Why I chose a law degree and what studying law was like

students working together in a library

Considering studying law at university? Get the inside track from a recent graduate of The University of Law

Picking which subject to study at university is a significant decision that can shape your future career. Because of this, it can feel like an overwhelming choice to make – but hearing about someone else’s experiences can help give you a better idea of what might work best for you. 

Kieran Collins, who completed his law degree at The University of Law, shares his journey from selecting A-levels to choosing a university and his day-to-day life as a law student.

Academic route to law

I left school with 10 GCSEs before going on to take Applied Law, Drama and Theatre and History at A-levels. I was part of the Covid year in 2020 which meant I did not sit any traditional exams during my A-levels.

Choosing law

Growing up, I knew I wanted to have a career in some form to do with the law. I think it stemmed from witnessing a lot of injustice growing up and wanting to be a part of the solution to this problem. 

When I finished my GCSEs I was divided between going to university to take a degree in law, as having watched a lot of clips about lawyers (shout out to Suits!), I was really interested in law as a professional career, and becoming a commercial airline pilot. However, when I saw the cost of flight school and my family situation, I decided to go down the law route.

Legal experience

Doing an A-level in Applied Law, while also obtaining work-experience at a leading commercial law firm gave me my first real exposure to law. 

It was during this time that some of my mentors in the profession – judges and lawyers alike – encouraged me to apply my skill set to law. They pushed me to do law as at the time they saw it as a solid fit. Of course, I thought they were joking! But after doing my degree in law, I can safely say, I think they were right and saw a lot of potential in me.

Choosing a university for a law degree

First of all, make sure you thoroughly research the universities you are interested in and understand what they are seeking for. I remember being quite surprised after applying to Durham that I was required to do the LNAT. So make sure you know what they are looking for, what the stages of their admission considerations are and prepare for them accordingly.

I approached my research by first looking at the type of universities I wanted to go to. I eventually decided to divide them into three categories:

  1. The standard of teaching. 

  2. The location. 

  3. The type of work you study. 

I applied to universities that either met two of the criteria or all of them.

I ended up applying to and receiving offers from Durham University, University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores, The University of Law, and the University of Chester. 

Approaching results day, I had selected to either go to Durham or The University of Law. In the end, I chose The University of Law because it allowed me to pursue an online degree while I could obtain employment as a paralegal to build up my experience.

What it’s like to study law

For me, the online degree was everything I expected. On a day-to-day basis I was able to attend remote webinars or go to my allocated university campus and attend live seminars that included talks from lawyers, judges and professors. 

As my law degree was more unique with studying and working at the same time it meant a lot of my day was focused on work while my early mornings or late evenings were blocked out to focus on law school assignments including submitted units, legal research and reviewing case notes.

I was surprised by the amount of independence you are given – this means, like a real lawyer, that you often had to research legal principles and tests in order to answer set submitted unit tasks. Of course, you are given support and the tutors are incredibly responsive to your emails which further helped. Overall, the support and structure of the law degree really beat my expectations.

Challenges of a law degree

My biggest challenge was my timing issues. Striking the right balance between not working too much to cause burnout, while not becoming too lazy to be missing deadlines – it was at times, a very incredibly difficult part of my life but taught me some valuable lessons. For example, organisational skills – if you want to do well on your law degree – is a must. Being able to set up study groups or even break out your day to know what specific module you are revising or learning about at a specific time is incredibly useful.

My other biggest challenge was understanding the complexity of legal concepts. Some concepts could not be learned overnight and instead, required weeks of revision – by learning the concept, seeing it applied in practice and reading academic commentary on it. 

The beauty of a law degree is that it teaches you how to react to situations you don’t know – if you get lazy and don’t pursue learning it further, you will struggle. But if you use the wealth of legal databases you have access to, it actually becomes much easier to understand concepts. A law degree teaches you how to adapt, adjust and approach situations you don’t understand at first glimpse.

Life after a law degree

The great thing about a law degree is that not only the degree, but the extracurriculars (moot societies, commercial law committees, etc) allow you to really develop your interests in a specific profession of law. 

Doing my law degree made me appreciate my strengths in researching case law, statutory law and in working collaboratively with peers. For me, that meant my law degree influenced my career down the solicitor route – doing electives in some commercial modules solidified my realisation that commercial law was for me.

However, remember that not everyone who does law degrees will go down the law route. I was reminded early on in my degree that it is okay to realise becoming a solicitor or barrister is not for you. 

There are numerous professions where a law degree could be useful: business, government and public service, NPOs and advocacy groups, charities, consulting, academia, media and journalism, technology, finance, healthcare etc. There are a large number of other professions that work with a law degree – so make sure you go in with an open mind.

Kieran’s tips for students considering a law degree

Remember that this is your degree. Don’t compare your submissions to others as law is very interpretative. What a law degree is really testing is how well do you convey an argument and support that argument.

Also, a law degree is challenging. You will read complex cases, historic legal principles and plenty of academic commentary on subjects, so it is critical that you can extract relevant information and digest it properly. 

Law degrees can appear daunting but do not let that get in the way of your ambition. It is true you will have a lot of reading and there will be nights where you might be struggling to understand concepts. But that is part of the journey. Law professors appreciate the difficulties in a law degree and there is such a large support network across both academia and professional environments to support you.

Make sure to take the opportunity to have fun, too. Striking the right balance between work and friends will reflect on success in your degree.

Approach every day with an open-mind. Critical analysis is at the heart of a law degree, so get used to challenging cases, principles, holdings and academic commentary. The more you develop the ability to counter an argument, the better you will do in your law degree.

Finally, take every opportunity you can when you do your law degree. Go to open days for law firms (a lot of them host for first year students), join your university law society, engage in moot court competitions or writing competitions and attend webinars and events with legal professionals.

Our partnership with The University of Law

The University of Law

The Student Room is proud to work with The University of Law as the official partner of our law hub, where current and future law students can find the advice and guidance they need.

The University of Law welcomes intelligent, ambitious students interested in the world around them; people who question systems, procedures and behaviours, and are not afraid to challenge convention.

Study at The University of Law and you’ll be equipped with the professional knowledge you need to excel in your chosen career, and supported by an award-winning employability service to help you get there.