Some students begin university life with little or no experience of the outside world. If you are currently in your GCSE or A-level years and contemplating the study of law at university, you may feel unsure about what to do and where to start. Below is some advice that you may find helpful.
- Work Experience
Try to get some legal and non-legal work experience before you finish high school or sixth form. This point cannot be emphasised enough. Any work experience will stand you in good stead for when employers come and visit you at university or when you are applying for longer work experience placements, such as internships or vacation schemes. The earlier you get some work experience under your belt, the better.
As indicated above, this does not need to be legal work experience. A part-time Saturday job can provide you with commercial knowledge of how a business operates on a daily basis.
Do not worry if you are unable to get legal work experience because your parents are not lawyers. Send e-mails enquiring about potential work experience opportunities to local law firms and you should find they are often more than willing to offer such placements.
- Think about Why You Want to Study Law
Start thinking early on why you want to read law. It is not really good enough to say, “I want to earn lots of money”. Law firms will ask you why it is you want to practise law in interviews and, if you do not have a genuine interest or reason, you are unlikely to stand out from the other candidates. This question should also be addressed in your personal statement when you come to apply to universities.
If you are already interested in a certain area of law, then there is no harm in finding out more about that area through websites, TV programmes or books. For instance, after watching the BBC TV series Garrow’s Law, you may become interested in advocacy (presenting arguments in court). This may lead you to visit your local crown court and observe actual cases. All of this experience will hopefully allow you to develop you interest in the law and perhaps even to hone in on a particular area of law, which will be extremely beneficial to you when writing your personal statement.
Therefore, it is highly recommended, but not crucial, to try and experience the legal world for yourself.
- Get Involved in Public Speaking and/or Debating
Although this is not something that you have to do in order to pursue a legal career or to study law, it will be extremely helpful to you in terms of developing the inter-personal skills required of a law student. From the outset of your degree, you will be plunged into seminars that will require you to speak in front of other students and give your opinion on a legal topic. This may be harder to get used to or enjoy if you do not have any prior experience of public speaking.
For aspiring advocates, debating will certainly improve your confidence, presentation skills and ability to think on your feet. All of this will come in handy when, or if, you partake in moot at university. Due to the scope of this article, I do not have time to explain what mooting is in great detail, however, it essentially involves a mock trial which consists of debating points of law and answering questions posed by a judge.
It goes without saying that you should get involved in debating whilst at school if you already find arguing with others enjoyable. But do not worry if you have a bad experience, or do not particularly enjoy your first time debating, as I can assure you it does get better! Like most things in life, if you put in the work and effort, you are likely to get something out of it in the end.
This is a rather broad category but what I mean by this is that you should do your research into the legal sphere before you come to write your personal statement. Research may consist of using the internet to look at the different law courses universities offer; exploring the legal profession more in depth; looking into what successful candidates have done before applying to university to read law, as well as conducting general research into the different areas of law.
With a greater understanding of what it is like to study law at university and what it really involves, you will be able to make a more informed decision as to whether law really is the right course for you.
It is important that you undertake your law degree in a location you will enjoy spending your time, as completing a degree in law involves a lot of reading! Additionally, try to gauge how the course is taught at different law schools. Is it taught in a strict ‘black-letter’ law manner which means you will be solely focused on the law, or in a way that focuses on the broader contextual issues that interact with the law?
- Plan Ahead
At this stage, you may not have settled on one particular career path. This is perfectly normal and many people are completely undecided about what they want to do with their lives, so do not panic! Do your research and ask one of your teachers or careers advisers to speak to you one-on-one and to go through what you are interested in.
In addition, think about what you can do now that will save you time later on. For instance, you could take the advice of this article and gain legal work experience to enhance your CV. Additionally, the more you know about things like how the legal profession works, the more impressive you will be to law firms and the more prepared you are when it comes to applying for internships or work placements.
And lastly, do not forget to work hard and revise for your exams.