Sarfraz Ali

GDL student Sarfraz Ali recommends taking advantage of opportunities to ‘buddy’ with those students who have already been through application processes.

Sarfraz Ali – GDL student at BPP Law School


Sarfraz Ali

Undergraduate University: Durham University

Undergraduate Degree: History

Why did you decide to do the GDL? I was interested in pursuing a career as a solicitor even before applying for my undergraduate degree, but I was not so certain of my intention as to commit myself to a three-year LLB course. However, after undertaking a variety of internships, both legal and non-legal, during my years at University, my aspiration was affirmed. I had long been aware of the option to take the GDL conversion-course, and in my second year at university, I began research into what exactly the course entailed.

Why BPP? BPP has established an excellent reputation as a leading provider of the GDL course. I attended an open day in my penultimate year at university and I was particularly impressed by the efficiency with which the course appeared to operate. Many of my friends who had completed the GDL, at a number of institutions, had warned me of the course’s intense workload. As such, I wanted to study at a centre that had great experience in making the course as manageable and enjoyable for its students. The fact that I accepted a training contract with a firm that sends its trainees exclusively to BPP was merely a bonus!

Why did you choose London Waterloo to study in? Aside from my three years at university, I have always lived just outside of London and I will continue to do so, in light of my training contract, for the foreseeable future. From both a social and professional perspective, therefore, I was intent on studying for my GDL in London.

Do you have a training contract/pupillage lined up? I am due to join Withers LLP as a trainee solicitor in September 2014.

How are you funding the course? My course fees for both the GDL and LPC are provided for by Withers. I also receive a maintenance stipend whilst I continue with my studies.

How does the GDL differ from your degree? Has it been a steep learning curve? I am sure that any student who began the GDL after completing an undergraduate degree in the arts would agree that the most difficult adjustment comes with the intensity of the nine-month course. However, I have found in my own experience that whilst there are necessarily more contact hours as part of the GDL, in terms of lectures and tutorials, both courses have required skills in self-motivation, organisation, focus and dedication. As much, if not more, of one’s work for the GDL is completed outside the classroom and so I quickly learnt that, as with my Degree, success would depend upon how much I put into the course.

What is the social life like? As there are almost 900 students completing the GDL at BPP alone, the set-up is very different from the collegiate atmosphere I enjoyed at university. Still, that does not mean there are limited opportunities to meet new people and pursue extra-curricular interests. Concurrent with the induction period, a number of social events were put on by BPP and various student bodies to enable students to make such connections and to find out more about the numerous societies that are common at any university. Many people, myself included, also find that having tutorials with the same group of people provides an excellent way to organise social events and develop new friendships.

What about pastoral care, such as the careers service? Every single GDL student at BPP is put in contact with a personal tutor during the induction period. As well as guiding you through the first few weeks of study, personal tutors are fantastic sources of advice and counsel for any problems one may encounter during the year.

Though I have not personally sought the help of the careers service, I have been lucky enough to be involved in a ‘buddy scheme’ that is testament to the excellence of BPPs pastoral provisions. The scheme operates by allowing students who are currently applying for vacations schemes, mini-pupillages and training contracts to solicit the advice of others, like myself, who have experience applying for certain firms. In my opinion, the scheme evidences BPP’s concerted effort to best prepare all its students for the careers they seek after completing the GDL.

What top tip would you give to someone who is considering applying for the GDL? I think that the best way to approach the GDL itself is to view it as a full-time job, rather than another year of university study. The course, by its nature, requires complete dedication. At the same time, however, it is most enjoyable when you do manage the workload and make the effort to get involved in lectures and tutorials. As I mentioned above, BPP is vastly experienced in supporting students through the GDL and so my first recommendation would be to devise a study plan that you know you can stick to, safe in the knowledge that the best facilities are in place to support you along the way.