If you've decided you want to do a law degree, then you've probably already done a fair amount of research into different universities and what they offer. You've decided whether part-time or distance learning is right for you, and you're well on your way to taking the plunge and starting your application. But hang on! There's possibly something else you've forgotten... Sorry.
Now you need to decide if you want to do your law degree as a BA (Bachelor of Arts – sounds fancy) or an LLB (the Latin Legum Baccalaureus... maybe we'll stick with the acronyms). These letters don't just determine how cool you look when you sign your name, but mean there is a significant difference between courses.
The big difference between BA and LLB
Some universities offer both courses, and you'll see from their course details that they share a lot of similar modules. The major difference is that usually the BA Law will not qualify you as a lawyer. This means that once you graduate, you can't go straight onto an LPC or a BPTC if you want to be a solicitor or barrister; you'll have to do the law conversion course just as if you had done any other kind of undergraduate degree.
It is occasionally possible to do a 'qualifying' BA, which would allow you to bypass the GDL. You would need to do all seven core modules of the LLB to go this route, and most universities do not offer this option. Check whether the degree being offered is described as a 'qualifying degree' before you set your hopes on it.
Why a BA?
You might be wondering why anyone would sign up for a law degree that doesn't automatically qualify you as a lawyer, but there are plenty of reasons to choose this route. A BA in Law encourages an academic interest in law, rather than setting you up for a legal career.
The BA Law mainly appeals to students as it allows a lot more flexibility in its course details compared to the LLB, which has a strict set of core modules and extra elective modules – all of which relate to specific areas of law.
If you do BA Law, you still do law modules, but can also take elective modules in other departments. That means you could combine your law knowledge with other things you're interested in, which can be useful for non-legal careers where some legal knowledge is a plus – such as politics or journalism. You could also learn a foreign language, but many universities also offer the LLB with a language. Many BA Law degrees are joint honours.
Becoming a lawyer with a BA
In a sense, doing a BA Law is the same as choosing to do a non-law degree before moving onto the GDL, allowing you to widen your interests before settling into a career; unlike those guys, however, you're building up your legal knowledge whilst learning about other things. If you take modules in subjects like business, economics, or politics, you'll be developing your commercial awareness, which could put you at an advantage when applying for a training contract or vacation scheme.
In some cases, the entry requirements for a BA Law are lower than an LLB: at Middlesex University London, for example, you typically need three A levels at ABB (or equivalent) for an LLB, or grades CCC for a BA. It's occasionally possible to transfer onto the LLB after your first or second year, providing you do well in your core law modules. This would be a good chance to 'upgrade' courses if your A Level results or predictions weren't as good as expected, or gives you an extra year to decide if you want to fully dedicate yourself to a legal career.
Whether you choose a BA or an LLB, you still have the same opportunities, so there's no need to stress at this point. If you have your heart set on being a solicitor or barrister, doing a BA is potentially the longer and more expensive option, but it won't limit your chances. If you're unsure of what you want to do, a BA could give you the breadth of knowledge to make a decision later in life. It's entirely up to you!