Is Law right for you?
We believe that studying Law at University is one of the most stimulating and fulfilling courses you may undertake. We say this from experience as law students, who are deeply passionate about the cause of Law and its undeniable significance for a flourishing society.
However, such statements are naturally subjective. Every person excels in their own discipline depending where their talents lie, and whether they are willing to dedicate to hard work. You must ensure that Law is indeed the right choice for you. In this Guide, we seek to explore some of the questions that you should be asking of yourself in order to determine whether you will find Law as exciting as we do.
Part of the difficulty with making the choice to study Law is that you most likely have had very limited exposure to the discipline. The school curricula usually do not offer this subject, and for good reasons: Law requires a certain maturity of thought and it would be detrimental to build your understanding of it on uncertain foundations. Therefore, nearly everyone who chooses to study Law will base it upon some form of extrapolation.
You may find that you are particular adept at humanities and you are drawn towards studies that maintain intellectual rigour. You may consider yourself an avid debater, who never forgoes on an opportunity to put forward their ideas. You may think that Law carries with it great responsibility and you want to take up the mantle.
These are all fine aspirations but may be insufficient to truly enjoy and relish the study of Law. We have noticed that the unifying factor of students who love studying Law is that each of them has some personal idea on the value of Law. This value motivates them to appreciate the abstract nature of Law and gives them a sense of identity: what is my role for the Law?
You should start by indeed considering your values and what you consider as truly significant. This should lead your inquiry towards questions such as what is Law, what should be the Law, what is just, what are the limits of Law, what is its significance for individuals and society etc.
It is worthwhile to consider the historical aspect of Law. The uniqueness of English Law is its common law tradition. This is a very different form of jurisprudence to what you may find in other countries, and it is steeped in certain modesty and pragmatism as to what Law can achieve. Importantly, it is an evolving system that answers to the needs of individual justice. We think that this feature in particular makes the study of Law never boring: you learn legal reasoning by appreciating the very rich history of developments in Law.
In summary of motivation, we advise that you choose to study Law if it is a personal choice of which you are certain, because of your passion for the idea of Law. So much for theory. Now, we must consider the practical realities of Law; namely the skills you should possess ready for development through academia.
You should take a critical assessment of your strengths. What are you good at? From there, you should consider whether these are the skills you cherish and wish to master.
At this point, we need to add a proviso: academic development at university is largely about sustained and hard work. The differentiating factor between a successful student and the most average one is regular effective study. Therefore, do not fret if you feel that you are lacking in certain skills. The point of undergraduate Law is to equip you with qualities necessary for the legal profession. Qualities upon which you build through the nuances of postgraduate and career-related development.
Below, we discuss briefly some of the skills we think are exemplary of a legal student. If it sounds enticing or even remotely applicable to your person, then you may be on the right tracks by considering Law.
At the basis of legal reasoning lies intensional logic. It considers a certain supposition: the relationship between specific premises depends upon their meaning and not strictly their logical values. This may partly explain why mathematicians make for such poor lawyers! Critical thought will manifest itself in ability to consider detailed meaning of propositions, evaluate the structure and strength of arguments, relate rules to unknown facts, derive distinctions, and order materiality of premises, amongst many other manifestations.
To put it simply, you must care about the truth and validity of statements. With that critical attitude and propensity to spot illogical utterances, you should fare just fine.
It relates to your general thought pattern. Are you extremely tangential or rather quickly evaluate down towards a defined train of thought? The latter will allow you to express yourself clearly and succinctly, so that your interlocutor knows exactly what you mean instead of grasping for assumptions regarding your poorly thought-out communication.
Advocacy & Written Communication
This relates mainly to the ability of pitching your communication towards the right audience, the right setting and the right ends. The use of language will be your modus operandi, and the study of Law places great emphasis on this through legal essay writing (and tutorials/mooting).
You must be a diligent person. Your relationship with “time” must be one of managing “time” rather than being managed by “time”. This does not mean that you already have to be the ideal of punctuality. It is rather a question of attitude: do you value your time and do you value the other person’s time? If you feel like you are lacking in this area, you can and you should work to improve.
Law is not about delivering a dry argument. You should be entertained by the notion of influencing others through the potency and elegance of your argument. This is the opposite of wielding power or manipulating others. You should view yourself as a rhetorician for the Law. You are here to verbalise the Law.
“Thinking on your feet”
The ability to quickly deliver an appropriate retort or change a pre-planned strategy or evaluate consequences, and do this is all with undeniable charm is the art of legal advocacy.
Your studies so far
The studies you have undertaken so far should have developed the aforementioned skills to some extent. Notice that these skills are quite general in nature. This may partly explain why there is no specific subject preference of A-levels when it comes to applying to read Law. The main requirement is strong performance in your chosen subjects.
Naturally, certain fields enjoy greater academic respect and you should avoid taking dubious courses. The study of Law possesses some universality in its approach and welcomes students from a wide range of disciplines.
The choice of school subjects is less about fitting an admissions mold and more about exploring valuable disciplines that will inform your legal reasoning. English Literature will greatly enhance your written communication. History will help you with your ability to research and appraise evidence. Philosophy will allow you to grasp abstract concepts, attain critical judgment and build a value system. Economics will provide you with pragmatic analysis to see the often hidden naivety of arguments. Latin will make you respect the language and its semantics. Mathematics and Sciences will sharpen your mind.
You should aim to get a good grounding in some of these disciplines before you enter university. A more universal approach to your pre-university education is highly advised, as opposed to focusing on a narrow slice of academia. In a sense, the analysis of the human condition as offered by Law is far superior a pursuit than any single discipline listed so far. However, it undoubtedly makes use of the transferable skills you gain from a universal approach to school education. It is regrettable that modern schooling has moved away from such ethos towards stunting specialisation at an early age. Such state of affairs shifts the responsibility to you as an independent learner: you are in charged of your own intellectual development.
The above discussion demonstrated the importance of supplementing your learning with extra-curricular reading. The books that you enjoy reading will tell you whether you would enjoy the study of Law. If you read nothing in relation to social sciences, you may be hard pressed to find motivation for Law. If you purely enjoy reading creative fiction, you may find Law to lack the outlet for that sort of creativity. If you read and engage in debates on politics or economics, you may find Law to be a pursuit of the higher order. If you are keen on philosophy, you may find Law to satisfy your love of ideas and analysis.
Of course, the above are suppositions that may not be applicable to your experience. A voracious reader who likes a story (for example, case law!) or enjoys problem solving will find legal reading most interesting. We have noticed that the student who enjoys reading legal materials is usually the one that has some deeper understanding of the Law’s importance. At your stage, it is rather about reflecting such attitudes, but only to some degree. Remember, you still have university years in front of you!
This guide attempted to consider some facets of this difficult question in order to spur your own personal inquiry. No one can tell you that Law is the right choice for you; it truly has to come from within. You have to ask the right questions, and avoid the confounding ones (the questions of prestige, level of remuneration or parental attitudes ought to be discarded). It might be a good idea to consider the career pathways of a lawyer – it is easier to be passionate about Law if you find the prospect of its practice equally exhilarating as of its study.
Above all, do not be too harsh on yourself. None of us knew with absolute certainty that the choice of law was right for us. We all had different reasons towards the conclusion that ‘hey, I just might enjoy Law’. So seek conviction and courage to your decision, and you will do just fine.