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The GDL is a particular type of legal course. Therefore, it requires a particular type of personal statement during the application stage. The admissions tutor for your chosen provider will be looking for evidence of qualities that suggest you will be able to deal with the specific demands of this course. This article sums up 5 key components of a great GDL personal statement.
1. The Motivation for Converting to Law
Your GDL personal statement must address why you want to covert to law. Most applicants will have undergraduate degrees in different subjects. You need to show what has motivated you to read law on the GDL. My top tip for this is to try and map what you enjoyed on your undergraduate degree to study on the GDL. For example, if you studied Mathematics or a Science subject then you might say that you enjoyed the logical approach to the course and the opportunities to problem solve and evaluate your solutions. Further, that you recognise on a law degree you will get opportunities to problem solve through problem questions. You may have studied English or History. You might include that you enjoyed evaluating sources and looking at articles to engage with critical opinion. This is a skill that is needed in law and you can use the soft skills you have developed on these courses to thrive on a law degree.
You should also include where the GDL fits in your career plan. The usual path is to complete the GDL and then onwards to the LPC to train as a solicitor or BPTC to train as a barrister. You are not expected to have your exact career plan mapped out at the application stage. Although if you have a precise pathway in mind (perhaps you have secured a training contract) then show that the GDL is your pathway to achieving this end goal.
2. Evidence of dealing with a demanding workload
You will study several core modules on the GDL including contract, crime, tort, land law, equity and more. Each module will involve a considerable number of lectures, seminars, assessments, independent study and opportunities to develop your legal skills. One of the most demanding elements of the course is to manage the assessment workload. Most GDL providers assess students at the end of the course. Exams can come thick and fast and it is not unheard of to have 6-8 exams over 2-3 weeks. This intensity can create problems for students who like to ‘cram’. The GDL does not lend itself easily to cramming and you need to demonstrate on your application that you can balance your workload throughout the year in order to reach your potential in the end of year exams.
There are many great ways of demonstrating this skill:
- Perhaps your undergraduate degree had a similar approach. If so, describe your undergraduate workload and how you managed to stay on top of things. The more specific the better. Did you use spreadsheets or a Word document to keep track of deadlines? Or perhaps your calendar on Outlook? Did you dedicate time to work as you would a 9-5 job leaving your evenings and weekends free?
- Evidence drawn from work experience is good as well. It does not matter where this experience comes from. It is more important to demonstrate clear evidence of how you have balanced competing priorities. The person reading your application is interested in how you balance your workload!
3. Use the STAR technique when giving specific examples to support your application
You will boost your chances of acceptance if you give specific examples in your application. GDL personal statements that contain generic text are boring and can frustrate those responsible for deciding if you get a place or not. The STAR technique is a great way of providing a precise and structured example to support what you say in an application. It stands for:
Situation (one sentence describing the context of your example)
Task (one sentence to describe your individual role)
Action (2-3 sentences on exactly what you did)
Result (one sentence describing the outcome)
Let’s take an example. You might want to give an example of how you have balanced different priorities in a part time job. Applying the STAR method, you might write something like this:
I work as a part time customer service agent at a call centre at University.
My role involves phoning alumni from the University to seek donations between £5-£100 by telephone.
During Christmas 2018, I was responsible for a unique campaign targeting alumni in the US. I had to manage my workload by using the internal database system to keep track of calls made and successful donations. I also had to log my work time on the call reporting system. I also had to read high volumes of legal and regulatory material on the company intranet to keep up to date with regulations for cold calling in the US. I managed my workload by using handwritten to-do lists. I also used the internal database to check my progress on the project and if I was falling behind on calls, I could take action to increase call volume and recover by the end of the day.
At my January 2018 review with my manager I was awarded an Exceeded Expectations rating for the work on this project.
This example brings your experience to life. It makes the example interesting to read and clearly shows your ability to juggle competing interests. It is more impactful than stating something generic like ‘I have had to balance different priorities in my role, and I have been able to do this successfully.
4. Conduct an audit of your accomplishments
We all have accomplishments. Some are recognised with certificates and awards. Some involve achieving an excellent outcome e.g. running a charity marathon, volunteering. Think back a few years and list out all of your accomplishments, awards and certificates. However, instead of simply listing these in your application, make sure to clearly state how they demonstrate evidence that you can survive and thrive on the GDL. For example, you may have been awarded a subject award at secondary school or your undergraduate degree. That demonstrates your academic ability and fitness for the GDL. Perhaps you have been awarded a scholarship to study at university or on the GDL itself after a competitive application process. This shows that you have been identified as a student that is exceptional and can do well. Brainstorm all of your accomplishments. Then underline those that can show evidence that you can do well on the GDL.
5. The institution chosen
The GDL market is fiercely competitive. There are several private providers and universities to attend. Every provider is truly different. The private providers such as BPP and University of Law tend to have more of a practical focus on the law. Their recruitment requirements, for example, stipulate that tutors on all the modules should be qualified solicitors or barristers. Established universities have more of an academic approach. The advantage here is that you will gain a more critical appreciation of the law in context. This approach might suit applicants wanting to enter academia or a law and policy position. Make sure you make it clear why you are choosing each institution. Do not simply copy facts and figures you have found on the website. Some of the best application answers I have read as a law tutor have included:
- An applicant including research on existing students of an institution by reaching out to them on LinkedIn to see exactly what it is like to be a student at that provider.
- Asking to observe or audit a class before making an application to get a feel for how classes are run and what is involved and then including your observations in the application
- Mentioning key interactions and conversations with staff from the institution at on campus events like recruitment and careers events.
Good luck with your GDL application!
Chris Mallon is a Law Tutor at Chris Mallon Law Tutor. He writes extensively on legal skills and careers in order to help law student better understand law and the career paths available to them.