An interest in the law
Most obviously, undertaking a GDL will require an interest in law. This doesn’t necessarily mean a fascination with the statutes—you may also be interested in a law degree from a philosophical perspective, such as the rule of law. More broadly speaking, you could be fascinated by how law relates to society at large.
A law degree is far-reaching—you will be covering a range of topics from the government and international relations to healthcare and media, or even the environment, human rights and crime. A previous background in sociology or any degree linked to the study of society and current affairs could prove to be useful during a GDL, enabling you to place the minute details of the law in a wider context.
A desire to improve your commercial awareness
Commercial awareness has become a buzzword in recent years. Recruiters tend to look for applicants who can demonstrate it, especially for a career in law. Your future clients will not just expect legal advice—they will also look for their lawyers to have a certain awareness of current affairs in a commercial context. Commercial awareness enables you to place your chosen firm's ambitions and values in the broader context of world news, which recruiters will be assessing closely during your application and your interview.
If you come from an economic or finance background, you may already have developed a strong understanding of stock-market technicalities and the intricacies of a merger or acquisition. However, you may wish to develop your commercial awareness in relation to legal issues. If you’re already passionate about business and finance news, all you need to do is hone your reading to cover some law stories.
Develop oral advocacy and communication skills
You may have read To Kill a Mockingbird, or watched the series Suits; you may even have lawyers in your social circle. Whatever your perception of law, you should know that lawyers need to develop strong oral advocacy and communications skills, in order to present themselves in a confident manner.
As an aspiring lawyer, it is crucial to start developing these skills early on in your academic career to stand out among the cohort of applicants. During your law degree, you will be offered the chance to develop these skills through your law society. They will organise mooting competitions, which are designed to mimic a courtroom setting. Moots are a great way to practice developing and defending your argument under pressure and in front of an audience. Therefore, if you are interested in debating and you enjoy structuring compelling logical arguments and preempting the counter-arguments, it is more than likely you will enjoy the practical aspect of a law degree.
Become a practical problem-solver
More often than not, working professionally as a lawyer will require you to think outside the box and approach a client’s problem creatively. Studying law will equip you with an arsenal of material, cases and statutes to best take on the issue at hand.
The question, of course, is whether or not you will remember everything to best advise your clients. It is reassuring to know that studying a law degree will teach you to read and process vast amounts of information effectively and efficiently. It then remains a matter of using all the information at your disposal to approach a client’s issue logically, and strategically formulate a solid line of argument.
In order to excel as a lawyer, it helps to think initially about your client’s issue in abstract terms, by looking at the wider implications of the case and taking inspiration from a range of previous case law. This practical approach to problem-solving may be familiar to students who have a prior background in STEM subjects. This rigour and analytical approach to problem-solving, common in scientific subjects, can be transferred to the practice of law.
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