Every student’s university application experience will be different – however, feelings of uncertainty and confusion will be common, as well as excitement and optimism about what future studies may bring. Applying to law is a unique process that differs from other subjects, for example, universities will not expect you to have a detailed knowledge of the Law prior to beginning your degree, yet still desire applicants to have the relevant skills for a Law course. Having navigated this process myself, I aim to offer an insight as to how to embark on the specific stages that are inherent only in Law applications.
Genuine passion, rather than mere interest, in the subject for which you apply is a crucial starting point for all students. Otherwise you should think about whether committing yourself to a university course is the right path, remembering that there are alternatives to further education that could be better suited to you. For me, this passion evolved from always being curious about the work of a lawyer to learning an outline of the law at A Level, as I realised how diverse legal studies can be and that a university course would develop my communication and critical thinking skills – which would benefit me in any career that followed. I have written about my experience of doing A Level law in a separate article here.
For those that have not studied Law A Level and are considering Law for university, there are a number of ways to identify if the subject is for you and thus grow your intrigue from there. Family members, friends or even online content creators that are lawyers are excellent resources for both discovering what legal studies entail, as they can reveal the pros and cons of their experience, and what the work of a lawyer looks like in practice, as their daily routine may be one that you cannot see yourself following in the future. In addition, you can read articles about recent legal developments and cases, browse university courses online and attend law departments on university open days, as doing so will confirm if Law is for you.
In addition to location, league table rankings, and the courses suited to your grades, choosing which universities to apply to for law involves further considerations. Firstly, the breakdown of the course and topics covered should be viewed in detail. Though many universities have a similar list of compulsory subjects that all students need to get to grips with the law, it is where optional modules come in that can set courses apart. You may be able to choose between studying more practical modules and more theoretical, perhaps linked to politics or philosophy, which are less catered to a typical legal career. When viewing law courses myself, I gravitated towards those that provided a varied list of optional modules, so that I could keep my educational and future career options open. Teaching structure is also something to keep in mind, as some of the courses I came across focused their lessons on collaborative work, in which small groups of students would tackle legal problems and learn from practical tasks rather than more traditional lectures. If you feel less confident with group-based learning, and prefer to address new content independently, these courses may not be compatible to you.
Personal statements are a valuable way to promote you as a student and show universities that you are suited to their course. A key feature of law personal statements – similar to, for example, Architecture or Computer Games Development – is that those writing them may never have studied the subject at GCSE or A Level. Therefore, when writing about your education and how this has prepared you to study law, you need to tailor your subjects to present you as a prospective lawyer, with the skills required for a law degree. I discussed my essay writing and analytical skills from my English A Level, my knowledge of the legislative process and political influence on the law from my Politics A Level, and the detailed research I conducted for my EPQ. Critical thinking and problem-solving in Maths, essay writing in History, and the professional benefits of being fluent in another language are just some suggestions of how you can utilise your studies. When discussing extra-curricular activities, you should also link them to your compatibility with a law degree – team sports may have improved your communication skills, or balancing a part-time job may have resulted in your becoming more organised.
Demonstrating your academic interest in the law is, perhaps, the defining feature of your statement. Whilst work experience in a legal setting is highly beneficial to mention, these opportunities are not always available, and my own lack of work experience did not put me at a disadvantage compared to other applicants. Here are some alternative examples of how you can actively expand your legal knowledge, benefitting yourself and your personal statement:
Few university courses have an admissions test; it is generally those with higher entry requirements that use them, as the universities want to distinguish between applicants using a resource other than their grades and personal statement. A distinctive part of the Law application process for some UK universities (Bristol, Durham, Glasgow, KCL, LSE, Nottingham, Oxford, SOAS and UCL, to be exact) is the LNAT – the Law National Aptitude Test, with the University of Cambridge using its own admissions test for those interviewed. This is an online, timed, two-stage test; the first involves reading 12 passages of text and answering 3-4 multiple-questions based on their content – with 95 minutes to do so, and the second involves writing an essay from a choice of 3 questions – with 40 minutes to do so. Each student will have their own preferred method of tackling the LNAT, and the official website clearly sets out all you need to know, but here are some tips that I found useful:
Article by Eliza Liddicott