Excelling on the GDL

For many, the GDL is a necessary hurdle to traverse before starting your legal training—be it a Bar vocational course for the barrister route or the Legal Practice Course if you want to be a solicitor. But how do you ensure that you make the most of your time on the GDL?

  • Last updated Mar 4, 2020 1:58:16 PM
  • Becky Kells

Beware of its intensity 

The material you will study on the GDL is usually spread out over three years or more, in an LLB undergraduate degree. You can think of the GDL as a boiled-down version of this undergraduate course; many of the electives have been removed, leaving you with the core modules of law needed to practise it. 

This makes the GDL a highly intensive course that requires your full dedication for every part of it. Any previous mentality of “first year doesn’t count” or “I’ll go easy on this module” can’t be adopted here. You have to be able to give 100% for the duration of the course. 

Preparation is key

It might be that you know you’ll be starting a GDL a full year in advance, but you might equally find out a few weeks before the course commences. It’s good practice to get as much preliminary reading done as you can. The course provider will produce reading lists, so you can section off some time to do some advanced reading to give you a good grounding for when you start the course. 

If you’re pushed for time, it can help to at least have some understanding of the seven core modules you’ll encounter on your GDL. These are: 

Constitutional and administrative law

Criminal law

Land law 

Contract law 

Equity and trusts

European Union law

Tort law 

Once you actually start the GDL, the ethos of reading up on things in advance should not die out. Make every seminar or tutorial count by doing everything that’s asked of you before attending—sitting there with no idea what’s going on is not going to help you in the long run!

Avoiding burnout 

The GDL is an intense course, and one of the cornerstones to managing it successfully is to avoid burnout. Some of how you do this can be determined before you even start the course. Are you being funded by your future firm or self-funding? If it’s the latter, and you need to work alongside the GDL, you might consider a part-time course. Balancing a full-time GDL with a part-time job is a difficult endeavour that could affect how you perform in the course, as well as your health. 

Once you start the course, it’s good to set reasonable goals for yourself. As well as scheduling in study time, you should allow for downtime and relaxing days. Some students report that the vibrant social life of their undergraduate degrees is no longer feasible as a GDL student. Whether you need to cut down on nights out or assign more hours to sleep, there are ways you can still maintain a healthy social life without sacrificing your studies.  


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