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Guide to studying 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.

Lawyer writing on legal documents at desk in courtroom


  1. What's Law?

  2. Why study Law?

  3. What jobs can you get as a Law graduate?

  4. What do graduates do and earn?
  5. What qualifications do you need?

  6. What degrees can you study?

  7. How will you be assessed?

  8. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

What's Law? 

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 a 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. In England, this is commonly the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).

Why study Law?

Behind the law of the land lies an awful lot of theory and there's no doubt 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.

Even when learning theory, you'll spend a lot of study time going through cases. Law schools use real-life examples to demonstrate how theory is applied. You'll be left knowing the content you’ve studied will have real-life applications.

Skills include:

  • Research – you'll 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 – you’ll get to grips with a whole new language, but also develop the ability to successfully 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'll practise, practise and practise these skills, as they're necessary for a career in law. However, these skills are highly transferable to a number of other industries and sectors, commercial or otherwise.

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 give you an international network which may prove useful later in life.

A Law degree will provide you with the skills required to practice law, for example through mooting (a mock legal hearing where you 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.

Lawyer With Papers And Briefcase At Desk

What jobs can you get as a Law graduate?

Directly related to Law:

  • If you have a Law degree you can progress directly into vocational training to become a solicitor or barrister (advocate in Scotland)
  • 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 among employers as it shows you can communicate well, engage in critical thinking, and have great reasoning skills

What do graduates do and earn?

In the infographic below, the first table shows what graduates of Law have gone on to do in the months after their graduation.

The second table shows the average salaries of undergraduate Law students entering employment. The three skill levels – high, medium and low – reflect the UK's Standard Occupational Classification's major groups 1–3, 4–6 and 7–9 respectively.

Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18

What qualifications do you need? 

You don't need to have studied Law at A Level to get a place on most university Law courses. Some universities will look for A Levels (or equivalent) in essay-based subjects, such as English or History.

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're interested in.

Tips for Law university applications

When admissions staff assess applications, they 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, determined and diligent.

You should be able to demonstrate your interests, but work experience in a legal environment is not essential. It's more important to show an appreciation of how law affects the world around us.

Read a good quality newspaper so you're fully informed about topics in the news – there will always be a legal angle somewhere. Be prepared to discuss and share views on these.

What degrees can you study?

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

Many universities offer sandwich courses with a professional placement. 

What areas of study does a Law degree cover?

If you are going on to study law as a career, make sure your degree covers the 'foundations' of legal knowledge:

  • Contracts (sometimes known as Obligations) – the legal details and regulation of contracts
  • Torts (also part of Obligations) – losses caused by another’s actions, including negligence
  • Criminal Law – on crime and the punishment of offenders
  • Constitutional and Administrative Law – laws governing how the country is run
  • Land Law (Property Law) – including rights of way and boundaries
  • Equity and Trusts – principles of fairness where one person entrusts assets to another
  • EU Law – laws relating to all member states of the European Union (this will continue to be a foundation subject for the foreseeable future)

In Northern Ireland, students should also pass exams in the Law of Evidence; these can be taken separately to a degree if required. 

In Scotland, students wishing to practise as a lawyer need to complete a degree in Scots law (or a joint degree in Scots and English law).

You’ll also learn skills such as legal research.

Optional modules might include:

  • Law & Medicine
  • Media Law
  • Internet Law
  • Public International Law
  • Child Law
  • Intellectual Property Law

How will you be assessed?

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

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

Postgraduate programmes in Law can be studied either full- or part-time, and via distance learning. If you have a degree in a different subject than Law then you can take a Law conversion course or a graduate-entry qualifying Law degree.

Law graduates who wish to work in the profession must take further vocational training to become a solicitor or barrister. Alternatively in England you could complete a Graduate Fast Track Diploma with CILEx (Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) to qualify as a chartered legal executive, specialising in a specific area of the law.

Practising 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.

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