Alternative law conversion courses: masters, senior status law degrees and postgraduate LLBs explained
If you’re looking for an alternative to the common professional examination (CPE) or graduate diploma in law (GDL) to get your foot into the legal sector, you may wish to consider a legal masters, senior law degree or postgraduate LLB. Each of these has its benefits and the choice needs to be weighed up in terms of personal pros and cons.
What does a masters in law involve?
A masters in law typically requires you to have a law-based undergraduate degree, but this is not the case with all institutions. Nevertheless, some understanding of the English and Welsh legal system, ideally via some form of work experience, can only be beneficial.
As a postgraduate qualification, study is more in depth than with the CPE or GDL. Most legal masters courses are two years long, meaning that there will be considerable demands on your time as well as your wallet. Courses cover more than the standard seven prescribed topics covered by the CPE and GDL, though the specifics of this will vary depending on the institution you apply to.
The two years will require a lot of reading. Bear in mind that if you’re coming from a non-law background, you’ll have to cover all the basics of law in your own time as well as going the extra steps that studying for a masters involves.
You will have the option of supplementing your study with part-time work. Spreading the course over two years means that students can be a little bit more flexible with their time at certain points of the year: a real benefit in an industry where finding relevant work experience is an absolute must.
What is a senior status law degree?
Slightly different than a masters in law, these courses are actually a bit more like an undergraduate law degree condensed into two years. They teach the fundamental topics covered by the CPE and GDL, but are prescribed to a more select curriculum. Academic criteria for entry can be a bit stricter than for CPEs or GDLs, with universities looking for candidates with the capacity to absorb all of that condensed study.
Students may well find that they have a bit more flexibility in terms of their optional modules when compared to CPE and GDL providers, but this depends upon the specific senior status law degree on offer. The same might be said of assessment methods, with some institutions focusing more heavily on exams than their CPE and GDL counterparts.
Why should I take a postgraduate LLB?
The LLB is similar to the senior status law degree in all but name. Most postgraduate LLBs follow the same structure of the senior status law degree detailed above.
The benefit is that you get all the knowledge of a standard undergraduate LLB in two thirds of the time. You will qualify at the end to progress to the legal practice course (LPC, for budding solicitors) or the Bar professional training course (BPTC, for barristers), meaning you’re an equally capable candidate as one who has taken an undergraduate degree in law. You may even have a stronger CV than they do, provided you use the extra years to get some really significant work experience under your belt.
LLBs allow you to select your optional modules with a bit more freedom than on conversion courses or other masters programmes. This means that by the end of the course you could have a better idea of the areas of law that interest you and, therefore, the practice areas you’d like to work in.