Does it matter which university you go to for law?
It is often assumed that employers in some industries prefer candidates from certain universities, or that some are ‘better’ for some courses. Is this the case for law? Here, we explore that complicated question. There are two factors to consider. Firstly, from the perspective of the individual: will some universities teach law to a better standard than others? And secondly, from the perspective of the employer: do they prefer candidates from some universities over others? Here, we will consider both points and try to determine if the university you attend makes a big difference to your legal journey.
So, do some universities teach law to a higher standard than others? Helpfully, annual university league tables rank which universities are ‘better’ at teaching law. These tables take a range of factors into account, including grades achieved, student satisfaction rates and external bodies ratings.
It’s also worth considering other aspects of the university experience, such as the modules available on course, and other less tangible factors that will affect your university experience and ultimately how you perform there.
Another factor to consider is location. If you plan to practise law in a particular part of the country, there are benefits to attending a university in that area: it may be easier to gain experience at firms you later wish to practise at.
Although employers shouldn’t be basing offers exclusively on an applicant’s university, recent research found that 76.5% of trainees at the leading 130+ firms are Oxbridge and Russell Group graduates. Those who have achieved the grades to be accepted into, and then graduated from, the top universities in the country are often very strong candidates that have acquired the skills employers are looking for.
Having said that, an increasing number of chambers and firms are placing less weight on this, with some redacting the names of universities from the application process. In this case, the university you attended could matter significantly less.
The university you go to may have an impact on your legal career, however it is definitely not the only factor taken into account by firms, and in some cases isn’t taken into account at all.
Weighing up the factors
There’s no denying that certain universities dominate some of the legal firms and chambers, and that attending them can provide you with a top education as well as a certain intellectual status. However, this is not always the case. It is sensible to apply for universities that you believe – based on your own research, university rankings and personal circumstances – will provide you with the best legal education and university experience possible. If that means attending a lower ranked university but one where you feel like you will personally excel, then that is a great option.
That said, if top-ranked universities are within your reach, then being accepted by them can put you on the right path to certain elite firms.
The university you attend is important for your legal education, but the best choice varies from person to person. It’s also worth remembering that your university is just one element in a long list of things considered by future employers on your applications, so if certain universities aren’t an option, don’t let that dissuade you from pursuing a career in law.
Choosing a University