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Cambridge Demystified - Law

by @Sophie.qoh
Part of @Oxford Mum's series

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Reply 1
Cambridge Demystified Law
Given the lack of Oxford equivalent for this subject the pressure is on! I hope this is of some use and if you have any further questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.
On reflection this is rather long sorry!
English state school, studied A level English Lit, History, French, Chemistry, applied to and made an offer by St Catharine’s

Why did you want to study your subject?
At GCSE, I really fell in love with English Lit but I didn’t feel like perusing it as a degree was an option for me. For all I enjoy researching and writing essays, I wanted to make sure that when I went out in to the real world I was doing something that felt useful, like I was contributing to society. Law seemed to be a good fit the rational, logical, step by step and real world presence of my chemistry mixed with the analytical, critical, research and debate from my essay subjects.

Why Cambridge?
Why not? Seriously, that would probably be my best answer to this question. I’m passionate about learning, I do a lot of independent work, all the staff from my school that knew me told me it was worth a shot. There didn’t really seem to be a lot to lose. Also, the more intimate setting of a college where I would be personally known and valued is very appealing and this of course works along side the small group tutorials Oxbridge is known for.
I suppose then why Cambridge over Oxford and that’s a little murky. On the one part it might be to do with the Cambridge jumper my mum bought me a couple of years ago. With a law degree, in order for it to be a qualifying degree, there are core modules that you need to do and the rest of your time is optional modules. This structure doesn’t vary by uni and most places have a good selection of optional modules too which can make it even harder to decide. The Oxford law course is called Jurisprudence which is the philosophy of law and that initially scared me off a bit that there would be a lot of debate and hypotheticals and interesting questions and not a lot of how can I use this to help people in the real world?

Did any of your teachers inspire you? Or any other expert (TV presenter etc)
Firstly, let’s not deny that legal dramas like Suits or classic films like A Few Good Men don’t make you want to be a lawyer in order to get that kick ass court moment.
Secondly, I was involved in my school’s Equality and Diversity group from its early days (I’ve been at said school for 7 years). We managed to achieve such wonderful things, including a gender-neutral uniform. The teacher in charge new the laws we could use to support us and was so confident in backing us. The ability to use the law to affect change, which I saw first hand with that group and that teacher, inspired me.

Which resources did you use (please name as many as possible) Which books/journals did you read? Which did you like best, and why? What did they teach you?
I have to say I didn’t read a lot of law books. You might notice I did 4 A levels and one of them wasn’t law so I had to spend a lot of time reading for them. Reading anything and thinking about it critically (ie what is being said? What is the reasoning? Is this good reasoning? Do I agree with this reasoning?) is useful transferable skills.
Read the news. Read a range of sources, look for different views, different styles of reporting. Current affairs tend to come up in the LNAT and the Cambridge Law Test so it is helpful to have some context and some examples that can be applied. In particular the Guardian Law section is useful for considering legal issues but it is important to be well rounded.
And that’s all the reading I did pre application. In the lockdown I’ve since read
Letters to a Law Student a series of letters by a Law professor from Cambridge to a fictional law student from application to life after uni. The first few letters would be good for people thinking about applying or who have interviews.
What About Law? covers the 7 core modules of a law degree, giving an introduction to some key principals and exploring them in a specific case. Written by a group of Cambridge fellows so specialists for each unit. Very accessible and yet very educational. Definitely shows a fun side to the subject too.

Did you attend any lectures, or take part in any competitions? If so, would you recommend them, and why?
I went on one of the Experience Cambridge event days and had mixed feelings. The lectures and discussions and engagement with the academics was incredible, actually much better than I was expecting. I would definitely recommend this part.
On the other hand, I met too types of people that day. The first type were lovely and I don’t need to say much about them. The other type… I spoke to a girl who said she google the highest paying careers and picked law, then she googled the best law school and picked Cambridge (she didn’t plan on applying to anywhere else), and then she google the best law firm and was trying to get in contact with them. This kind of people really put me off for a long time but I now realise there are plenty of nice people who are less competitive and you can pick your crowd to suit you.
I also did a national essay writing competition but I entered for the English section rather than the law section as the topic was already in line with my coursework and I didn’t have loads of spare time to research from scratch. Still, the principals of researching, planning, drafting etc are transferable and the trip to London for the final after being shortlisted was nice.

Did you have any work experience? If so, how did you find it?
My school ran a designated work experience week in y12. I was turned away by every single barristers’ chambers and struggled with solicitors too. And then the solicitors I did manage to set something up with cancelled last minute! Luckily the staff member overseeing it was so helpful and rang round to find me a place. I ended up in a criminal defence solicitors and they managed to get me in the Magistrate’s and Crown courts throughout the week, they gave me files to read, I helped draft documents, and on my last day they set me up with the barrister that had their case in court and I got to spend the day right in front of the judge in the middle of it all. I loved it. If you can’t get work experience, take yourself to the local courts and sit in the public gallery.

Did you have a specialist subject/EPQ? What was it? How did you go about your research?
I honestly didn’t have the time to do an EPQ or extra research. You may notice I tried to make sure any extra reading and research was linked to things I was doing anyway. Work smart.

What did you mention in your personal statement and why?
The first part of my personal statement was based on my academics. I went through each of my subjects and extra circular academic stuff (such as the essay writing competition I mentioned) and unpicked what skills they taught me and why those skills would be good for a law degree. Then I talked about my work with the Equality and Diversity group and my work experience as these were very important for answering why I was interested in law. Finally, I had a little section at the end explaining my work as a French mentor and House Captain in my school. This paragraph was nice as it showed a slightly different skill set but it was only a few lines Oxbridge personal statements are notorious for being extremely academic-focused. I used the ABC technique throughout Activity (what you did) Benefit (what you learnt) Course (why does the law faculty care?) it’s simple but it keeps everything focused and with some careful word choice it can be very effective.

Which techniques did you use for the entrance test?
So the CLT (Cambridge Law Test) is now an essay in every college, I believe. It is at interview. I also did the LNAT for some of my other applications and the two have a similar skill set. My advice would be to read current affairs. The more often you read it, the better you will be at grappling with it and asking more critical questions. If you don’t have a lot of time, at least read the news in the weeks leading up to it or even the night before. The questions are relevant to today.
I write a lot of essays. Sometimes one or two for 3 of my subjects per week. I didn’t have the time to write practice essays and honestly it seemed like a bit of a waste of time when I knew I had a structured that worked for me and that could be written quickly. There is a bank of CLT practice questions online. I copied them on to a word document and in the month before the test planned them all. The ones I read and knew what to write, I tried to plan quickly, almost like in the test. The ones I was more stumped by, I did a little bit of research and reading and then took more time to plan and the plan was more detailed.
On the morning of the test, I was sat in Costa and I could see applicants everywhere with the CLT guide book. At the time, this really freaked me out even though I had made the decision not to buy it because it wasn’t by Cambridge and I felt confident enough in the general essay skills I had developed (I didn’t want to start changing things and panicking). You can definitely do well without this book, and without writing 100 practice essays WORK SMART!
When it gets to the test, just try and engage. Think critically about the different parts of the question, come up with a debate, explore the sides, and then ultimately try and come down with your own opinion. Much of this should be second nature if you already do essay-based subjects.

How did you choose your college?
Applied to Catz, made an offer by Catz. I chose St Catharine’s mostly because a girl a few years older than me from my school goes there and whenever she comes back to talk about Oxbridge she always speaks so highly of it. It’s known for being a really friendly sociable college. First and third years are on the main site and then second years move into some newly renovated flats so this balance of support and independence was also very appealing.
Really though, don’t worry about it too much. Everyone has a different reason for applying to a particular college. Accommodation cost, sports facilities, look, admission statistics etc. You might end up there, you might be pooled. They’re all still part of the bigger university and you will find at least something to love no matter where you end up.

Did you go to an open day and if so, did it help you to decide?
I didn’t go to an open day as they were on the same days as my work experience and I felt my work experience to be more valuable. I did get to see some bits and pieces on my day on Experience Cambridge and I did take a drive down with my mum in the summer to get more of a feel for the city. It is a very lovely place and reminiscent of York which is next to my home town. I managed to get the librarian to let us have a look around the law faculty building. She was very encouraging and helpful. I had also started planning a trip through my college to have a better look at accommodation but that is obviously on hold now… Anyhow the moral of the story is go have a look and if you can’t go on an official open day then send some emails and I’m sure someone will be able to help.

How did you find the interview process? (NO INTERVIEW QUESTIONS PLEASE - this is against TSR guidelines)
Mixed bag here. On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed grappling with the material and discussing it I think this is a reasonably good measure for if you will thrive in the Cambridge tutorial setting but of course at interview there is a lot more stress. On the other hand, I struggled to read the academics and tell if I was doing well. You can’t tell if you’re doing well or if you’ve done well until January so try focus on the experience of being able to discuss academic material with experts.

Any interview tips?
Obviously, we have to start with the almost cliché ‘THINK OUT LOUD’. You will not realise until you have an interview that this really is the key. You can not show off nor get help if you don’t lay your thought process out for the interviewers. That being said, you are absolutely allowed to pause to think before explaining yourself, you don’t need to rush. There is no set route for the interview, it is just an interesting discussion so try to relax.
Don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat, reword, or explain the question. It is more important to recognise obstacles and deal with them than to struggle on or even worse ignore a point and blindly follow down your path without considering the other points the interviewers may be trying to prompt.
Dress in whatever makes you feel good, know what time everything is, know where to go for interviews, to relax or socialise, and to do any pre-reading ask a student ambassador if you need anything.

How did you feel after the interviews?
I felt I had been too argumentative and confident in my first interview and them too unsure and unassertive in my second one in order to compensate. You can’t tell, you don’t know. Speculation is a waste of your time.

Where were you when you got your offer? How did you react?
Story time! So my best friend had heard from Oxford the day before and got a place. Then on that fateful day every single person who was waiting to hear back from Cambridge heard back for better or for worse in the morning. I was getting exponentially stressed as the day went on luckily I had some very supportive teachers around me that day. I eventually took to giving my phone to other people or turning it off for periods of time so that I couldn’t keep refreshing my emails. I ended up with some time before my last lesson of the day actually started and randomly decided to turn my phone back on even though I didn’t at the time have the urge to check my emails. Anyhow, there it was, the email. I politely asked the teacher if I could step outside. I texted my mum, I emailed my other teachers that I had finally heard and that I would come see them after school and then I had to try my best to carry on with the lesson safe to say it wasn’t my most productive hour. Turns out after the day of waiting my offer letter had already been posted and was waiting for me when I got home I always imagine what if I had forgotten a folder and nipped home to get it?
I was very surprised that I felt so happy and so proud. I really hadn’t been expecting anything, I REALLY REALLY loved another university that I already had an offer for and I had actually told my friends not to let me go to Cambridge because I didn’t want to be around such egotistical, competitive snobs like I had met on Experience Cambridge. Funny how things turn out.

Are you looking forward to coming up to Cambridge?
I am now. The more I speak to people, the more I realise that there is a growing opportunity to have an impact on what a typical Cambridge student is like. I’ve spoken to so many wonderful people that I can’t wait to spend time with. I’ve learnt more about my college and my faculty. Oxbridge is not the be all and end all of universities but I love the beautiful city, I love that I already feel welcomed into my college family, and I love that I will be receiving a world-class education.
So yet again, this is a chapter I really loved reading! Please don't apologise for it being over long, readers want as much detail as possible.

Every chapter I see reveals a different personality. I see you as a real practical, confident, "cut the c***p" kind of person. A person with method, a plan, who hates to waste time, and doesn't see why she should. I love your sense of logic. You explain to us why the essay writing A levels help, and also the science. Yes, law is a mixture of both types of skills. You already had me sold by that stage.

When asked why Cambridge... you just said "why not"? And why not indeed? No, there wasn't a lot to lose, was there? Quite. Plus, you didn't lose, so that was a great decision with little risk (after all, you have four other options on your UCAS form). If only more state school applicants had your attitude, I'd be extremely happy.

Carrying on with your logical thinking, you figured the Cambridge law degree is more practical than the Oxford one and you want to "contribute to society" - a noble aim. A part of the Oxford course is learning Roman law, so I get your point.

As for contributing to society, you start at your own school, with a gender neutral uniform. Once you started persuading the school, I bet they didn't stand a chance! I really look forward to you making a real difference when you get out in the real world.

No timewaster, you! You do not read legal textbooks, because there is no need. However when you do read, it is quality reading. I always say, it's not what you read, it's how you read. I say in Oxford Demystified that when you have finished, you need to put your book down and think "Oxford thoughts" ie always think critically about what you have just looked at. Here we see "Cambridge thoughts" in action.

Then you had a bad experience. You went on a Cambridge Experience day, and met a right twit, who saw Cambridge Law as a stepping stone to money and prestige rather as a subject they were fascinated with. I wonder if that person got in, though? Such people often don't, you know.

The essay competitions are a very good preparation for the inevitable Cambridge essays that come with every course. Well done for getting shortlisted. It's often harder to get placed for these competitions than it is to get into the actual university!

Yes, I often tell law applicants to go to court, to see some cases in action. My kids, who flirted with law, went to the magistrates court, county court and even the Old Bailey. It is very useful, but not always for the reasons you may think. They both went to see a very famous case, the Philpott murder case, at Nottingham crown court.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/apr/04/mick-philpott-jailed-derby-fire

That day was the day the firemen gave their testimony. However the younger son was put off because they spent nearly all day talking about the length of their hoses, which he found very boring. Yes, law can be very tedious and if you are deterred by this, then maybe law is not for you. Instead, he switched to medicine.

I loved the description of your interview. It's true you should try and focus on the experience and make the best of it, rather than panicking. You said you were "too argumentative and confident". This reminds me of a true story I also have. It involves another law candidate, a friend of a friend, who was being interviewed - just like you - for law at St Catz (many decades ago).

She came home from the interview really annoyed and told her horrified parents that she had argued vociferously with the professor because "what he was saying was rubbish". Well, that's it, thought the parents, she'll never get in, because she has offended the interviewer by arguing with him.

Just like you, she got in. Talk about history repeating itself!

I am sure you will have a brilliant career at Cambridge and beyond.
Thank you so much @Sophie.qoh
(edited 3 years ago)

Thanks for the tag - this could be useful for the Law forum so I will start a thread on there so I can provide the link for it. Thanks for this very insightful information @Sophie.qoh :smile:
Reply 6
Original post by Oxford Mum
So yet again, this is a chapter I really loved reading! Please don't apologise for it being over long, readers want as much detail as possible.

Every chapter I see reveals a different personality. I see you as a real practical, confident, "cut the c***p" kind of person. A person with method, a plan, who hates to waste time, and doesn't see why she should. I love your sense of logic. You explain to us why the essay writing A levels help, and also the science. Yes, law is a mixture of both types of skills. You already had me sold by that stage.

When asked why Cambridge... you just said "why not"? And why not indeed? No, there wasn't a lot to lose, was there? Quite. Plus, you didn't lose, so that was a great decision with little risk (after all, you have four other options on your UCAS form). If only more state school applicants had your attitude, I'd be extremely happy.

Carrying on with your logical thinking, you figured the Cambridge law degree is more practical than the Oxford one and you want to "contribute to society" - a noble aim. A part of the Oxford course is learning Roman law, so I get your point.

As for contributing to society, you start at your own school, with a gender neutral uniform. Once you started persuading the school, I bet they didn't stand a chance! I really look forward to you making a real difference when you get out in the real world.

No timewaster, you! You do not read legal textbooks, because there is no need. However when you do read, it is quality reading. I always say, it's not what you read, it's how you read. I say in Oxford Demystified that when you have finished, you need to put your book down and think "Oxford thoughts" ie always think critically about what you have just looked at. Here we see "Cambridge thoughts" in action.

Then you had a bad experience. You went on a Cambridge Experience day, and met a right twit, who saw Cambridge Law as a stepping stone to money and prestige rather as a subject they were fascinated with. I wonder if that person got in, though? Such people often don't, you know.

The essay competitions are a very good preparation for the inevitable Cambridge essays that come with every course. Well done for getting shortlisted. It's often harder to get placed for these competitions than it is to get into the actual university!

Yes, I often tell law applicants to go to court, to see some cases in action. My kids, who flirted with law, went to the magistrates court, county court and even the Old Bailey. It is very useful, but not always for the reasons you may think. They both went to see a very famous case, the Philpott murder case, at Nottingham crown court.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/apr/04/mick-philpott-jailed-derby-fire

That day was the day the firemen gave their testimony. However the younger son was put off because they spent nearly all day talking about the length of their hoses, which he found very boring. Yes, law can be very tedious and if you are deterred by this, then maybe law is not for you. Instead, he switched to medicine.

I loved the description of your interview. It's true you should try and focus on the experience and make the best of it, rather than panicking. You said you were "too argumentative and confident". This reminds me of a true story I also have. It involves another law candidate, a friend of a friend, who was being interviewed - just like you - for law at St Catz (many decades ago).

She came home from the interview really annoyed and told her horrified parents that she had argued vociferously with the professor because "what he was saying was rubbish". Well, that's it, thought the parents, she'll never get in, because she has offended the interviewer by arguing with him.

Just like you, she got in. Talk about history repeating itself!

I am sure you will have a brilliant career at Cambridge and beyond.
Thank you so much @Sophie.qoh

Gosh thank you so so much for your kind words
Thank you so much for this chapter :heart: It was very insightful and I loved how you talked about everything you experienced. It really gave me an insight, especially with ABC because I have struggled how to approach it. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into this and I wish you luck for your Cambridge experience. Of course, I have many questions but I would really like to know what was the most fun activity during your whole process in finding more about law?
Reply 8
Original post by PetitePanda
Thank you so much for this chapter :heart: It was very insightful and I loved how you talked about everything you experienced. It really gave me an insight, especially with ABC because I have struggled how to approach it. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into this and I wish you luck for your Cambridge experience. Of course, I have many questions but I would really like to know what was the most fun activity during your whole process in finding more about law?

I’m glad I could be of any help. Please do ask away if you come up with any specific questions - I’ve got some free time on my hands at the minute 😂.

The most fun I had was definitely my day in Crown Court with the barrister on my work experience. I had to dress for court, on of the solicitor gave me the case files to carry around, I got to sit and prep questions in the robing room and chat to the other barristers, I got to sit on the front bench in front of the judge as we prepared for our ‘Newton Hearing’. And then when our client didn’t show up, it just so happened that the barrister had also been in a jury trial for rape all week so I got to sit in on part of that too though maybe fun isn’t the best word here. Everyone in both my local courts was so helpful and made any accommodations they could to help me learn. I would definitely recommend seeing the law in action like this.
Original post by Sophie.qoh
I’m glad I could be of any help. Please do ask away if you come up with any specific questions - I’ve got some free time on my hands at the minute 😂.

The most fun I had was definitely my day in Crown Court with the barrister on my work experience. I had to dress for court, on of the solicitor gave me the case files to carry around, I got to sit and prep questions in the robing room and chat to the other barristers, I got to sit on the front bench in front of the judge as we prepared for our ‘Newton Hearing’. And then when our client didn’t show up, it just so happened that the barrister had also been in a jury trial for rape all week so I got to sit in on part of that too though maybe fun isn’t the best word here. Everyone in both my local courts was so helpful and made any accommodations they could to help me learn. I would definitely recommend seeing the law in action like this.

PRSOM thank you for answering it sounds fun time, especially with them helping you (sounds wholesome). Do you have any tips for seeing a court case at a local court?
Wow, thank you very much for this extremely insightful chapter!!!
Reply 11
Original post by PetitePanda
PRSOM thank you for answering it sounds fun time, especially with them helping you (sounds wholesome). Do you have any tips for seeing a court case at a local court?

So mine was aided by the solicitors I had my work experience with but a lot of courts have public galleries. You could go to the court to have a look around, you might have to go through a security check but from there you could ask the security guard to direct you to someone who could tell you what cases are on and where the public gallery is. It can be the luck of the draw how interesting the cases are for that day are but the court should have a schedule so you can pick and choose which ones to sit in on.
Original post by Sophie.qoh
So mine was aided by the solicitors I had my work experience with but a lot of courts have public galleries. You could go to the court to have a look around, you might have to go through a security check but from there you could ask the security guard to direct you to someone who could tell you what cases are on and where the public gallery is. It can be the luck of the draw how interesting the cases are for that day are but the court should have a schedule so you can pick and choose which ones to sit in on.

Thank you so much. This really helped me because I didnt know how to watch any or was too scared to go into one without knowing anything. PRSOM
Fantastic thread! I love how focussed and efficient you are - you clearly have great time management skills and know how and what to prioritise. Best of luck with everything! :h:
Original post by Sophie.qoh
I’m glad I could be of any help. Please do ask away if you come up with any specific questions - I’ve got some free time on my hands at the minute 😂.

The most fun I had was definitely my day in Crown Court with the barrister on my work experience. I had to dress for court, on of the solicitor gave me the case files to carry around, I got to sit and prep questions in the robing room and chat to the other barristers, I got to sit on the front bench in front of the judge as we prepared for our ‘Newton Hearing’. And then when our client didn’t show up, it just so happened that the barrister had also been in a jury trial for rape all week so I got to sit in on part of that too though maybe fun isn’t the best word here. Everyone in both my local courts was so helpful and made any accommodations they could to help me learn. I would definitely recommend seeing the law in action like this.


Sounds like a priceless, very unusual opportunity.
Original post by PetitePanda
PRSOM thank you for answering it sounds fun time, especially with them helping you (sounds wholesome). Do you have any tips for seeing a court case at a local court?

My sons used to go to the magistrate's court and county court often. You have to be over 14 (or you did when they went). Smart dress is advised. You can't go to family court (divorce) hearings. Sometimes you will be security checked at the entrance (particularly if there is a contraversial/murder case to be heard). All you have to do is turn up, although Sophie was wise to look at the court listings to see if any cases are worth it.
Original post by Oxford Mum
My sons used to go to the magistrate's court and county court often. You have to be over 14 (or you did when they went). Smart dress is advised. You can't go to family court (divorce) hearings. Sometimes you will be security checked at the entrance (particularly if there is a contraversial/murder case to be heard). All you have to do is turn up, although Sophie was wise to look at the court listings to see if any cases are worth it.


PRSOM thank you so much - this has made me want to actually try it out even more instead of running away.
Original post by PetitePanda
PRSOM thank you so much - this has made me want to actually try it out even more instead of running away.

Have a go at stuff - it's always worth it!
Original post by PetitePanda
PRSOM thank you so much - this has made me want to actually try it out even more instead of running away.

I'll let you in on a little secret, Panda.

I was scared to post for the first time on TSR.
I was petrified about posting Oxford Demystified.
I was even more worried about setting up Cambridge Demystified.
I was concerned about asking Oxbridge offer holders to send me chapters of how they got in. The only thing that kept me going was that I knew how lovely the Oxbridge students were on TSR and I knew I could rely on them to help.
30 submitted chapters on, I am very pleased I didn't listen to that nagging voice inside me, telling me that I couldn't/shouldn't do it.

Worlds turn on leaps of faith.

@PetitePanda
Original post by Oxford Mum
I'll let you in on a little secret, Panda.

I was scared to post for the first time on TSR.
I was petrified about posting Oxford Demystified.
I was even more worried about setting up Cambridge Demystified.
I was concerned about asking Oxbridge offer holders to send me chapters of how they got in. The only thing that kept me going was that I knew how lovely the Oxbridge students were on TSR and I knew I could rely on them to help.
30 submitted chapters on, I am very pleased I didn't listen to that nagging voice inside me, telling me that I couldn't/shouldn't do it.

Worlds turn on leaps of faith.

@PetitePanda

Thanks for that rep, Harrysbar! You have been there for me through all my shall-I-shan't-I agonies, and you were the first ever person to read Oxford Demystified!

That's what being a friend is all about.

@harrysbar

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