Law Degree Guide

What is law?

The rules that help distinguish between right and wrong. Essentially, the law is a set of regulations which aim to instil order and justice and which, when broken, may attract penalty or punishment.

Law is broadly divided into two categories: Civil Law and Criminal Law. Civil Law refers to non-criminal law; family, property, wills, contracts and torts. Criminal law covers – you’ve guessed it – crime.

law degree guide

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What A-levels do you need?

If anyone tells you that you need to have a law A-level to do a law degree, they’re wrong. In actual fact, it’s not really an advantage or a disadvantage. As long as you have a strong set of grades (and ideally some subjects that show good analytical and communication skills, like English literature or history), you should be fine.

What are your study options?

You need to be careful here. Most unis will offer an LLB (Bachelor of Laws), and it’s this type of degree that will lead to part two of the Law Society or Bar qualifying exams. However, some unis also offer BA or BSc qualifications in law, and most of these won’t lead to the same level. Your best bet is to do some thorough research before you make your choice, just to ensure you know exactly what you’re applying for.

An LLB course will last for three years, and this will increase to four years if you combine it with a language, spend a year abroad, or study in Scotland. Most (if not all) law courses will cover the likes of criminal law, contract law, tort law, property law, equity, and trusts, and you’ll also be given the chance to develop your debating and problem solving skills as your degree progresses.

It’s also worth remembering that some unis will offer degrees that focus on specific areas of law (such as international law or criminal law); if you already have an area you know you want to focus on, this could be a good option to consider.

Why study law?

Law is a respected ‘hard’ subject that will stand you in good stead amongst graduate employers and admissions tutors for postgraduate courses (depending on the subject, of course). As law is the backbone of democratic society and a constant in many industries and professions, knowledge of the law is considered to be an asset for many different career directions.

As well as legal knowledge, you will also acquire and improve many valuable skills, such as the ability to critically analyse information, the ability to write well, and the ability to find and use relevant case studies and arguments – all of which will prove valuable in a range of different professions.

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After your degree…

If you want to go on to become a solicitor or a barrister, you’ll first need to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). However, your options are not limited to these paths by any means, especially seeing as they are highly competitive routes. Law graduates end up working in a variety of professions and industries, as their knowledge and transferable skills can be applied to a vast number of areas.

Rachael Day studied Law (LLB) at Newcastle University Law School, then completed an MA in Newspaper Journalism at City University and is now a Trainee Sub Editor at The Daily Mail (a competitive scheme that requires a bit more than just a good degree and work experience).

“When it came to applying for university, I was undecided between journalism and law as a career. I decided an undergraduate degree in law would set me up for either one, so that I could then make my decision further down the line. As law is a well-respected undergraduate degree, it seemed better to study that first, and then do a postgraduate or NCTJ course if I wanted to go down the journalism route.

“My dissertation ('Balancing Freedom of Speech with the Rights to Reputation and Privacy') was my favourite part as it enabled me to combine the study of journalism and law in the months leading up to the Leveson Inquiry. I found modules like Land Law and Equity the most difficult, and therefore enjoyed those the least. My law degree definitely helped with studying Media Law during my MA. I was able to see the issues both from a legal perspective and from the practical point of view of a journalist, and already had good knowledge of the rules and case law. However, it also helped in more subtle ways as I had learnt transferrable skills such as analysing material and the use of language.”

However, the recession and the increasing number of law graduates have had a negative effect on career prospects for new graduates. So you may not be able to immediately find work in the area you dream of working in, as (with any graduate job) there will be competition for roles.

Q & A with a law graduate

Laura Stemp graduated from Nottingham Trent University School of Law in July 2013 and now works as a Court Contracts Administrator for Merrill Legal Solutions in London.

Why did you choose to study law at university?
Honestly, it was the only thing I was good at at school. From this I gained an interest in the law and after visiting university open days and doing a bit of research I realised the challenge involved. Back then it wasn't my primary intention to pursue a career in law – that seemed so far away! It was more about proving to myself I could take it on!

What was the most enjoyable aspect?
Accomplishment! Realising the relevance that law has in our lives really gives meaning and reason to why you are studying it.

What was the least?
Reading page after page of Judgments which may as well be in a different language: inter alia.

What would you like to do in the future?
This all depends on the opportunities available in my company at the time; if I was to be offered a more long term career here I would jump at the chance. However, in the meantime I hope to go on to take the LPC in a year or two.

How do you think a law degree might help graduates seeking employment?
Legal knowledge and knowledge of the profession is vital for legal assistant, secretary, case handler or paralegal roles. If you are a keen mooter with persuasive oral skills and a bucket full of confidence, pair this with your commercial awareness and you have a little businessman inside you! More generally, skills such as attention to detail, critical thinking, and the ability to problem solve and conduct research are bound to get you noticed in any market.

How did the course prepare you for your job?
Specifically to my course, legal knowledge of the court systems and processes, legal language and professions is vital. So I was thoroughly prepared for this. My job spec also required me to be of graduate calibre, have attention to detail, the ability to work on the spot and also the ability to work in a team. Obviously these aren't skills which are exclusively gained from doing a law degree, but for me these were provided by learning to dissect relevant information and finding a connection to the solution, or even by creating a new solution.

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