Jun 02, 2021

Written By Jack Denton

A detailed look at the GDL

Jun 02, 2021

Written By Jack Denton


The Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) or the Common Professional Examination (CPE) is one of the most intensive courses you are likely to encounter.

The Graduate Diploma in Law is the conversion course students who haven't done an LLB must complete to become eligible for taking up either the BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course) or LPC (Legal Practice Course).

The GDL can be done as a full-time programme over the period of one year, or as a part-time course over a period of two years. This is a very intensive and rigorous course which packs in the three years’ worth of study a law degree would cover into one year.

GDL Course content…

The GDL provides non-law students with an introduction and basic foundation in legal theory, covering principles, legislation and all relevant subject matter concerned with the study of law. 

There are seven core modules covered in the course. These modules form the essence and heart of English law and a good understanding and appreciation of these subjects will stand a future solicitor in good stead as the learning and development becomes more complex and rigorous.

Contract law…

The essence of all commercial activities, contract law covers all aspects of the creation, execution, termination and breach of contractual obligations. You will also learn how to draft and interpret contracts, providing legal relief or restitution in the event of breakdown of contracts and any other relevant related aspects.

Criminal law…

The course content covers all kinds of offences and crimes ranging from small and minor offences to bigger, complicated offences such as murder, robbery, etc. While much of the subject is devoted to classification of various kinds of offences and punishments, judicial procedures and processes, there is also a significant segment that deals with legal criminal theory and jurisprudence. 

Principles of liability (direct or vicarious or assumed), defences against specific crimes, handling witnesses and experts such as medical or psychiatric professionals, the law enforcement framework and its personnel, are among the other areas covered under this module. 

Equity & trusts…

Trust principles cover a wide range of areas such as finance, charity, family and inheritance laws with the underlying foundation built on equity and fairness. The GDL course module allows students to get a good grounding in the creation, management and execution of trusts, setting-up and managing charities, duties and obligations of trustees and handling misdemeanours performed by trust officers amongst many (many!) other things.

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European Union…

This module covers all institutions, principles, sources and rationale of the EU framework and a collection of detailed law across the continent. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is considered to be the highest court of appeal for all members of the EU. The subject covers all related areas dealing with trans-border trade and competition, free movement of goods and people across Europe, human rights, adaptation of EU principles into national law systems of member states.

Land law…

This is one of the fundamental areas of legal principles and covers all matters related to land, property, construction, ownership, lease and tenancy, inheritance, buying and selling of land and much more. The subject-matter can often be very technical and complex. It involves going through a variety of topics and concepts where the key factor is real estate. Land law also overlaps with other fields of law such as family law, banking & finance, environmental law and public law.


Public law…

This is that realm of law where constitutional and legislative laws and principles are covered, including judicial review, framework and the processes and procedures of the judicial system in the UK. It also covers the impact of EU law and important principles such as rule of law, parliamentary supremacy, authority and powers of various public bodies.

There is quite a bit of administrative process involved in this study, being more of a theoretical and legal reasoning subject rather than case-law and individual transactions. Also included in public law are human rights, freedoms granted to people, use and abuse of the law enforcement process and issues dealing with aliens such as immigration, extradition, asylum, etc.

Tort law…

Torts are civil wrongs arising out of negligence or a failure to perform certain duties attributable to the person(s) causing the problem. Tort law covers negligence, defamation, vicarious and direct liabilities, product and work-related liabilities and other public-related harm or wrong-doings. 

Relief comes by way of damages and reparation, usually financial paid for by the responsible parties.

Research & additional content…

As part of the GDL, you’ll likely have to complete a piece of research into another area of law. Depending on where you study, your course might include other components, such as optional modules.

Application process…

Applications should be made online at www.lawcabs.ac.uk, the website of the Central Applications Board (CAB). There is no closing date to apply for the GDL but it’s worth applying relatively early before places on courses fill up.

Head over to our GDL Courses section for more information on where you can study.