Common professional examination (law)
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The Common Professional Examination/Graduate Diploma in Law (CPE/GDL) is a postgraduate law course in England and Wales that is taken by non-law graduates (graduates who have a degree in a discipline that is not law or not a qualifying law degree for legal practice) wishing to become either a solicitor or barrister in England and Wales. The course thus allows non-law students to convert to law after university (exceptions exist for non-graduates depending on circumstances); it is also commonly known as a "law conversion course". Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the course is designed as an intense programme covering roughly the same content as a Law degree LL.B (Hons) and the main goal is to allow people with a greater variety of educational backgrounds into the legal profession.
Most CPE courses award a diploma and are thus often titled Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Common post-nominal abbreviations include LL.Dip (Lex. Legis Diploma), or Dip.Law (Diploma in Law).
The CPE is one (full-time) or two (part-time) years long, and successful candidates may proceed to either the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for solicitors or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for barristers. It is regulated by the Law Society of England and Wales with admissions handled through the Central Applications Board.
Some law students study for four years (rather than three years, although this is usually only the case for students taking a combined law degree with the LPC, or for those whose courses include study abroad), making it possible for both non-law and law graduates of the same starting year to finish at the same time, with the CPE providing the "foundations of legal knowledge".
UK course providers
In 1977, the former Inns of Court School of Law (now merged into City, University of London) launched their CPE/GDL programme, which was the first of its kind in England and Wales.
The GDL is also offered by several British universities including Cardiff University, the University of East Anglia, Keele University, the University of Sheffield, the University of Sussex, Swansea University, Birmingham City University, Manchester Metropolitan University, London Metropolitan University, the University of Westminster, University of the West of England, Middlesex University, De Montfort University and the University of East London as well as Oxford Brookes University.
In Hong Kong a localised mutation of the CPE known as the Graduate Diploma in English and Hong Kong Law is also recognised for the purpose of admission to the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (PCLL) course, which can be seen as the local equivalent to the LPC/BPTC and is a prerequisite to become a solicitor or barrister in Hong Kong. Since 2008, all graduates of overseas universities are required to demonstrate competence in three Top-up Subjects on Hong Kong law before they can enter the PCLL, usually by sitting conversion examinations in these three subjects. However graduates of the GDEHKL do not need to sit these three conversion examinations because the course is recognised by the Standing Committee on Legal Education and Training as demonstrating competence in the three Top-up Subjects on Hong Kong law.
The CPE/GDEHKL is offered by the University of Hong Kong's School of Professional and Continuing Education (HKU SPACE) in Hong Kong jointly with Manchester Metropolitan University(MMU). Graduates of the GDEHKL who continue on to take the additional MMU LLB year after the CPE/GDEHKL will have passed all necessary law subjects required for PCLL eligibility. The GDEHKL is an exempted course under a Hong Kong law known as the Non-Local Higher and Professional Education (Regulation) Ordinance, which states that it is a matter of discretion for individual employers to recognize any qualification to which this course may lead.
- Chambers Student Guide 2012
- Chambers Student Guide 2012
- UK Law Schools: fee comparison table