The Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and approaching law from a non- law discipline
Q: Does it matter whether I studied law at university or not?
There is no defined route into law. Whether you study law at university or subsequently at law school you will develop key skills that you will require during your training contact.
Coming from a non-law background has its advantages and disadvantages. You may have a broader range of knowledge, but this is not necessarily legal knowledge. Equally, you may have studied the key areas of law more recently than a law graduate. In either case, you are not going to have complete legal knowledge by the time you start your training contract and it is very likely that certain areas of law will have already changed from when you studied them!
Although legal knowledge is important, it is also important that you possess other attributes such as common sense, commercial awareness and work ethic. A sense of humour also helps along the way! You can develop these skills whether you have studied a law degree or not and you should try to apply them once you put your legal knowledge into practice.
There are a wide range of degrees, law schools and universities amongst the current trainees. Each of these routes is just as viable as the next.
I studied History at university and then went on to study the GDL and Legal Practice Course with absolutely no prior legal knowledge. The GDL is an intense course but covers the seven key areas of law in one year: contract, public and administrative law, tort, criminal, equity and trusts, land and EU.
I always anticipated that I would want to convert to law at some stage, but I opted to pursue this after university. I do not feel like I have had an easier or more difficult trainee experience as a result.
My training contract has been a learning curve from both a legal and a non-legal perspective. Each department has its own separate training programme which is designed to help trainees settle into the team. There will always be areas of law that you have not experienced before, mainly because law is non-exhaustive and ever changing!
I have found that it is easier to view your academic study and training contract as continuous personal and practice development. This will begin to provide you with increased understanding and experience that you can take with you to qualification and beyond.
Your choice will ultimately depend on personal preference and circumstance – it’s getting there in the end that counts!