Going to University: A Student's Perspective
So you have decided on a career in law! Great choice, but prepare yourself for some hard work, both at the academic stage with a degree and also at the vocational stage with the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and training contract for solicitors or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and pupillage for barristers.
At this stage, it is worth mentioning that you do not have to complete a law degree to become a barrister or solicitor; you could in fact study another subject at degree level and then undertake a law conversion course or the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). However, this article will focus on the LLB.
What should I be looking for when choosing a university for law?
When choosing a university, it is important to consider many factors. It’s where you will live, study and perhaps work for at least three years, so pick carefully! With law degrees in particular, it is very important to consider the reputation of the law school as well.
League tables receive mixed reviews. Some take them as gospel, others with a massive pinch of salt! To my mind, they are just a small part of how recruiters perceive your education but they are worth considering.
Where should I apply to for law?
My advice would be to apply to the best institutions that you can manage with your (predicted) grades. Obviously other factors such as geography come into play. For example, it would be no good looking at Durham if you are from Wiltshire and only want to be a few hours from home!
It is important to be realistic about your choices; don’t waste space on your UCAS form trying for places that require AAA when you are unlikely to achieve that. There are plenty of universities that will accept grades more in the B/C range, although bear in mind many legal employers will consider your UCAS grades or equivalent when applying for roles.
Aside from reputation, the structure of the degree is worth considering. Ensure your course will give you a Qualifying Law Degree, meaning that it covers the foundation modules as required by the Law Society, namely public law, criminal law, contract law, property law, tort law, equity and trusts, and European Union law.
The order in which these are taught is not particularly important and, in any case, it is often very similar from place to place. However, what can vary considerably is the way optional modules are offered. Some institutions spread these out over a few years, whereas some save all or most until the third year. It might be worth looking into this as you may wish to specialise early, e.g. by taking Family Law as soon as possible.
Most of the law courses I have come across have some sort of introductory module in the first year which can be a very useful foundation for your studies. As such, I didn’t find there was a need for any background reading before the commencement of a law degree, just a lot of hard work since!
What happens if I don't get the grades I was predicted?
I will close by elaborating on my own story briefly. It is by no means a model way of embarking on a legal career, but I hope it is illuminating in some way. During the 2006-07 UCAS process I applied to Clare College Cambridge, Bristol, Cardiff, Leicester and Southampton and received offers from all with the exception of Cambridge (rejected after interviews).
Based on location (I’m from Dorset) and reputation, I put Bristol as my firm choice and Cardiff as my insurance. However, I took on too much with four A-levels (History, Maths, Chemistry, English Literature) and just missed out on meeting Bristol’s and Cardiff’s grade requirements.
I went through Clearing and was made a second offer by Leicester, which I happily accepted. Now in my final year at university, I have not looked back and I am very pleased with how things have progressed as I have thrown myself into all that university has to offer.
I hope this has been helpful in imparting some guidance regarding the application process and best of luck for your university career!
Choosing a University