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Law Subject Guide

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• What is Law, and what is it like to study?
 Why study Law?
 Tips for Law university applications
 Law graduate job prospects
 Law student success stories

What is Law, and what is it like to study?

The law is a set of rules laid out by the government or social institutions. It aims to keep everyone safe, encourages people to act just, settles disputes and punishes those who don’t keep to it.

There are several different strands within the study of Law. Search for Law degrees and you'll find LLB (Bachelor of Laws), BA, and BSc Law first-degree courses.

The difference between the LLB, and BA and BSc is that generally if you’re a LLB, you’ll spend your entire course studying law, while if you’re on a BA or BSc programme you may spend as much as one-third of your time studying modules outside of the subject area.

A proportion of Law students may not necessarily want to become lawyers, but are fascinated with the process of law. Conversely, many would-be lawyers study for a degree in another subject and then take a Law conversion course, the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).

  • Interested in the history of Law? Take a look at our timeline.

Specific or general skills developed 

Royal Courts of Justice London
Royal Courts of Justice, London

A Law degree will provide you with the skills required to practice law, for example through mooting (a mock legal hearing where students argue points of law), and pro bono work.

Depending on the course you may study Law in relation to specific areas, such as family, commerce, or finance.

General skills include research, interpretation and explanation of complex subjects, analytical thinking and practical problem solving, good oral communication, negotiation, teamwork, attention to detail, and the ability to draft formal documents. 

Examples of area of study

Core subjects usually cover the following areas: Legal Method, Skills and Reasoning, Law in Practice, Constitutional and Administrative Law, English Legal Process, Principles of Criminal Law and Contract Law.

Optional modules might include: Law and Medicine, Media Law, Internet Law, Public International Law, Child Law and Intellectual Property Law.

  • Use our Course Chooser to filter results to find Law courses.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment is by examinations and coursework. Lots of Law schools include seen, pre-release and open book exams.

What degree can I get?

  • LLB Law.
  • BA/BSc Law.
  • Joint degrees, including Business and Law, Criminology and Law, LLB Law with American Law and LLB Law with European Legal Systems.

Many universities offer sandwich courses with an industrial placement.

What qualifications do I need?

You do not need to have studied Law at A Level to get a place on most university Law courses. Some universities will look for A Levels in English or History, both of which involve essay or report writing.

Grade and subject requirements vary and depend on the university. Requirements are also subject to change. Always confirm the entry requirements for the particular university and course you are interested in.

Use our Course Chooser to filter results to find Law courses.

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

Postgraduate programmes in Law can be studied either full- or part-time, and via distance learning. Law graduates who wish to work in the industry have the options of the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for solicitors, or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for barristers.

An alternative is the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) programme. This includes the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and a graduate fast-track programme, where you can study a specific area of the subject, rather than covering many different topics.

If you have a degree in a different subject than Law then you can take the GDL, or another qualifying Law degree. Practicing lawyers have various options open to them, such as a Master of Laws (LLM) course.

There are joint MBA and Law programmes available, both in the UK and overseas.

Why study Law?

The study of Law will give you a broad and thorough understanding into the legal systems – on which much of our daily life is based. Here are eight reasons why it is a great choice to study:

1. Law degrees combine theory with practice Behind the law of the land lies an awful lot of theory and there's no doubt that you’ll have to rigorously learn it. But remember, law is a fairly defined profession and tuition has to be vocational in nature. Some universities have a mock courtroom and run moot competitions and pro bono societies, giving you a taster of what it's like to practice law in real life.

2. Law and case-based learning goes hand in hand Even when learning theory, you will spend a lot of study time trawling through cases. Law schools use real-life examples to demonstrate how theory is applied. You will be left knowing that the content you’ve studied will have real-life application.

3. Studying Law equips you with a multitude of skills Learning to become a lawyer rather neatly means you'll graduate with skills that suits a whole host of professional paths. Skills include:

  • Research – you will thoroughly study many case analyses.
  • Critical analysis – you'll read primary sources and be required to make up your own mind.
  • Synthesis of complex ideas – as a Law student you’ll get to grips with a whole new language, but will also need to be able to communicate in layman's terms.
  • Presentation – you’ll often partake in mooting competitions and pro bono societies, offering legal advice to real people.
  • Writing – you'll have to communicate all of the above – on paper!

You will practise, practise and practise some more these skills, as they are necessary to practice Law. However, these skills are highly transferable to a number of other industries and sectors, commercial or otherwise.

4. Law graduates are well respected by employers The variety of skills provided by a Law degree puts graduates at the forefront of employers’ minds. Add the fact that Law is one of the world's oldest fields of study, professions and human endeavour – and it's no surprise to see that graduates enjoy careers in a variety of sectors.

5. You can look forward to good graduate prospects Check out our Law subject table LINK and look down the Graduate Prospects column to see that Law students tend to stand a decent chance of being in further study or professional employment within six months of leaving university.

6. There are clear postgraduate options Leave your undergraduate studies with your heart set on a career in law, and you’ll have a number of clearly defined options for your next steps:

  • LLM – you may wish to develop your learning via a Master of Laws degree
  • Legal Practice Course (LPC) – for solicitors
  • Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) – for solicitors.

7. Law cohorts are internationally diverse The quality of education at Law schools in the UK is highly attractive, resulting in a significant portion of students coming to study from overseas. A diverse cohort will not only expose you to different cultures but also provide you with an international network whom may prove useful later in life!

8. A degree in Law holds high status Law is one of the world's traditional professions; pursue it and be prepared for a life of comfortable respectability!

  • Use our Course Chooser to filter results to find Law courses.

Tips for Law university applications

  • When admissions staff assess applications, the look at how you portray your academic interest in the subject, your personal interests and any extra-curricular activities you take part in. Generally, tutors look for strong all-round individuals who are curious about the world around them and are determined and diligent.
  • You should be able to demonstrate your interests, but work experience in a legal environment is not essential. It is more important to show an appreciation of how law affects the world around us. Examples of showing your interest could be by volunteering at a local police station, or by becoming a volunteer advocate for the mentally ill.
  • Read a good quality newspaper so you are fully informed about topics in the news – there will always be a legal angle somewhere – and be prepared to discuss and share views on these.
  • Don’t quote famous lawyers – admissions staff will read over 500 personal statements quoting Ghandi, and it becomes very boring! Make your statement personal and relevant.

Law graduate job prospects

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*Professional employment refers to a job or occupation which normally requires a degree.
**Non-professional employment refers to a job or occupation which doesn't normally require a degree.

What are the job opportunities?

Directly related to Law:

If you have a Law degree you can progress directly to take the LPC (for solicitors), or the BPTC (for barristers).

Most qualified students work in private practice, while others may join in-house legal departments, the Government Legal Service, or Crown Prosecution Service.

Other areas where a Law degree is useful:

If you decide not to work in law, you can still excel in a wide range of professions such as academia, media, business, politics and banking.

A Law degree is considered very highly amongst employers as it shows that you can communicate well, engage in critical thinking, and have great reasoning skills.

Law student success stories

Adriana International Law
Adriana, 20

Adriana, Romania

20-year-old Adriana is currently in her second year of study at Southampton Law School.

Why did you choose to study in the UK?

The education system is great and I knew it would help my career prospects. I was also attracted by the UK governmental loan that would support my studies.

What was the application process like?

I was helped by an educational adviser so didn’t have to deal with the required documents by myself. The toughest part was writing my personal statement as I've always had trouble writing within a word limit. Other than that, deciding my firm choice was quite challenging – it felt like an 'all or nothing' decision as I didn't know whether or not I would exceed the conditional threshold.

How are you finding the experience of living and studying in the UK?

It has been challenging. Nonetheless, I am happy with my choice and wouldn't change it for anything. The UK is a place where young people enjoy plenty of opportunities to strive to be the best they can be. The academic support is also very good – not only does it motivate you to set your goals high, but it provides you with the means to get there.

Did you find the language barrier difficult to overcome? What support was available to help?

It wasn't easy to begin with. I had to figure out how to greet people, how to start and maintain conversations, how to assume what people wanted to say even when their accents and slang made it difficult to understand them.

In terms of the support, the friends I made here – British or not – were a great help. Talking to them was the best way to improve my English. The University of Southampton was extremely helpful by offering a variety of language support seminars and workshops specifically for foreign students which I attended regularly.

What do you plan to do after your course is finished?

I want to get a training contract at a law firm to start working as soon as I finish my studies, and complete my LPC (Legal Practice Course).

What would be your main piece of advice to someone considering coming to the UK to study Law?

Be prepared for a challenge! English Law is complicated but it is very rewarding when studying it. One day you may feel like you’re really struggling but the next day you'll feel like you've accomplished a lot. 

Gu Shuangie - Law Student

Gu, Shanghai

Gu studied for his LLB at the East China University of Political Science and Law and is now midway through an LLM course at University College London Law School.

What inspired you to study Law?

When I see well-structured arguments given in court by lawyers, I feel excited and that is why I know I want to study Law. I'd always recommend studying a subject you know you'll enjoy.

Why did you choose to study at UCL?

UCL Law School provides more than 30 modules for selection each year and it covers some niche aspects of legal study – flexibility was a big factor for me. The central London location offers a variety of opportunities that I will benefit from in the future also.

What do you like about the course?

The classes are small and teachers encourage and expect you to participate, thus helping you learn. Tutorials are great and really useful in the lead up to exams. Course content relates to the latest cases in the field and it's good to know how the knowledge we're accruing is applied in the real world.

What aspects of the course are you finding difficult?

Often you have a lot of reading to do and it sometimes becomes impossible to finish it every week. But students establish study groups which help with coping though a combination of team work and knowledge exchange. As well as supporting the course, it's a great way to make friends.

How are you funding your studies?

I fund my study mainly through my parents, and before I started university I earned money working for Universum Ltd. in Shanghai.

What about the social side of things at university, does a Law student find much time for it?

UCL provides lots of social events. Every year, the Law Society holds balls and events for us to relax and have a bit of fun. UCL also offers plenty of volunteering opportunities around London. I regularly volunteer at Thomas Pocklington Trust to guide the elderly who have poor eyesight. I think it's important to be an active member of the community.

What do you plan to do once you’ve graduated? 

Perhaps I will continue my lawyer career in Shanghai. Alternatively, I may choose to become a civil servant in China, there's great political changes going in my country and I'd love to get involved.

How has your university supported your career aspirations?

The UCL career centre holds numerous lectures on employment. It has special sessions for improving your CV and will give you advice before interviews.

Any other comments?

The UCL Law Society comprises students from all over the world. You can meet lawyers from different cultures and backgrounds. Trust me, it's well worth studying here.

  • After university, there are many ways you can incorporate Law into your profession. Read about how to get into Law.

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Part of this content was based on an original article written by Deborah Ives, Admissions Director for the School of Law UG programmes, University of East Anglia.