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Lord Sumption tells aspiring lawyers not to do a law degree

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Do a history degree instead, says the history graduate

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Controversial Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption has publicly backed studying a non-law discipline over law at undergraduate degree level.

In his words:

I think that it is permissible to regret the growing tendency of would-be lawyers to devote themselves to the study of law from the age of eighteen.

Declaring himself a member of the non-law degree camp in the hotly-contested LLB v GDL debate, Sumption explained he thinks a law degree is “not a particularly good training” for a career in law.

In his opinion, there are a number of skills essential to good lawyering and good judging such as acute social observation and handling evidence. He went on:

I am not for a moment suggesting, least of all in present company, that law graduates lack these qualities. But I do not think that they derive them from their legal studies.

Sumption’s advice to budding lawyers is to “personally enrich” and “intellectually satisfy” themselves by taking another degree discipline such as history, which he himself studied. Having a good grasp of “the dynamic of human societies through their history” makes him a better judge.

The speech, made by the commercial law specialist in the Rolls Building, London, featured a number of other useful nuggets of information.

One such insight is that Sumption left his previous job as a historian at Magdalen College, Oxford, because he “wanted to be able to pay [his] grocery bills”.

Later on, he addressed the “tired journalistic cliché” that judges are out of touch with real life. His view on this:

The truth is that everybody is out of touch with real life. This is because real life is too vast and too varied for more than a small part of it to be experienced by any one man or woman.

Though this may be an uncomfortable truth, Sumption thinks studying history can help. He continued:

History enables us to understand many things about humankind, which we cannot hope to experience personally.

The Etonian rounded off his speech with a quick look at diversity in the bar and the judiciary. Having come under fire last year for suggesting having more female judges “could have appalling consequences for justice”, Sumption said:

By the admittedly narrow standards of modern professional life, the bar and the bench are surprisingly varied groups of people… [A]mong the sample of barristers and judges of whom I have some knowledge, I can count a former actor, a concert pianist, a doctor, a chemist, and several accountants, merchant bankers and surveyors, as well as a number of refugees from academic life in disciplines other than law.

This diversity of interests and former careers is, in his opinion, a good thing. The former Brick Court Chambers barrister continued:

Every well-rounded professional should have room for at least one consuming interest other than the one that earns them their living. It might be DIY. It might be bell ringing. It might be Morris dancing. History is my equivalent.

Read the speech in full here:

46 Comments

Anonymous

Why not? The Law is becoming a dumbed down “vocation” anyway.

The lunatics have been in charge for a while now and the walls are lined with so thickly with fecal matter it’s impossible to clean house.

Honestly tempted to dump the whole thing and try an alternative career.

– 5 Years PQE Solicitor

(17)(15)

Anonymous

Do 5yrPQEs really read LC?

(11)(3)

Anonymous

Why not, its great reading – brightens a dull morning

– 10 years’ PQE Solicitor Advocate

(15)(0)

Edward Coke

Yup, really good fun.

– 438 years’ PQE LCJ

(35)(2)

Lord Lyle of Hastings

Hear hear 903 Anon.
The reality has hit the Fantasy.
I wish you well in your new career. Having now discovered reality and equipped with the pleasing ability to string three whole coherent sentences together, the world is your oyster m’lad.
Research , plan like a military campaign for now there is no law but that which tyranny has usurped and no right save might.
Godspeed dear 903Anon.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

I would have loved to have done another degree and then done the GDL. But unfortunately I wasn’t born with a silver spoon so had to choose the option of doing the LLB.

This could be something the Lord may not be able to comprehend, but doing the GDL isn’t an option for everyone simply due to lack of funds!

(32)(15)

Anonymous

If you’re half decent you get sponsorship…

(10)(6)

Anonymous

Get a job? Self funded both GDL and LPC with both a job and a law loan. Now a trainee at a city firm. You will have to pay for the LPC or BPTC anyway unless you get sponsorship and most firms that sponsor them will also sponsor you for your GDL too. How do you expect to be a good lawyer if you couldn’t work out those simple solutions?

(7)(7)

Anonymous

Took a student loan, saved it, lived at home, self-funded GDL got a role that led to LPC sponsorship.

The rest is history…..

(1)(0)

Trumpenkrieg

‘ Having come under fire last year for suggesting having more female judges “could have appalling consequences for justice”’

Bollocks did he say that. He said a short termist quota approach to solving the pronlem would have appalling consequences for justice. Why do leftists feel the need to lie so blatantly?

(42)(6)

Anonymous

I was about to post the exact same comment.

Absolutely disgraceful that a supposedly responsible news site like this is willing to so grossly and deliberately misquote a Supreme Court judge.

(13)(0)

Trumpenkrieg

I suppose the author probably considers that being white, male and educated at Eton, he’s fair game. Minds twisted by hatred, these people!

(6)(2)

Anonymous

“supposedly responsible news site” lol

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Responsible news site? It’s little more than a clickbait factory now.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Oh, how naive you are. Here, let me remind you of past history:

It’s not sexist when feminists do it (Harriet Harman’s pink battle bus)
It’s not ageist when feminists do it (Charlotte Proudman)
It’s not sexual abuse if feminists don’t care about it (Cologne, Germany)

So what about “it’s not lying when a feminist does it” surprises you…

(6)(1)

Bobby

LC you guys recycle the same stories every year. The sources may be different, but the content is fundamentally the same. Oxbridge snobbery, LLB v GDL, Lord Harley, Amal, Sexism…repeat. I’m out.

(14)(0)

Anonymous

Don’t forget NQ retention figures.

(4)(0)

Trumpenkrieg

Dont forget race baiting and race huckstering by the Lobby of The Perpetually Aggrieved (in the article section)

(0)(2)

Anonymous

Actually it’s high time we had another article on/re/by that Charlotte Proud person

(1)(0)

Him wot knows stuff

A drama degree is probably best for criminal law- there’s no real law in it anyway, and you have to wear a silly costume.

(6)(0)

Lord Lyle of The Anons

O pusillanimous Anons, fortune favours the brave , because for Trumpenhorn fortune is a woman, whoand allows herself to be mastered by the adventurous rather than by those who go to work more coldly. She is, therefore, always, woman-like, a lover of the brave, because they are less cautious, more violent, and with more audacity command her.

But for my part dear frightened Anons who must lurk hiddenly lest you be undone, where there is a will there is a way.
Conspire therefore amongst thy selves for the greater glory of thy Lord Lyle

(0)(2)

The Right Honourable Harridan Harperson MP

wow just wow! You gender essentialist bigot! I cant even. ,can we have him arrested

(1)(2)

Trainee

I liked my law degree. I didn’t want to do anything else. Why should I have to waste 3 years and then fork out for a GDL, missing the chance to really study law in depth, just because one guy enjoyed his history degree? If extra skills are needed to be a lawyer then I’m sure I can pick them up on the side or as I grow academically and professionally.

(18)(1)

GDL student

Yeah, I think what he should have said was ‘don’t think doing a law degree will necessarily improve your career chances or make you a better lawyer’.

In other words, study what you find interesting at uni. If that’s law, fair play.

(5)(0)

Dominus Lyle

Why do you decry me so RH Harperson MP? Nulla poena sine lege carissimo conservo

(0)(0)

The Right Honourable Harridan Harperson MP

You are casting mysogynist slurs at me in the language of Dead White Males! TYpical!

(1)(0)

Lyle of Legal History

Hear hear Trainee and if Sumption had done a law degree he might have learned some legal history.

(0)(1)

The Latin Lyle who is still alive

O I am not quite dead RH Harperson MP.
Did you know Lord Hailsham held his conversations with his counterpart in Bulgaria, in Latin so as to flumax their KGB guards?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Lyle’s been off his meds again I see.

(1)(0)

Bitter N. Twisted

Balls to that. Just worked with a ‘university of life’ ILEX-turned-Solicitor who thought the relevant term was locus parenti – I reserve the right to laugh my head off in such situations! We’ve worked so hard to make the grade since school and are still paying off debts for the privilege, only to find that salaried apprentices will make law as an academic discipline redundant. Such a bloody shame but I’m advising everyone who comes after to choose another career.

(5)(1)

Lord Liu Lee of Fortune Cookie

Not so dear 1057 Anon for just as a clear mirror reflects without distortion or the empty valley echoes a sound, so it is when clear and undistorted English arises from the empty valley so my English reciprocates in the great void. So I may echoe Bitter and Twisted’s sound advice.

(0)(3)

Not Amused

Incredibly wealthy and privileged man (who was once an incredibly wealthy and privileged child) in ‘being totally out of touch with reality’ non shocker.

The man is a demonstrably bad judge in any event – though I concede other history graduates have been highly able judges. But given the prime determination for most kids is that they can’t afford the conversion court route, I think the noble lord should have the decency to keep his opinions to himself.

The man is a buffoon. He should be quietly retired off ASAP.

(9)(7)

Anonymous

You’re just a dyed-in-the-wool contrarian aren’t you NA ?

Whilst I personally cannot find much common ground regarding a privileged upbringing and education like Jon Sumption, I thought he was pretty much universally regarded as an excellent scholar of the law and worthy of being catapulted straight from the Bar to the SC ?

That seems to be the general consensus – ok fair enough why always go blindly along with consensuses like sheep ? – but you kind of stretch this notion to the point of absurd..

(5)(0)

Not Amused

Read his judgments.

Until you do that you’re basically just following fashion.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

You’re just a silly brickwallop Not Amused

(2)(0)

Interloper

Will still concede that she makes a good point here though.

(2)(1)

D_T_T

As the sub-heading acknowledges, history-graduate-turned-lawyer-in-saying-history-graduates-make-great-lawyers-non-shocker.

I think having done a law degree, graduated in the early 2000s, being about 5ft 5 and being just about to go and have some lunch, all combines to makes someone an excellent senior solicitor.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

If you manage to endure the most elite education that the country can offer and retain your humanity, you do not spend week after week being a Commercial Barrister and then a Supreme Court Judge. You would put your back – full and mighty – into trying to change the world. As far as I know, only two Etonians have managed to retain their humanity – Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.

There was once a poem that was quite well known

From Prep School to Public School,
Oxbridge and the Temple,
They never stray far from their Legal Monasteries

I wonder if time has stood still and the poem still applies today 🙂

(4)(1)

Trumpenkrieg

That’s a pretty shit poem, I must say.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

It’s been one of those days – and your comment just made me laugh out loud. Cheers. I quite like the poem though – s/he’s got a point…

(1)(0)

Lyle of the Bold and Brave.

Hear hear Anon 517.
Why are Lawyers so frightened to speak their name?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Just a tad self indulgent of Sumption…

(0)(0)

Anonymous

He did not “[suggest] having more female judges “could have appalling consequences for justice””. He outright stated that selecting members of the judiciary based on anything other than merit could have appalling consequences for justice.

You’re selective quoting is shameful.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

OOOhh look at Trumpenkrieg, don’t you like it when a poem prunes you down to size, comrade ?!

Lol

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Dear Lyle of the Bold and Brave,

I do not leave my name because I have found, over the years, that certain tranches of the middle class would ruin your life as quickly as they would look at you. What is more, they will say among themselves, if we don’t ruin the person’s life [for their outspoken truthful views, or for their wish to change the world], someone else will.

It is best to stay out of the way of such people and wait for the messiah to come. Then we can all sing and dance together.

If I left my name, without the messiah having appeared to save and unite us all, I would be for it. Crumbs. Amen.

(0)(0)

hungjury

Judges should have to sit exams in order to be effective in the 21st Century, the knowledge gap in such areas of computer crime is lamentable.

(0)(0)

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