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Learn Your Way: Catching up with recent online graduate Gemma

We caught up with recent online GDL graduate Gemma Crump and discuss how she successfully maintained a balance between online study, professional commitments, and being a mother. Gemma offers her wisdom on how to stay on track and even some top tips for securing a training contact.

By Editorial Team. Published 23 May 2022. Last updated 11 January 2023.

I am a career changer pursuing a career in commercial law with a background in local government Children’s Services. I am originally from Derbyshire but now live in Surrey with my husband, two children aged four and five and our crazy dog.

I enjoyed over ten years working in the public sector but I began to feel like it was time for a change and I was curious to gain commercial experience working in business. After having my two children I decided to take a career break. It felt like I had reached a natural crossroad and that it was the perfect opportunity to take stock and decide on my next steps.

I considered a career in law way back when I first did my undergraduate degree in History, as I knew it would enable me to use lots of the research and analytical skills I had enjoyed developing during my degree but I was not in a financial position to be able to continue my studies at that point.

After taking on some part-time remote work as a personal assistant for a manufacturing and project design business, I became involved in several projects that had a legal element – from real estate and intellectual property to finance and commercial disputes. I found the work so interesting and stimulating that I knew I wanted to pursue a career in commercial law.

I was particularly impressed with The University of Law’s online course for the level of flexibility it offered for my personal circumstances. All tutorials were recorded so there were no set times that I had to be online – I could structure my schedule to fit my needs. There was also the option to study Law of Organisations instead of the research project, which appealed to my particular interest in commercial and corporate law.

I was fortunate enough to secure a training contract with an international commercial law firm during the first year of my part-time GDL at The University of Law. I am very excited to experience a variety of seats during my training contract but I have a particular interest in the M&A and Corporate Finance department.

To stay connected while studying online, my class created a WhatsApp group which was a great way of staying connected and supporting one another throughout the course. I also made the most of the ‘engage’ forums to discuss our work and collaborate on documents.

Tutors also engaged with us via our discussion forums and whenever I had any specific questions on a topic, I could email the relevant tutor and they were always extremely quick to respond and ensure I understood the concept.

To stay focused, I think it is essential to do the weekly tasks that are set as part of the course. These are your opportunity to put your learning into practice, discuss ideas and also develop your collaborative skills by working with your peers.

By taking an active role in every task with my small group of peers, I felt like part of a team which motivated me as I had a responsibility to support and contribute to my group so we could submit the work by the deadline. These are all crucial skills that are needed in practice too.

I found the academic resources such as the manuals and online library provided me with all the content I needed to be able to succeed on the course. The online library was also excellent for being able to access publications like the Financial Times which helped me stay up to date with current affairs and develop my commercial awareness – this was very important for preparing for applications and interviews for training contracts.

Organisation and dedication are key. One of the biggest advantages of the course is the flexibility it offers you as you can study at your own pace in your own time, but there are still weekly deadlines for tasks, and it is a very demanding and intensive course.  I would recommend before you start the course, consider the number of hours per week that your specific course demands and create a schedule that ensures you create sufficient time each week to complete your studies.

If you are hoping to secure a training contract with a commercial law firm, then I would advise you to dedicate a little bit of time each day to read or listen to a current business news story, so you have an awareness of current affairs. There are lots of resources out there that break down the daily business and financial news into simple, manageable chunks. For example, Finimize, BBC Today Programme podcast (which has a short Business News section) and Little Law.


Find out how you can learn your way and build your future career by visiting our Online Campus here.