Choosing a Law School


Updated 9 July 2018

This is written about choosing a law school in England, but the information and ideas may be useful to others.

In England, the Bar Council (who regulate barristers) and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (guess what they do!) lay down certain subjects that must be taught for a qualifying law degree (QLD). You can do a non-qualifying law degree, but then you will have to study extra subjects the following year to catch up with the people who did a QLD.

The QLD subjects are Public and Administrative Law including Human Rights, Crime, Contract, Tort, Land, European, and Equity. There is also a requirement that you gain experience in speaking in public and other legal skills, but provided you gain these experiences, it does not matter whether you do presentations in Crime or in Equity. There is often a Personal Development module where you learn how to undertake Legal Research, learn how to write an essay, learn to spell etc.

You must check that the degree offered is a QLD. Most of them are, but check!

So what else do you want to learn? There are optional subjects galore, but not all at the same university. If you wish to study Environmental Law, only a few places offer it. The same with Military Law, Roman Law, Immigration, Islamic Law, French Law, German Law, and Chinese Law for example. If you want to study those subjects, your choices really are limited.

Be careful to check whether the option will be still be on offer to your cohort. It is disappointing to move Heaven and Earth to get into Skegness University and then find that your special subject will not be taught because the Professor is retiring.

Sometimes they drop an option because there are too few students. Do your research. Ask!

Have a look at the assessment criteria. I like exams because it is all over in 3 hours or 2 hours. I hate assignments because they hang around depressing me for weeks. You may prefer presentations or team assessments. A school friend hated exams so he chose a course that used continuous assessment. When he got there, he found the continuous assessment was an exam every two weeks!

Look at the general student life. You may like to live in halls of residence. You may prefer the perverse glamour of a mouse ridden flat next to a foundry. You may like a small town where you can walk everywhere. If you use a car, what is the parking like? Does the Student Union have a full calendar of social events? Does the Library stay open 24/7? How good are the sports facilities?

Look at the specifically law events. Do they have competitions for mooting debating and negotiating that you can use to enjoy and to pad out your CV? If you want to be a barrister can you eat your dinners here or do you have to travel?

[American readers may wonder what “eating dinners” is about. The barristers are roughly the equivalent of your specialist trial lawyers. They are regarded as the cream of the legal profession. One of the ways they teach students to become gentlemen is by having weekly dinners where a student lawyer may find himself sitting next to a senior barrister, a QC (Queen’s Counsel) or even a judge. If you wish to become a barrister you need to eat a certain number of dinners within a time frame. It is much more convenient to eat your dinners in your university town than to have to travel to do it.]

Another problem can be the entry requirements. If the entry requirements for a course are 4As, then BCC students are wasting their time applying. You might be able to get in on Clearing but the good places rarely drop their grades much.

If you are a straight As student, then think about your CV. Are you just a nerd or do you do interesting things like abseiling or debating or barratry? A CV that says, “I like reading, socialising and computer games” may be truthful, but it does not stand out.

“I raised £3,250 for Ethiopian Refugees” is far more interesting.

If you are musical or good at sport or you have an unusual hobby, that is interesting and it will liven up the department. Be careful though, you may be invited to interview because the Professor is also interested in Lepidoptera, and if you cannot hold your end up in the conversation you will be rejected.

Good luck! Remember also that if you do not get into Law School it is their loss. You may be able to do something honest and constructive with your life instead.