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The Society and providers of the Diploma always recommend that you carefully consider whether to apply for the Diploma. There have been recent changes to the funding arrangements and, in addition, there are several factors to consider when deciding not only whether to apply for the Diploma but also which Diploma provider to apply to. The options and courses on offer will vary from provider to provider.
The timetable for the Diploma course is very full in comparison with many undergraduate courses. As the emphasis is on learning practical skills for the legal profession, there are a large number of contact hours, many in small seminar groups, workshops and tutorials. You can expect to have a 9-5 timetable, or equivalent, though some of this will be preparation time. You will also be expected to spend at least ten hours a week on course work and preparing for exercises outwith the timetabled sessions. Participation in practical class work is extremely important, and some exercises require substantial preparation beforehand. Some institutions run pro bono clinics offering the opportunity to gain valuable practical experience.
Much of the teaching on Diploma courses is done by part-time tutors, many of whom are practising advocates, solicitors and accountants who bring their expertise in current professional practice into the classroom. Teaching methods include a mix of tutorials, lectures, group-based projects and skills workshops. Some Diploma courses use delivery methods which include the use of multimedia, information and communication technology (ICT), and becoming a member of a four-person firm to simulate aspects of the legal working environment. Assessment is via examination and a piece of coursework in each of the subjects. The balance between exam and coursework varies with the subject and institution, though is more often in the ratio 80:20.
It is not usually possible to defer course places. Admission to the Diploma is based on your marks in the subjects you undertook during the LLB so the benchmark for admission to the course can vary slightly each year, depending on the cohort and the number of places available.
The Diploma has a validity period of around two-and-a-half years upon completion of the Diploma in which to start a traineeship. In contrast, the LLB has no such period of validity, although course admissions tutors may question the currency of your legal knowledge if you apply more than five years after graduation. Therefore many students do opt to take a year out before the Diploma rather than after, but of course we would encourage you to consider your financial situation, and if you have gained a place on the Diploma, remember there is no guarantee that a place will be available next year, as it is not possible to defer your place.