The Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)/ Common Professional Examination (CPE) is a graduate course which non-law graduates (and law graduates without a qualifying law degree (QLD)) may undertake in order to be eligible to apply for the Vocational Stage of training to qualify as either Solicitors or Barristers. The GDL satisfies the professional body requirements of the academic stage of training for Solicitors and Barristers. The completion of academic requirements will provide students with the required legal knowledge upon which to undertake vocational requirements. Academic requirements must be completed prior to the commencement of vocational training, and can be fulfilled by the completion of either:

  • a qualifying law degree (QLD); or
  • a degree in any other subject, supplemented by an approved GDL course.

A GDL must meet the requirements of the Joint Statement to be deemed to fulfill academic requirements. Key requirements of the Joint Statement include:

  • legal research skills, the English legal system and another area of legal study;
  • the foundations of legal knowledge. These are:
    • Public Law (including Constitutional Law, Administrative Law and Human Rights);
    • Law of the European Union;
    • Criminal Law;
    • Obligations (including Contract, Restitution and Tort);
    • Property Law; and
    • Equity and the Law of Trusts.

Students wishing to undertake the GDL to qualify for the Bar Professional Training Course need to obtain a Certificate of Academic Standing (CAS) from the Bar Standards Board before they enrol on the GDL. Applications for GDL are made through the Central Applications Board.

The CPE is the title given by the regulatory bodies, and is the professional name of the course. However, organisations are permitted to embed this within their academic award frameworks by giving it an academic title. Many organisations choose to use the title GDL, but this is a discretionary decision for each organisation.