A Northerner in London: Why the capital is the best place to study law in the world

Surviving off of law firm white wine and canapés like a privileged Bear Grylls

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‘To study in London, or not to study in London?’

That is the question plaguing any budding law student worth their colour coded ring-binders. The battle between career prospects and costs of living has been a hard-fought one, and continues to rage today in the comment sections of Legal Cheek. Here’s my take on it and why, with the benefit of hindsight, I wouldn’t have picked any other city in the world to study in.

It’s no secret that law students are nearly always careers sharks. Indeed, I’ve yet to meet someone who studies land law purely for the fun of it. After three long years of reading cases concerning everything from disputes over swimming pool depths to sadomasochistic bondage groups — we’re looking to be remunerated.

Cue London’s most obvious advantage: easy access to chambers and firms. Studying in the Big Smoke exposes you to legal London from day one. Every day on my walk to LSE I pass Freshfields, Temple and the High Court. Throughout a very busy two weeks in first term, I attended every firm open evening that I physically could — surviving off of white wine and canapés like a privileged Bear Grylls. For me, that exposure was invaluable, for when I first arrived I found everything about the mystical ‘magic circle’ firms (‘goals’ in the law student world) imposing, even their Christmas trees.

For me then, visiting these firms only a month into my course really helped demystify them and definitely calmed my nerves about applying there. It also gave me an excellent chance to visit offices which could become my future working environment and decide whether it was for me. Those experiences were invaluable now that vacation scheme application season has started and will pay dividends if, by some divine intervention, I land interviews. Indeed, it’s quite hard to be intimidated by a firm’s environment when your last memory of it involved having a laugh about LSE100 (for non LSEers, read hell) with an associate over a glass of white.

Fear not though academics, there are also a few educational reasons to study here.

The British Library, with its legal entitlement to receive a copy of every book published or distributed in the United Kingdom, is an incredible place to both research and work. Furthermore, existing as it does as the legal heart of the UK, London is home to some of the brightest minds in the field. Only last week I attended a panel discussion on Professor Conor Gearty’s new book ‘On Fantasy Island: Britain, Europe and Human Rights’. As a public law buff, this was a fantastic experience — sitting in a hall with academics, among others, discussing something so relevant and pressing. Hearing disgruntled ‘Brexiteers’ decry the panel’s bias and promote the will of the people was a particular highlight.

It was briefly alluded to in the last paragraph, but this is where it gets real. Brexit. The one word I haven’t not read on a newspaper’s front page for what must be ten years now.

Back in my day, Jackson v Attorney General was the hot case. However, the Miller case seems ready to replace it. It is one thing to read the case, but to meet groups of angry Leave campaigners demonstrating against the ‘hijacking’ of our democracy and Remain campaigners protesting against racism on the way to my 9am EU law class really highlighted the wider issues at play. It certainly made me think differently when I discussed the case that morning.

Sadly it’s not all gravy.

The living costs comprise a huge part of the downsides. In my first year, I paid £125 per week for a room just behind the Tate Modern in central London. Combined with the increased maintenance loan you get I was actually left in the ‘green’ at the end. All of this with a view of the Shard to boot. Not bad you might say… but I shared a room. A room. Don’t get me wrong, I got on with the guy and we had a good laugh — but when he was Skyping his parents at 3am from his bed (which lay a mere arm span away from me) and I had a 9am criminal law lecture to attend, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think twice about it all. Furthermore, the inner Northerner has always suffered, and probably always will suffer, with palpitations when I pay more than £3.50 for a pint (not a hard thing to do in London).

However, if you do enough exploring you can find a few gems: cafés that serve reasonably priced good food and pubs serving drinks that won’t force your mum and dad to remortgage their house.

My other gripe is the amount of public transport I have to take to get just about anywhere. Having lived in Liverpool for four years before coming to London, I was accustomed to being able to walk to anything in the city. This, as I found out, is not the case in London. On a map, central London doesn’t look that big, at least I think so. Yet, Hyde Park — the one source of fresh air here — is probably bigger than some towns I’ve lived in; what used to be a five minute walk to get across a high street now feels like five hours. On reflection, this appears slightly more trivial than it seemed before, but nevertheless the Underground’s full of people coughing and, being the germ freak that I am, that’s a fundamental issue.

Josh Dowson is a second year law student at the London School of Economics.

49 Comments

JJ

You seem like a nice guy and given your early focus on researching firms will probably get a TC quite easily.

However, from your writing it seems like you need to calm down a bit (to be frank, I’d probably find you annoying if you were in my seminars). You rely frequently on hyperbole – ‘plaguing’ ‘wouldn’t have picked any other city’ ‘invaluable’ ‘I attended every firm open evening that I physically could’ ‘if by some divine intervention’…etc

I know it’s a Legal Cheek article, but firms won’t like it if you write like this in your applications. Avoid superlatives, and unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.

Good luck.

(31)(15)
Anonymous

LOL its a tongue in cheek article. Being at LSE I’m sure he’s smart enough to alter his writing style for a straight to the point 250 word question!

Chill out

(17)(19)
JJ

Do you know what ‘tongue in cheek’ means? Which bits would that be true of then?

(8)(1)
Anonymous

The style isn’t inappropriate for a blog like this. I doubt he’d write job applications the same way.

(2)(3)
Anonymous

“Surviving off of law firm white wine and canapés”? “Off of”? I mean, really, wtf?

(17)(4)
Reggiethelion

Great piece, Josh – sometimes painfully accurate about life in London but always hilarious with it

(6)(6)
Not Amused

Well, Bear Grylls is an Etonian who has a Dad with a knighthood. So on the basis that you don’t think he is highly privileged, you will have a sterling career as head of appointments at the Supreme Court.

(14)(5)
Anonymous

I am genuinly curious to who this not amused person is. Like is it the same guy who has been posting in every single legal cheek article for years or is it different people? And why does he have this obsession with people’s backgrounds, you act like you want there to be diversety yet you then crap on people who aren’t russell group educated like it’s some sort of requirement to be a good lawyer. You are the literal definition of a contradiction. You definitely don’t have a full time job in law judging by the frequency and continuous posting you do day after day. Such a mystery.

(3)(2)
Anonymous

I’m 90% sure I know him irl. If I’m right, he’s a mad barrister.

(1)(0)
Bumblebee

Interesting that this username hasn’t been censored. This, unlike the majority of censored comments, is something which is quite patently ‘gratuitously offensive’.

(0)(8)
Bumblebee

This is BEYOND ridiculous. Why was my comment saying that I was not offended removed?

(0)(0)
Anonymous

It’s gettin ridiculous isn’t it? LC now *removing* all trace of comments. Don’t think I’ll visit this site much more.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Central London is actually quite compact and can be walked around pretty easily without having to rely on any public transport. Also, given the part of town you’re in, there are plenty of green spaces closer to you than Hyde Park

(5)(0)
Anonymous

Walking from one end of zone 1 to the other would take two and a half hours I reckon. Not very compact in my book…

(2)(4)
Anonymous

Attending university in London, and therefore being utterly skint, so you can then get a job in London working 60+ weeks.

Have you ever had any fun? Why not stay up North, still get a TC, and get pissed 4 nights per week on £1 Jagerbombs all whilst having your own room.

During my Vac Schemes last year students who studied in London were the dullest people. My advice to everyone would be live a little before City Law takes that life away from you.

(29)(0)
Anonymous

You have to think about the quality of the uni though – only Oxford and Cambridge clearly rank higher than LSE.

(5)(10)
Anonymous

Are your career prospects so significantly greater attending LSE, opposed to other well respected universities which have much lower living costs, that having a fairly miserable three years is worth it? I would be inclined to say no.

London is fantastic city, and even on a trainees salary you’ll have a great life, but for a student from an average background I struggle to see the point of living in London when you can’t enjoy what the city offers due to monetary constraints.

(11)(0)
Anonymous

Manchester, actually.

My rent was £85 per week including bills, I got smashed multiple times per week, played high level sport and my social life didn’t revolve around law firm open evenings.

And… guess what? I’m a future MC trainee.

(15)(7)
Anonymous

Wow billy big balls over here got smashed multiple times per week…mate you are such a l-e-g-e-n-d

(7)(2)
Anonymous

Sounds like someone is upset that their university experience was watching their roommate jerk off after their 47th networking event of the term…

(1)(2)
SW

I went to Lincoln (yeah, most people don’t know where it is either), and still got a US law firm TC. Had a great, cheap old time (with a lot more real estate for my rent). Not saying uni isn’t important, but it’s not the biggest barrier.

(3)(4)
Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(6)
TheLolz

A fiver says she is really good looking.

Totally got it on merit….

(1)(5)
Anonymous

Have you nothing better to do than stalk people on Linkedin? Besides, her comment is entirely reasonable so hardly a big scoop.

I would say though that getting a TC at a US firm after going to Lincoln must be very difficult, so not advisable to everybody.

(0)(1)
TheLolz

Whatever you say, Katie.

Fine to publicly name some, but not others.

(4)(0)
LL and P

Pretty out of order there. Don’t think you should out people like that, totally uncalled for and can’t believe the site moderator hasn’t stepped in.

Having said that, Lincoln University is so bad I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. The guy was talking about Manchester over LSE, which is a reasonable argument. Lincoln is a different story.

(2)(2)
Anonymous

Well you just missed the person’s point entirely. Can everyone get in to the high end institutions? No. But that shouldn’t mean you should take the toxic attitude of people on here and just not bother. It’s becoming much more evident in these times, with the amount of people from lower end institutions becoming more successful in City law, that this old fashioned snobery is becoming less and less important. I mean that girl that was featured in Legal cheek got 3 training contract offers and she went to de Montfort. Will people on here continue being assholes about university name to feed their own insecurities? Yes, but the good news is that this does not represent the city legal world entirely.

Now go on you lovely trolls, have at me. Call me deluded and a pleb. I welcome it.

(0)(0)
LL and P

I could have lived with Keele and Kent, hell I could have even lived with Westminster. But De Montfort and Lincoln, honestly I would have preferred not to go to Uni and just done an apprenticeship. Sorry but life just wouldn’t be worth living if I had to say I went to either of those two joints every week.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

What is the difference between those you mentioned. Keele certainly isn’t leagues above lincoln or De montfort in any way. It’s all down to personal preference. It’s clear you’re just going by league tables anyway because if you actually knew what Keele is like, like I do, you wouldn’t actually be saying this.

(0)(2)
Lord Keith Of Kinkel

How can a mere 2nd year undergrad write such tosh as

“Back in my day, Jackson v Attorney General was the hot case.”..?

(41)(0)
Anonymous

Agreed. The case was only heard in 2005 so it’s not possible to be nostalgic about it already. Plus he is too young to be spouting that nonsense.

What is more tragic was he shared a room. How you gonna bring girls back?!!

Back up North he could have a much better pad to bring back the ladies. That is of course the sole reason for working in law.

(11)(0)
Anonymous

He finished 6th Form at Formby High School in 2015.

When Jackson v Attorney General was handed down he was in primary school.

Epic fail.

(14)(0)
Cambridge Undergrad - LSE Postgrad

Honestly, I would not have wanted to do my undergraduate degree at LSE, even if I hadn’t got into Cambridge. I often wondered during my LLM whether the undergrads had any fun at all. LSE is simply not conducive to a good social life as far as I could tell – this inclination was also supported by friends of mine who did their LLBs there.

Cambridge is hardly known for its social life but at least students did abide by the ‘work hard, play hard’ rule. The danger with LSE, to my mind, is that its ‘work hard, career hard’ – when people aren’t working they feel obliged to attend these heinously dull networking events at firms. Such a waste.

(3)(1)
Anonymous

I’m glad you shoehorned in you attending Cambridge and completing a Masters.

You are now the most important person in the room.

it’s all about you.

(3)(0)
Anonymous

I’ve met quite a few people who did their undergrad at Cambridge. Each and every one of them has been extremely boring and a twat. I’m sure there are loads of Cambridge grads who are funny and interesting though…

I’m so glad I went to uni up north. Did the London thing afterwards. Great city but wouldn’t have wanted to spend uni life there – too dear and big and the sense of community isn’t as immediately obvious.

(1)(0)
Anonymous

To study- marvellous.

To live and practice- atrocious.

(4)(0)

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