Rona Macleod completed her LLB at the University of Edinburgh before moving to the University of Glasgow for her Diploma. She is particularly interested in human rights law and is looking to go into litigation in the future.
When I was getting to the end of my LLB, I wasn't sure if I wanted to do the Diploma. A big reason for this was not knowing a lot about what the Diploma would be like, and how it was different from the LLB. Being able to read someone else's thoughts about the transition would have been really useful for me, so I hope this is useful for you!
It’s a myth that everyone will already have a traineeship on the Diploma
A lot of people who transition from the LLB to the Diploma think that everyone else will already have secured a training contract, and that if you haven't by the end of fourth year that you should think twice about doing the Diploma.
This was definitely something that I had thought about when I considered applying, but I really shouldn't have. Once I started, it was pretty clear that there were lots of people who hadn't secured a training contract before starting.
In fact, there are a lot of firms that don't advertise traineeships in advance of the Diploma year – mostly small and medium-sized firms that can't be sure that they have the budget to offer traineeships several years in advance.
It seems to mainly be the bigger, more commercial firms that advertise far in advance of the Diploma, so if you don't fancy working in that sort of a firm, you'll need to start your Diploma before getting a traineeship.
Teaching on the Diploma is different from the LLB
In my third and fourth years of my LLB, classes were taught in seminars with a small number of students. I didn't have any ‘lectures’. In terms of the way the course is organised, the Diploma is a bit more like the first and second years of the LLB, as you generally have lectures with all the students in the class, and then you go into smaller tutorial groups each week.
It was a bit strange going from four to six hours of contact time per week to having three or four lectures a week and four two hour long tutorials! Some of the teaching on my Diploma was done through online e-module lectures, though, which I hadn't had at all during my LLB.
Assessments are also really different. In the LLB there tended to be a few big pieces of work, and exams at the end to work towards. In the Diploma there are assessments throughout the year.
This can be daunting, and I'd definitely recommend putting all of the assessment dates in your diary or calendar at the start of the year!
It’s a bit more representative of actually working as a solicitor, though, as in practice you won't have one big piece of work to hand in. You'll have lots of different, smaller tasks for each case.
Work experience will be a big help
Something I found really helpful in moving from the LLB to the Diploma was doing work experience. I found the LLB focused a lot on the academic side of law, and getting an understanding of how things work in a firm helped me to transition from the academic side of things to the practical law that the Diploma teaches.
There are lots of good ways of getting work experience, especially as a student. There are law centres that often take on volunteers, like the Legal Services Agency and Govan Law Centre. There are Citizens Advice Bureaus as well, and lots of law schools have their own law clinics that you can get involved in.
I would really recommend exploring work experience, as it really helps to understand the things you'll do in your Diploma.
Think about the practice areas that interest you
It can be really helpful when starting the Diploma to have an idea of how you want to practice law: do you want to do litigation, or conveyancing, or commercial work?
The Diploma is great for getting experience of different areas of practice and working out what you want to do, but it’s a good idea to have a think about it in advance. It helps because you might need to pick your elective subjects in your Diploma quite early, and your electives can help you get extra experience in the areas you're interested in.
I would definitely recommend talking to people who have already done the Diploma to find out which courses are good for different things. For example, if you want to do court work you might be better off steering clear of courses that don't have any opportunities to prepare court documents, or do oral submissions. However, the courses seem to be tweaked each year, so if you get the chance have a look at what is included in each course.
Overall, while the Diploma is really different from the LLB, you'll get used to it quickly, and it absolutely flies once you get started!