are qualified to progress to either of the two professional courses that all UK lawyers are required to take: the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for solicitors and the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for barristers.

As a School we are ambitious for our students. You can progress to the LPC if you are looking to be a solicitor, or choose the BPTC if you see yourself working as a barrister. The School’s graduates are guaranteed a place on our LPC and we strongly advise you to apply for our BPTC.

Throughout the year we hold regular careers events for aspiring solicitors and barristers. At these events, you have the opportunity to network with representatives from a range of leading firms and chambers.

Visit the Graduate Diploma in Law - GDL page on the City, University of London website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Howard Leithead

After completing two non-law degrees at the University of Cambridge, Howard embarked on his future career as a barrister by choosing the GDL at City.

Why did you choose to study the GDL?

I decided to study for the GDL as I wanted to become a barrister and did not have a law degree.

As an undergraduate I studied Theology at the University of Cambridge before staying on to do postgraduate research in History. During this time I also did some undergraduate teaching. After Cambridge I worked as a teacher and as a researcher in Parliament.

Why did you choose City University London?

I chose City University because of its outstanding reputation.

Tell us about any mooting and pro bono work you took part in.

During the GDL I competed in several mooting competitions. I was a Finalist in the City GDL Competition in the Supreme Court, a Semi-Finalist in the Inner Temple Lawson Moot and was on the City team that reached the Final of the national OUP/BPP Competition.

The following year I was a member of the team that won the European Human Rights Moot Court Competition at the European Court of Human Rights. All four of us met at City on the GDL course and the experience we gained during that year helped enormously.

All GDL students are encouraged to do pro bono work. I was, and still am, an active volunteer for the Free Representation Unit (FRU). FRU provides representation at Tribunals for clients who are not eligible for legal aid and who cannot afford to pay lawyers.

What are you doing now?

I was called to the Bar by Inner Temple in July 2014. Since then I have been enjoying a gap-year before I start Pupillage in September 2015. This has involved various projects, including a traineeship at the European Court of Human Rights, moot coaching and judging at City, and pro bono work. I am also looking forward to doing some travelling.

What advice or tips would you give to anyone who wants to study on the GDL?

The GDL course involves a lot of hard work, but it is an intellectually stimulating and rewarding experience.

(Student Profile)

Alex Flather

Having secured a training contract with a law firm, Alex chose the GDL at City to convert his non-law degree into a law degree.

Why did you choose to study the GDL?

I previously studied a BA Politics and East European Studies, and I wanted to do Law as a career, and the GDL is the course needed to convert my non-Law BA into a Law degree. I had also secured a Training Contract with a law firm, so I needed to convert as soon as possible.

Why did you choose City University London?

City University London has a reputation in the field for a demanding GDL which pushed students beyond their competitors. Practitioners I’d talked to had all recommended City as more rigorous and giving a more thorough legal education than other providers, and as I had the choice, I chose The City Law School.

What are you doing now?

I am currently studying the Legal Practice Course (LPC), due to finish in June 2015. I start work at Clyde & Co in August 2015.

What advice or tips would you give to anyone who wants to study on the GDL?

Do the work as it comes, and make sure you don’t fall behind. Being organised is the key.

Don’t panic. It will seem as if you have a lot of reading and work to do, but it will all come together at the end. Keep your head down, do the work week by week, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when it comes to revision time.

Alex was a GDL student representative during his time at The City Law School and was chosen to be the Student Speaker at the 2015 graduation ceremony for The City Law School.

(Student Profile)

Navid Pourghazi

Why did you choose to study the GDL?
I chose to study the GDL after I decided that I wanted a career in law. I had previously worked in a number of different fields, including a one-year stint as a consultant researcher at UNICEF in the Middle East, and a two-year stint as a manager of my family's reprographics business in London. I chose to study the GDL because I wanted to finish my studies sooner, and be back in employment as soon as possible.

Why did you choose City University London?
I went to open days at all of the main GDL providers in London, and spoke to solicitors and barristers about their thoughts on which provider I should select. I eventually chose City University because I learnt that a higher ratio of students apply to the Bar from City than from other GDL providers. This made my life somewhat easier when I was applying for pupillage. Also, I was drawn to City University's reputation for providing a more 'academic' GDL course.

What are your plans for the future?
I have recently accepted an offer for pupillage that will start in October 2015. Between now and then, I will be doing the BPTC course at The City Law School. The set of chambers I am joining undertakes work in Equality and discrimination law, employment, clinical negligence, public law and commercial law.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to study on the GDL?
1) I would strongly encourage people to only study the GDL if they are sure that they want to be a lawyer. Speak to lawyers who work in the fields that you think you might find interesting to gauge whether it's really something you want to do.

2) If you are sure that law is for you, try to obtain as much work-experience as you can before you start the GDL. You will have few opportunities to take breaks from the GDL course to do week long mini-pupillages or vacation schemes, and you will feel ahead of the game if you have lots of work experience before you start the course.

3) When you start the GDL, focus on the essentials and only explore the details in the areas of law that you find particularly interesting. Knowing in advance what you are supposed to take away from each tutorial might help to keep you from feeling overwhelmed.


The City Law School Postgraduate Scholarships - 10 Awards

The City Law School is firmly committed to a generous programme of scholarships awarded on the basis of academic excellence. Our scholarships range in value and include both partial and full fee waiver awards. They are open to students across all of our programmes and both home and international students are strongly encouraged to apply.While the primary consideration for the award of a scholarship is academic excellence, the School fully recognises that judging past academic performance must include consideration of the wider circumstances of the applicant's life experience. The City Law School's Scholarships Committee looks carefully at the full range of qualities possessed by each individual and it closely considers the broader context in which the academic excellence has been achieved.We also believe that it is important to value the potential of applicants to make a positive contribution to the School, the legal professions, and the community when we evaluate applications.The City Law School will offer up to 10 full fee Scholarships, for 2016/17. These will not be linked to any particular course and both UK/EU and International students are eligible to apply.The City Law School will offer up to 100 partial fee scholarships, again not linked to a particular course and both UK/EU and International students are eligible to apply. The partial fee scholarships will be worth £3,000 for all Postgraduate programmes listed above, with the exception of the BPTC where the partial fee scholarship will be worth £5,000.

Value of Scholarship(s)



- Academic merit (2:1 or 1st)
- You must hold an offer of a place on one of the courses specified above at The City Law School. The offer can be conditional or unconditional, and you do not need to have accepted your place in order to apply for scholarship.

Application Procedure

Complete our online application form (https://webapps.city.ac.uk/forms/39036)There are 2 application rounds; one in February/March and one in June. Deadlines as follows:- GDL, GE LLB, LLM (excluding International Business Law) and LPC first round: 29th February 2016
- BPTC first round: 21st March 2016
- BPTC, GDL, GE LLB, LLM and LPC second round: 13th June 2016We expect to make award announcements on 10th March 2016 (first round, excluding BPTC) and 23rd June 2016 (second round). The first round of BPTC scholarships will be announced within 10 days of the deadline, date to be confirmed. All full fee scholarships will be allocated following the second round deadline of 13th June 2016.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Upper second-class honours degree (UK/ROI). Or, an approved degree conferred by a institution abroad, with a very good knowledge of the English language. Before applying, applicants wishing to take the GDL as a step towards becoming a lawyer outside England and Wales are strongly advised to check that these courses are accepted with the appropriate body in the country in which they wish to qualify/practise. In reaching our selection decisions we will take account of: academic performance; evidence of intellectual ability; professional and legal work experience; personal statement; commitment to studying law; references.

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