Feb 09, 2018

Written By Billy Sexton, Editor, AllAboutLaw.co.uk

Law Undergraduate Degree: Is It Actually Useful?

Feb 09, 2018

Written By Billy Sexton, Editor, AllAboutLaw.co.uk

So you’re about to get to grips with UCAS and send off five applications to five very carefully chosen universities. But what to study at university? You’re fairly sure you want to be a lawyer, and can see yourself bagging a training contract or pupillage in the not-too-distant future, but should you study law at university, or complete the law conversion course (known officially as the Graduate Diploma in Law, or GDL) after studying another subject you’re passionate about? Let’s look at the arguments for and against studying a law undergraduate degree.

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The cost of a qualifying law degree

It may sound obvious, but if you want to become a legal professional you will need a qualifying law degree. The LLB provides you with just that, and though it’s a challenging degree, it’s all done within three, manageable years. You can apply for a student loan for an undergraduate degree, something you cannot do for the GDL, meaning that unless you have a spare £9,000 lying around, funding the GDL could be an issue if you don’t study a law degree.

The non-law degree route

However, there are many commentators and former law undergraduate students who question the usefulness of a law degree. Indeed, AllAboutLaw.co.uk carried out a bit of research recently and found that 52% of vacation scheme offers went to non-law students. Surely this means that it’s the skills, not information, you learn at university that’s important then? Arguably. David Allen Green from The Lawyer argues that other degree courses provide you with the skills required to be a successful lawyer – a history degree would allow a student to learn how to use documentary evidence, for example. Green argues that unless you want to teach the law to students of the future, there’s little practical use in studying a law degree. What does contract law teach about drafting a clause?

Law courses after graduating

Many trainee solicitors that AllAboutLaw.co.uk have spoken to argue that the LPC best prepares students for life as a lawyer. Take Liam McLoughin, who is currently a trainee at DLA Piper. When quizzed about his route to the training contract he noted that on the LPC, “there is a noticeable change as greater emphasis is placed on your ability to practically apply the law to a complex set of facts in an accurate, accessible format. The LPC is much more aligned to life as a lawyer and you develop skills that you will take forward in your legal career.”

Given that the LPC is a necessity for all budding solicitors, you can get the best of both worlds by studying a non-law degree but still picking up a qualifying law degree with the GDL and prepare for life as a solicitor on the LPC.

Other benefits of a law degree

Of course, this is all very well and good, and it may well be the case that the law degree doesn’t necessarily prepare for life as a lawyer. However, should the law degree not also function as a course that places the law in political, social and economic context? After all, students are attending an education establishment, not a training facility.

The most logical conclusion to this debate would be to tell all you soon-to-be university students to study whatever you wish to study. Law is fortunately a profession that can be accessed by students of all academic disciplines and the presence of the LPC simply affirms that following a law degree you won’t be the finished article (but neither will any other graduate) and further preparation is needed before becoming a trainee. 

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