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I started my Law Degree with excitement and anticipation. I was full of ambition and hope. My family were proud and also excited that their little girl was firstly going to university (the first in my family) and secondly to study Law!
Being a bit of a home bird I chose a university close to my home. I got very good grades in my A-Levels as I worked my pants off! and so could have choosen a number of universities to attend. The university I chose was one that was friendly and small enough that I wouldn't get lost. The lecturers and professors were fantastic. They would always be there to help, giving out their personal e-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers. For all those students who wanted the extra help, time and support it was there by the bucket load. These people really cared about their jobs and their students.
After passing my first year with good grades, I was on track for a good degree. However in that first year I had learnt that the law was not always what I believed to be morally right. Often it seemed that what was right and what was the law were poles apart.
The cost of the law degree was also spiralling. Fees, travel and books all mount up. My family helped as much as they could, I even took on a part time job to help fund this but the debt kept increasing. The part time job took it's toll on the time I could use for study and so my assignments started to become of lower quality. I couldn't get anymore funding as the loans were means tested and although my parents income seemed high they had prior commitments that just couldn't see them offer me any more money.
At the end of my second year, my grades I felt were disappointing. My first year had been so full of hope and promise compared to the grades of my second year. When my parents finally announced that they were separating it became all too much and I decided to put my degree on hold for a year. I spoke to the university and they were most helpful, they helped me arrange for my study to recommence the following year on a part time basis as a mature student.
The following year came and I started back, part time. The course was ran for two evenings a week, however no student loans/funding were available for this choice as you are expected to be working also. I was working full time as well as try to complete my last year of the law degree. Sadly it was all too much for me. I spoke to the university who were sad to hear that I was unable to continue and instead awarded me with a law diploma as the modules I had passed were all of high enough standard to achieve this.
I would advise anyone who wishes to study Law to try and see beyond the glamour of it all. It is still very much a male lead profession and is tough for a woman to break into. It is very very expensive, you have the cost of your books each year, which have to be new as the law changes so quickly, (therefore they are difficult to resell on, although the university advises to do that) your fees, your living costs and of course you have to have some sort of a social life too. Living at home during my study meant I didn't go out as much as some and I didn't have rent to pay for but still it was expensive.
There is also the time factor. You have to spend as much time as you do in your lectures in the library, if not more. A law degree isn't something to take light hearted, some weeks I would put in 60 hours plus. I got the results but ultimately it was all too much for me.
Speaking from experience there are two pieces of advice I would give to any perspective law student out there. The first is something that was said to me during my second year of law school by a fairly influential senior council in Ireland during my second year of law school and he was totally right. Remember that from the day you graduate until the day you retire from the profession that your single goal is to get as much money as you possibly can for your client. If you lose sight of that for even one second you are lost. Of course I didn't believe him at the time but time has proved him right. There are certain exceptions to the rule obviously, such as criminal law and certain aspects of family law (child protection for example) but the rest of it is all about the money.
Secondly remember that very little of it is what you know. Yes having your 2.1 or your 1st class honour will stand you in good stead. But that glass ceiling is very real and if you think you're going to break through it you're really going to need more drive and determination than 99.9% of the world has to get through it. If you have that and you can keep the first rule at the front of your mind then go for it. But if you don't then do yourself and your wallet a favour and find a different profession.
Studying Law is by no means an easy feat but it is not as hard as some may imagion. The work load is high, higher than most other subjects but it is do able. THe thing that hits you at the beginning of your study is how much there is to learn, the amount of case names you are expected to lear alone was mind blowing but as you go you find the settle into some part of the brain somehow!
It is not a subject to taken lightly and a real interest in law is essencial I would say as is an ability to rationalise your thoughts quickly and write prose with ease, something I am still learning!
Despite the work load, the vast areas covered by the law, criminal, constitutional, human rights etc. will provide endless interest. In addition it is a solid accademit platform for which to begin a carrer not only in the legal profession but in many other fields as it is a subject highly valued by employers.
Law is a subject for those with a genuine interest in the subect and for those it will be highly enjoyable and rewarding.
Having just finished my first year studying for a law degree, I must say that whilst it is a lot of hard work studying law it is throughly enjoyable. Of course there are disadvantages to studying law over another subjects, such as expensive textbooks, demanding hours of work, more hours spent in lectures and difficult exams. However, if you truely have a passion for studying law all these disadvantages are certainly worth it.
Unfortunately I have not yet had experience as working within the law, but this is where I'm hoping to get to after my law degree. For anyone thinking about getting into the legal profession I think it is important that they are aware of how competitive and expensive this is. In order to become a qualified solicitor you must have a law degree (if your degree isn't in law, then you must to a one year conversion to law course), a one year Legal Practice Course (L.P.C) at a Law School which currently costs approximately £11,000 and then you must secure a training contract with a solicitors firm. This is harder to obtain than it sounds as there are thousands of law graduates every year competing to get very few training contracts.
If it is a barrister you would like to become you must have a law degree (again if your degree is not in law, you must do a one year conversion to law course), a Bar Vocational Course (B.V.C) and then must gain a pupillage at a barristers chambers. Again this is very difficult to obtain for the same reason.
Despite these obstacles, if you are determined to get into the law profession and work hard, it will be worth it.
I am 47 years old and have spent a lot of my career in enforcement of one type or another. I was learning the parts of the law that went with whatever my job was at the time. I realised that i loved the law and learning it but thought that i was too old to actually do anything about it. I then read about Ilex Tutorial College at the solicitors i work for now. They are based in Bedford and are very recognised in all legal organisations.
As i had not seriously studied for some considerable time, i did panic slightly that it would be too much, but the assistance you receive is amazing.
The courses are broken down into manageable sections and cover all the basics such as criminal, family, civil litigation, employment, property and so on. In order to achieve a Professional Diploma in Law and Practice you would need to complete 10 units from the list which can be found on the website. Once this level has been completed you then progress to level 6 which is where you work through 6 further units to become a Legal Executive. I chose to do mine by distance learning as i have a full time job. You are sent the relevant pack to work through, you are designated a tutor who you send your assignments to, who then marks, gives valuable feedback and returns. This mark does not go towards your final exam so its all helpful . There is also an online student forum where you can ask questions and receive answers from tutors online. On some courses they provide a virtual practitioner online where you can follow a case from start to finish completing legal documents by dragging answers into the relevant spaces etc. This is such a fun way of learning or maybe revising. There are exam centres across the country so hopefully one is not too far from where you live. The actual course is not too long, is written in everyday language that makes the law seem more common sense. I have now completed 3/4 of the level three course and am so pleased that i have passed all sections so far. If anyone is considering the law as a career change but cannot take the time to attend college then this is worth considering. www.ilex-tutorial.ac.uk
When it came to Sixth form I was so busy concentrating on getting my three A grades in my A levels that I had not really put much thought into what I wanted to do in life! I was studying English Literature, Spanish and French and I was predicted to get an A in each of those subjects. After a meeting with my careers teacher I started to reconsider the idea of studying Law. This was what I had wanted to do since I was in first year of grammar school but I kind of went off the idea as I got older for some unknown reason. However, I did my research and realised that it was (prima facie!) the course for me. In hindsight, it was a bit of a risk to take, considering I had no previous knowledge of the subject!
So when I started my degree in September 2006 I was extremely worried about settling into it. Everyone in my tutorial group seemed so intelligent and naturally clued in when it came to all things legal! But I learned later that everyone felt like this!
The first year modules are chosen for you before you matriculate because they are all compulsory (as stipulated by the Law Society). In first year I studied three modules each semester:
Legal Methods and Systems (LMS) -
getting to grips with the real basics! How to use the law library, how to locate cases and statutory documents on legal databases, how to read cases efficiently etc.
Contract Law -
study of contractual formation, undue influence and duress, remedies for breach of contract etc.
Criminal Law -
the conduct element of a crime, criminal states of mind, incapacitating conditions, general defences, accomplices, incohate offences, homocide, sexual offences etc.
Constitutional Law -
Incorporates the study of the state and legal structure, how this relates to Human Rights, Legislative Procedure. Doctrine of Parliamentary Supremacy etc.
Law and Society (Jurisprudence) -
The theory and philosophy of law (Hobbes, Aquinas, Aristotle etc)
The law of civil wrongs eg. negligence
I managed to pass all of these modules in the first sitting, which amazed me! At that point I was beginning to believe that I definitely had made the right choice.
My lecturers, tutors and advisor of studies are all very approachable and happy to help with any queries or concerns that I have.
Now in second year I have been studying EU Law, Mercantile Law and the Law of Equity and Trusts. I passed all these examinations just before Christmas. In January I started semester 2, and the workload really intensified because I am now studying four modules! (Revenue, Property, Evidence and Administrative Law)
If you want to come to uni to party all the time and live the "easy" student lifestyle, I wouldn't recommend undertaking a law degree. It is a huge commitment and your life sort of ends up revolving around it (sad as that may seem!)
You have to be really dedicated to your course and be prepared to spend lots of time in the library. You must not be afraid of self directed study either!
I want to practice as a lawyer, but many of my peers do not. They are studying law because it is a well respected academic discipline. It is a worthwhile degree and it is very attractive to potential employers.
A degree in law has traditionally been viewed as a good thing. Vocational, yet academic, it is one of the few degree courses on offer that actively promotes a career choice. So, what should you look for in a course and what can you expect?
By way of background Im writing this assuming that you wish to pursue a career in the law rather than using a law degree as a step to alternative careers. It is, of course, a perfectly good choice as a general degree and should be looked at favourably by most employers. I currently interview students for positions as trainee solicitors and can therefore tell you a little of what an employer will look for.
**What should I look for in a course?**
Due to the vocational nature of the degree course, it is important that you consider the course content and its relevance to your future rather than just how much fun, or how easy you perceive a given course to be. Whilst it is true that you can have a career in the law without having done a law degree, and, indeed, that some employers actively promote this, it is important to appreciate that this will involve an additional year of study learning the core subjects. This year is traditionally hard and boring but is a very useful way in if you would rather spend your three years at uni doing something other than law.
As with all degrees, not all law degrees were created equal and neither were all universities. You really do need to have one eye, if not two, on your future when you select a course. If you want to become a city solicitor (including the main provincial practices in Leeds, Manchester etc.) or if you want to go to the bar and become a barrister you will need to look primarily at the top, traditional institutions. Competition for these jobs is so intense that employers have to sift out applications and often, rightly or wrongly, a candidate from a lesser institution might well be passed over. Your acceptance by a particular uni seems to act as a quality control.
If you are looking to a high street practice (traditionally criminal, conveyancing, wills and probate, matrimonial and immigration) or to work as an employed lawyer in perhaps the CPS or local government then your choice of uni wont be quite as crucial.
In order to qualify as a lawyer the degree should be a qualifying degree, thats to say it needs to cover the core subjects in sufficient depth. These are tort (or civil wrongs), criminal, land, trusts (or equity), EU and contract. They may go by different names at different institutions and so do check that the course is a qualifying one either with the university or with the Law Society. If your degree is not a qualifying degree then you will have to sit some, if not all, of the exams that a non-lawyer has to take before commencing the practical part of your training.
Having established that your degree is a qualifying degree what else should you look for? Well, the answer to that depends much upon what you want to do with your degree. If your heart is set on commercial City law then there is little point in going to an institution that only offers courses on non-commercial topics. Similarly, if your heart is set on becoming a human rights lawyer then picking somewhere that offers that, or a similar course will pay dividends. Im often confronted with the applicant who swears blind that they have always wanted to be a corporate lawyer and yet when you look at the subjects that they studied at uni you see medical law, environmental law, family law and the criminal justice system. It doesnt convince a potential employer that you are serious. Thats not to say you cant or shouldnt study these subjects and still become a commercial lawyer but you need to have a good reason and, ideally, some stronger commercial subjects on offer as well.
Chosing an institution on the basis of the tutors is much harder. Unless you are well read in the subject before you go, chances are the names wont mean much. Even if they do whether it makes a difference is debatable. I studied at Cambridge which has more than its fair share of text-book authors and the like. Some (such as Tettenborn now moved to Exeter) were worth their weight in gold: others not so. Kevin Grey (along with his wife) wrote one of the most easily digestible texts on land law yet his lecturing consisted of reading from his texts: a complete waste of time.
One thing that is a must is a good law library. Do check out the facilities that are on offer. Law is a book-heavy degree and the texts are expensive. If you can borrow them so much the better. You certainly wont be wanting to buy all of the cases and reports and so a good library is essential. Some reports are now available online but these too come at a cost and so a library that subscribes to unlimited access to the online reports is worth looking out for.
Otherwise, select your university as you would for any other course. Get a feel for the place and the type of students that study there and if you think youd like it go for it!
**Once you are on the course what can you expect?**
Well, like any other course, so much will depend on where you are studying. Expect a mix of lectures and smaller group tutorials as the main basis of your study. The majority of law degrees are no easy ride. Expect to have to put in the hours (I tended to work a traditional working-week) as, even if you find the subject easy, the amount of reading that is necessary should not be underestimated.
Certain subjects lend themselves to rote learning for the factual elements but the thing to be borne in mind with law is that it is the application of the law to the case that is important. It is no use knowing the law if you cannot apply it and so being someone who can pay attention to detail helps. In this regard those with a background in science tend to do well as there is less of a tendency to waffle and more to apply theory to practice. The traditional humanities students will tend to prefer the subjects that are led by case-law rather than statute.
What is true to say is that, for most people, the majority of law courses will have something to suit.
**Who makes a good law student?**
There really is no easy answer to this question as a variety of skills are required to be a successful law student and a variety of, slightly different, skills are required to be a good lawyer.
First and foremost, you probably have to be reasonably academic. Competition for places to read law is tough and universities are able to ask for high grades. Youll need to be looking at getting at least 3 A grades for the top institutions and probably at least BBC for most other courses. There are some lower offers available out there and offers, as with any course, will depend on your circumstances. If you are only looking at getting a couple of E grades at A level you might have to reconsider (there are alternative routes into law leave me a message if you want more information as it will vary from individual to individual).
It doesnt really matter what subjects you study at A level (and A level law is no benefit really) BUT when choosing your options, do bear in mind that your potential employers will look at the subjects you studied and, if you have home economics, CDT and art as your A levels they might not take you too seriously!
Having the necessary grades is only the start. If you are the kind of person who needs to be spoon-fed in order to learn then law is probably not for you. You will need to be independent of both thought and action to succeed. Much of the learning is self-taught and the ability to read vast amounts of information at speed and extract the relevant sections is a must. A law case can be in excess of 100 pages long and yet you need to find the two paragraphs that actually tell you what you want.
Having a good grasp of language is also important. Many a case turns on the use of a particular word or the placing of punctuation. The use of Latin phrases is common in the law (although modern thought leans towards plain English) and you need to be able to recall what the common phrases are in order to decipher many of the earlier texts and cases. A knowledge of Latin is not required, however.
Once you are studying I really would recommend trying your hardest. Whilst a 2:2 is acceptable in many subjects, if you want to enter the profession and be taken seriously then you need to get at least a 2:1. Slacking off might mean more fun during your degree but its not going to pay dividends in the long run.
** Want to know more?**
The best way of finding out what it is like to study law and to be a lawyer is to talk to those who have gone before. Im more than happy to answer any individual questions.
If you are able, try to visit your local courts or arrange work experience with a firm of solicitors. Not only will you get to see law in practice, but you will also be adding valuable fodder to your CV.
A rather dated, but nonetheless valuable text that you can read is Glanville Williams Learning the Law.
If you decide that law is for you I wish you every luck in your endeavours. It has served me well and will continue to do so for many years yet!
Having just graduated from King's College London with a Law degree, this seems an opportune time to reflect on what Law is really all about. Law is quite a diverse area. Think of almost anything and there is probably a branch of law relating to it. Hence, you might find yourself one area and absolutely detesting another. For example, I found Criminal Law the most challenging and stimulating. It deals with real people and sensitive issues like rape and whether a battered wife can defend herself by killing her abusive husband. English Law is generally divided into Criminal Law and Civil Law (i.e. everything else which does not fall into 'criminal' such as personal injury, commercial and property). In addition, today's lawyers are also becoming aware of the European and International dimensions of law. Now that we have the Human Rights Act 1998 in this country, there is also much scope for work in that field. To be a good lawyer, the main requisites are to be able to argue logically and to be persuasive. If you are a good lawyer, the law is not your master but your servant. You will do well if you can interpret the law to match your arguments. There are thousands of precedents (law cases) and statutes (legislation). A good lawyer will be able to pick up the salient points of cases and be able to interpret wordy legislation. Reading cases will take up the majority of your time. One case can be anything from 10 to 200 pages long. Although they need not necessarily be read in depth, to do well, one must be able to scan the pages for relevant arguments. Law is a highly challenging subject. If you are capable of digesting large amounts of information and love to put your mind to solving complicated problems which involve social and economic dimensions, law may be for you. However, if you are a person more scientifically minded who always needs a definite answer to a problem, law may not be the subject that sati