Mariya Rankin, of The Lawyer Portal, busts some common myths associated with studying for a law degree.
1. ‘I can only become a solicitor or a barrister’
If midway through your degree you suddenly find that law as a career does not interest you, this does not mean you have made a horrible mistake. Every year, as many as 50 per cent of law graduates go on to careers in other industries and sectors. This is not because they could not find work as a solicitor or a barrister. You may be surprised to find that a law degree provides you with a wide range. Among other things, your degree will improve your problem-solving and research skills, as well as your ability to speak in public. These will be invaluable in the majority of professions, from marketing and politics to education and banking. This, coupled with the fact that law is one of the oldest fields of study, means that students can look forward to very good graduate prospects.
2. ‘I can’t do a law degree if I never studied the subject at GCSE or A-level’
Generally, you are thrown into the deep end when you start a law course. However, the fact that you never studied law before starting university will not put you at a disadvantage. The feeling of not quite understanding the subject matter of your course may reoccur in the second, or even third year, of your degree. The key is not to suffer in silence. Ask your course-mates or lecturers for help. As long as you are persistent, things will fall into place. The nature of law means it is always changing so the learning process is likely to continue way beyond graduation. The challenge of studying law brings an incredibly rewarding feeling with it – that of understanding the subject and finally mastering a discipline unlike any other.
3. ‘I will spend all day reading boring statute books’
It cannot be denied that studying law involves a fair amount of reading but law is not about memorising endless pages of statute books. The fundamental skill taught on a law degree is how to apply the law to different facts. As a result, law students will have around 12-16 hours contact time per week. During these sessions you will be discussing the law and applying it to various scenarios in order to see how content of your statute books actually affects people’s lives. There are also plenty of opportunities to get involved with extra-curricular activities such as mooting (mock-trials) and pro-bono (legal charity) projects. These will further develop your knowledge of the law, as well as other key skills, in a variety of ways. So while there is reading involved, the majority of your learning will take place outside the library.
4. ‘Law has nothing to do with creativity’
When you look at towering stacks of incredibly thick statute books on all possible subjects, it can be hard to see where creativity slots into law. An analytical and logical mind is essential for law students and many will develop this ‘legal way of thinking’ throughout their law degree. However, the ability to think creatively is often the secret ingredient which separates the good lawyers from the brilliant lawyers. It is important to remember that no legal problem is ever completely the same and it is often necessary to think of creative solutions. You may even have to challenge why the law is the way it is and if there is a way it can be changed or made better. Law, just like the people who create it and who are affected by it, is often imperfect and constantly changing so you will never be short of opportunities to flex your creative muscles.
5. ‘I will have no free time’
The key to studying law is remaining organised. Countless law students balance their studies with part-time work, extra curricular activities and their social life. A law degree provides you with countless opportunities to socialise and meet people from all over the world. Many international students choose to study law in the UK and this diverse legal community will put you connect you with a vast range of different cultures, allowing you to build an international network of contacts which could prove invaluable throughout your career.
6. ‘It’s probably all a massive competition’
Of course law school is competitive but there is no vicious contest among law students. You are all in the same boat, studying the same subjects and probably struggling with similar things. I have always shared my notes with fellow students and no one has ever denied me theirs if I missed a class. The challenge of studying law is actually more likely to unite students than create divisions. Many course-mates study together in the library and discuss challenging topics or cases. So over the course of your law degree you will probably find yourself your very own support network.
Ultimately, law is a subject unlike any other. It will challenge you and might change the way you think. So give it your all and be reassured that your law degree will almost definitely be an experience you will never forget.
READ MORE: Five Steps to Choosing the Right University