A solid law degree will, of course, provide you with knowledge of our curious legal system. So as well as learning some of the eccentricities - it's illegal to sing an obscene song or shake a rug in the street anywhere in the Metropolitan Police District, for example – you'll also study contract law, tort, libel and much more.
But as well as making you learned in the law, the best degrees will help you get ready for your graduate career in a range of different ways. Here are some marks of quality to look out for...
Giving you a taste of the real thing
If you're learning to be a surgeon you'd hope to experience some surgery while you train, before they unleash you on patients. Similarly, you're going to want to know what it's like to present and argue a case in court before you do it on behalf of a client. A good law programme will feature a 'moot room'
or a mock court, that will allow you to practise your advocacy skills and get a feel for the courtroom environment.
Look out for other opportunities to develop real-world skills too. For example, at Coventry Uni students can volunteer at the uni's Legal Advice Clinic; Business, Law and Enterprise Clinic; or Employment Law Clinic, handling cases for real clients under the close supervision of expert staff.
Boosting your employability
The legal profession is competitive so it's a good idea to start working towards your first job right from the beginning of your course. That doesn't mean forsaking all fun – employers want rounded individuals – but finding out what careers services are available in advance so you can make the most of them once you arrive at uni is always handy.
Check if there's a general careers team for all students, but also what's available in your department – unis (including Coventry) often have employability tutors, so find out what they can do for you. Open days are great for investigating this sort of thing.
Giving you options
You'll be a much more capable lawyer if you have a diverse student experience, and a good course will help you with this by offering more than lectures and a library card (although those are essential, too).
For instance, can you go abroad to study. Overseas study can be really rewarding – it's a chance to meet people from other cultures, learn the local language and see a bit of the world. (You might even find out when and where it's illegal to shake a rug in some exotic European location.)
Equally, are there options for placements here in the UK or overseas, working within law firms or other organisations to gain some workplace experience? Things like this will impress employers once you graduate and give you a bit of confidence when applying for jobs and attending interviews.
Being good for business
Law is obviously the subject for you if you want to be a solicitor within a law firm or a barrister within a set of chambers, but it can be a way into other professions as well. Lawyers can be found in the legal departments of companies worldwide, for one thing, and specialist legal training for business
can be a bonus if you want to make a career in anything from management to accountancy.
Plus, seeing the larger business picture is helpful for lawyers of any kind, which is why good unis cultivate close links between their law and business schools, as well as with local companies, who might offer things like placements and guest lecturers. You'll leave with a professional network in place, some practical insights into the business world and some excellent experience on your CV.
Helping you stand out
Finally, keep an eye out for anything else a uni offers that might give you the extra skills and experience that recruiters love. That might be great extra-curricular options – sports societies, a role in the students union – or course-related activities. Coventry students can take part in an annual mooting (mock trial) competition, for example.
It can seem tricky at first, but some careful research and knowing what to look out for will help you find a course that will get you ready for the wider world. And you'll know not to sing rude songs in the street to celebrate once you get there.