Chances at Oxford BCL/ Cambridge LLM & MCL

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explicatio
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artful_lounger
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The BCL certainly is fundamentally an academic course, not a legal practice course, so I doubt a wealth of practical experience will outweigh the lack of a 1st. As you can see from the above link, even a 1st is not necessarily enough - most of the cohort were in the top of their classes, well beyond a mere 1st class degree.

Cambridge is similar; certainly the MCL indicates they expect applicants to be in the top 5-10% of their graduating class (which almost necessarily implies a 1st for a student from a UK university). The LLM states the minimum required is a 1st class degree or equivalent, although that course does have a qualifying remark that those without that background may be eligible if they can demonstrate they are among the top 10% of lawyers practicing in their jurisdiction. The wording seems to imply this is more for people who did not earn a law degree at all and qualified in law through another means (e.g. CiLEX, or some other countries may allow people to take a bar exam without any formal legal degree).

You may want to consider LSE for an LLM instead, since their minimum standard is a 2:1, so that combined with a wealth of experience may be sufficient for them. You might also be considered for the MSc Taxation at Oxford, if you are specifically interested in tax law (that is not a full time programme though and is designed to be undertaken by working professionals in a relevant role typically, from what I can tell).
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explicatio
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by explicatio)
Thanks so much for the detailed reply. Really appreciate it. MSc Taxation is an interesting option indeed.

I have to say I am quite surprised by the certainty with which those who have responded say that my chances are pretty much non-existent (which I accept), but I am also aware that those with 2:1s have in fact been/ are on the BCL/ LLM. In the circumstances, might I seek your expert opinion on what factors might have helped those with 2:1 to get in? Really appreciate it.
I'd say first of all mine is not an expert opinion, and is largely based on googling stuff

In any case, of the 125 students admitted to the BCL/MJur at Oxford for 2019/20 in the PDF above, only one had a 2:1, and that individual went to Oxford himself and did law there (so there was possibly more potential to discuss his non-assessed tutorial work etc directly), and won a bunch of academic prizes and scholarships in the process, both at Oxford and then after from one of the Inns of Court. For all we know, he could have had extenuating circumstances affecting his academic performance in finals, and there were was certainly evidence of high levels of academic achievement besides (with the awards and prizes).

Essentially the thing you need to convince them is not that you are or will be a good lawyer, but that you are and will continue to be a good legal scholar and academic. Each does not necessarily imply the other. Your challenge is to convince them that you are able to do top notch scholarly work, of which normally they will look for a 1st class degree as a minimum indicator. I'm not really sure how you could do that outside of another masters programme then applying to the BCL/MCL/LLM, unless you could get a publication or two in an academic journal.

This does however beg the question, if you have have a fairly well established and notable (?) professional career now, what is the reasoning behind targeting these very academic programmes? I'm skeptical as to whether the BCL or LLM will provide that much useful knowledge for a practical career in law, compared to a career as an academic in a law department. While either could be a good way to distinguish yourself before applying to the Bar in the UK (which is somewhat academic in nature as a profession), if that is your aim as you are already a qualified barrister in another jurisdiction, then your route to qualifying (and quite possibly, what they will be looking for) for the English Bar will be different to a fresh law grad.

If you do want to go onto an academic career in law then there are plenty of LLM programmes that will accept you without a 1st and then it is entirely possible you could do a PhD/DPhil at Oxford or Cambridge afterwards (and those may not even be the best options depending on what you want to be focusing on in your research).
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explicatio
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by explicatio)
Thanks very much for the kind reply. Just to complete my response and inquiry:

1) There are six in the above BCL intake PDF who appear to have not obtained 1st class let alone top 5-10%; not all are Oxford law graduates themselves;

2) I take your advice as very helpful that indeed one's objective should be to show one's academic potential in applying for those courses and not his potential to become a good lawyer;

3) I happen to be a tenant at a set that is considered by Chambers and Partners as one of top 3 barristers' sets in my jurisdiction, and while I won't say my practice is notable, it is certainly well established (while that, as I agree, might not go to show one's brilliant academic mind, I am hoping my involvement in those cases would at least indicate my understanding of the real law as it is applied in the high/ appellate courts);

4) My aim is simply to deepen my knowledge in the areas of law where I have my predominant practice, but not through self-teaching or in some aimless way, which is why I am looking to go to top schools where I will have guidance from the leaders in their fields. The purpose of this thread was to explore my chances at Oxford/ Cambridge as options among other schools and it appears the reasonable answer is (logically and without exaggeration I think): extremely difficult, but those with less than 1st are known to have gotten into BCL (and therefore it would be putting it too high to say those with 2:1 have no chance at all).

Do you think otherwise? And what are your views for LLMs in the US (with my profile)? I really appreciate your time.
My searching was based on those with UK classifications in that list; if they were in a different format I wouldn't have found them.

However the fundamental matter I think you are not addressing is, these are not (principally) professional development courses; they are academic degrees, primarily aimed at training academics. I don't see that you are really going to learn anything directly transferable to practice from those courses, and any theoretical frameworks or major current points of debate in the academic study of the law you could learn without being on such a degree (or on other degrees). Even if you had a 1st and were otherwise a "lock" for applying to those courses, if you didn't want to go into academia and you already have a good legal practice, the benefit of those courses seems tenuous at best.

The BCL and LLM/MCL by all accounts seem to be designed as with most masters degrees at Oxford and Cambridge - preparing students for PhD study, or otherwise just giving them a degree with the Oxon/Cantab tag. The former doesn't seem to be your aim, and the latter doesn't seem necessary at the point of your career that you are at. The "understanding of the real law as it is applied" isn't really the point of what those degrees are teaching you, nor what they are looking for from applicants as far as I can tell. They want to see academic ability and possibly some potential for original academic research. I would note the "leaders in their fields" teaching on those courses are likely to be predominantly legal academics, not practicing lawyers. That alone should tell you about the focus and emphasis of those courses.

There are plenty of other good LLM programmes, some of which are probably more specifically aligned to practice, either in general or in your particular area. It seems strange to focus on those programmes which are essentially completely at odds with a) what you want to get out of it and b) what your profile fits for admissions purposes. The only reason otherwise is for the "brand name", and there are plenty of other law schools with "brand name" power you could apply to that you aren't basically an outside chance at the very outset for (e.g. LSE). Besides which, as above, the usefulness of "brand name" at the stage of your career you find yourself in seems negligible.

At the end of the day, provided you don't mind the application processes and any applicable fees to pay, you have relatively little to lose by applying. You don't need to convince me that you're a suitable prospect, you need to convince them (and yourself)!

Spoiler:
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It may be worth noting that having to deliberately search out the very uncommon cases of those who got in without a 1st, amid the literally hundreds with one (and no doubt many more with 1sts that fell short) doesn't seem to bode well. Generally you want to aim to not be the exception, and certainly you can't put much expectation on it if you are. If you view it realistically as what it is - a one in a hundred shot, or so - then that isn't such an issue. Trying to construct a narrative where you are the norm and not the exception despite that patently not being the case doesn't seem like a health approach to the matter, however.
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explicatio
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Shanlon97
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Hi everybody,

Would just like to get any thoughts on whether I would be competitive for an LLM at a top UK uni. Oxbridge seems a bit unrealistic, but hoping that LSE could be a viable option.

I have just completed a degree in Law and Chinese Studies at University College Dublin. I am waiting on my ratified results, but I achieved 69% overall in my degree. However, out of the 12 modules I completed in final year (degree was calculated 100% based on my final year) I got first class grades in 7/10 Law modules and averaged 70% in law. However, 2 Bs in advanced Chinese Language modules brought me down from a first overall. Just wondering, whether admissions will focus on my overall performance or just law grades?

Not sure how relevant this would be but also completed a Vac Scheme at Jones Day (London), Summer Associate programme at Cleary Gottlieb (Brussels). Also, did internships at two top commercial law firms in Dublin. I studied in Beijing for a year and volunteered in Nicaragua for a summer.
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harrysbar
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(Original post by Shanlon97)
Hi everybody,

Would just like to get any thoughts on whether I would be competitive for an LLM at a top UK uni. Oxbridge seems a bit unrealistic, but hoping that LSE could be a viable option.

I have just completed a degree in Law and Chinese Studies at University College Dublin. I am waiting on my ratified results, but I achieved 69% overall in my degree. However, out of the 12 modules I completed in final year (degree was calculated 100% based on my final year) I got first class grades in 7/10 Law modules and averaged 70% in law. However, 2 Bs in advanced Chinese Language modules brought me down from a first overall. Just wondering, whether admissions will focus on my overall performance or just law grades?

Not sure how relevant this would be but also completed a Vac Scheme at Jones Day (London), Summer Associate programme at Cleary Gottlieb (Brussels). Also, did internships at two top commercial law firms in Dublin. I studied in Beijing for a year and volunteered in Nicaragua for a summer.
I was about to suggest that you started your own thread then saw that you have done
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donmiguel
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Hey, could you please expand on that? Was it some general trend this year that Cambridge lowered their admission requirements, or did you have some particular circumstances?Would be grateful for a response, as I am trying to evaluate my chances of getting onto LLM at Cambridge!
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