Studying for a law degree: how to choose the best university for you

smiling student

Undergrad? Postgrad? Just fancy wearing one of those nice wigs in court? This guide is for you

If you’re interested in studying law, you’re in luck: there are loads of options, from traditional red brick unis to shiny modern law schools and online programmes. 

On the flip side, it can be hard to choose because…well, all the same reasons. These tips will help.

Start with the basics

Begin with yourself, says John Watkins from The University of Law. “There are many very good law schools to choose from and it’s about the right fit for each person - where do you feel you can best excel inside and outside the classroom?” 

That means thinking about your personal requirements. Online study or in person? Home or away? Campus or city? What are the accommodation options and costs? 

Cover the really basic, practical things - the tastiest course in the world will soon go sour if it’s served in an environment you can’t stand (or afford).

Don’t skip over the fun stuff, either. Law is demanding, and that actually makes the social side even more important. 

If you’ve spent 19 hours studying tort law and are now basically a can of Relentless in human form, you’re going to need a social network - clubs, societies, sports, music - that will help you feel supported, and feel like yourself again.

How does the uni talk?

You can tell a lot about a university from how it presents itself to the wider world. When you’re looking at unis, ask yourself how each one comes across on social media. 

Does it respond well to current events and challenges, like coronavirus or changes to student funding, for example? Do you like what lecturers and staff have to say?

Truthful communication counts for a lot, says John. “Law schools should be honest, for example, about the challenging labour market.” 

If an institution is upfront about how tricky it can be to make it as a lawyer (and how they'll help you), chances are they'll be honest and supportive about other things too. If they're evasive, it might not be the place for you.  

Find out what current / recent students say and do

Current students and recent grads are your secret weapon when it comes to how well an institution is doing. “You can gauge relative successes via current students' social media posts - they have first-hand experience,” says John.

Do some digging: what are students saying on our forums and around the wider web about their uni and their course? Are they thrilled with the support and teaching they’re getting, or are there lots of complaints about lack of care and uninterested lecturers?

Find out where students go when they graduate. Law is very particular in terms of career progression (more on that below) so find out how much support students get at each stage, what firms and chambers they end up at, and what employability rates are like.

 This sort of info should be easy to find on a uni website - if it isn’t, maybe ask yourself why.

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Know what path you’re on

Undergrad and postgrad law are very different animals. For example, you can take an undergrad law degree with no intention of being a lawyer, and use it to launch your career in business, finance, doughnut sculpting...anything. 

If that's your path, your focus needs to be on the course and institution you'll find the most interesting and rewarding.

If law is your calling, however, you're going to need undergraduate and postgrad qualifications. There are a few ways to get them:

  • An undergrad law degree, followed by a postgrad vocational qualification (the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for solicitors, the Bar Practice Course for barristers)
  • A non-law undergrad degree, followed by a Graduate Diploma in Law and then the LPC or BPC
  • A Master’s in a specific area of law to deepen your knowledge 

In other words, undergrad study can be for anyone – not just lawyers - while postgraduate study is focused on those pursuing a legal career. “Postgraduate study is a commitment to a particular path,” says John. 

Some places offer every option, and others don't, so think about whether you want to study somewhere that will take you all the way from undergrad to qualified lawyer; or if you might want to mix and match for the different stages, to get a more varied experience.

There's more, too! You'll need to complete on-the-job training with an employer – like a law firm or barristers' chambers - once you complete your postgrad study, so make sure you choose somewhere with the industry connections and expertise to help you. 

“You need to do your research and go beyond prospectuses and websites to make a more sophisticated judgment,” says John.

Look beyond the surface

Finally, instinct counts for a lot in many legal circles, and it’s valuable right at the start of your journey into law. 

Weigh up the location, costs, academic reputation and industry links, then listen to your instincts. “It would be sensible not to accept at face value something that seems too good to be true,” says John. “It probably is.”

Our partnership with The University of Law

University of Law logoThe 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.

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