The Legal Cheek team give their contrasting responses
This week a prospective law student got in touch asking us whether he should plump for Durham University, Warwick or Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) for his LLB. He has offers from all three.
Our writers have responded with their advice…
The three unis you’ve chosen consistently rank highly in league tables, so I don’t think you need to think too strategically about this. Make your decision a personal one.
One big, personal point to consider is location. I went to university in a largeish city centre, so, full disclosure, nothing would appeal to me less than a campus university like Warwick. Having visited Warwick on a Pathways to Law trip when I was 16, the only thing I really took away was that the on-site shops were minimal and not well stocked (the lack of dry shampoo stuck with me) and the bigger outlets were hardly ‘oh crap I’ve run out of milk for my cereal this morning’-distance away. Durham, too, has a very small town vibe; it’s also an age away if you’re from London like I am.
QMUL is in the capital, so much better suited to a city boy/girl. It also means you’re in close proximity to firms and chambers (and the bulk of Legal Cheek’s careers events!).
But with that comes the added costs of living in the capital. That might be enough to put you off, and it did me. But if the costs aren’t too much of an issue, I’d seriously consider it.
QMUL is certainly an exciting and dynamic proposition which chimes with its East London vibe. But I would pick Durham because the collegiate system has a lot to recommend: with that system you benefit from being part of a larger university but also get to know people really well, across subjects, within your college and can enjoy the support that a smaller community can provide.
Given that there is a fair chance that you may want to spend some of your working life in London, I would not rush to get there. It is crazy-expensive apart from anything. It will be there waiting for you when you are ready.
I’d choose QMUL — the main reason being that it is not in a small town (Durham) or on a campus (Warwick). I wouldn’t have relished three years in my early 20s spent in what I imagine can be very claustrophobic places, cut off from the outside world in the pressure cooker environment of studying law.
Yes, Durham and Warwick are probably more prestigious as names to have on your CV, but they’re not Oxbridge. And let’s face it, if you didn’t get into Oxford or Cambridge, for most big law firms it doesn’t really matter where you went as long as you made it to a vaguely Russell Group-ish institution.
Certainly, QMUL fits that bill. Plus it’s located just a half an hour stroll from some of the world’s best law firms and chambers, which is obviously handy for finding a job at the end of the course.
Also, living in London will mean you are around many different types of people, doing many different things, which will help you maintain some perspective on life.
But a word of warning. Remember that QMUL comes behind UCL, LSE and King’s in many people’s eyes. If that’s a chip that you might find burdensome, perhaps consider somewhere different entirely.
To complicate things further, I’d probably go for Durham. Who wouldn’t want to study in a castle? If you’re like me and still haven’t got your acceptance letter from Hogwarts, I’d say Durham is probably the next best thing.
I’ve spent my entire school and uni life as a city girl so if I was to make the choice now I’d be excited to flee the nest in search of something different. So it depends whether you’ve always been a Londoner like me? I quite like the idea of a smaller town and tighter community, where everyone says hello in the morning. Seems like a world away from the death stares you get on the London Underground…
And it depends what kind of lawyer you want to be (if at all). If you’re a rising corporate star but worrying you’ll be missing out on the City firms if you do your LLB further out, then you can always go to London when you do your LPC.
It may not be Oxbridge, but the world has moved on and legal recruiters know that the twin elites don’t necessarily produce the best students. I wouldn’t believe that Durham lies in their shadow. Go for it, especially if you plan to work in London for most of your future career — this way you get the best of both worlds.
If I were in your position I would go for Durham
Firstly, the university’s law faculty is a consistently strong performer in the various law school league tables published each year. As a result, Durham has an excellent reputation among City law firm recruiters who regularly make the trip ‘up North’ to attend the university’s various law fairs and networking events.
The law school itself, despite Durham’s historic architecture, is a modern building — once voted the most “impressive” in the world — situated in the heart of the campus.
And lets face it; Durham wouldn’t be a bad place to live. Low living costs (rent, alcohol and food) compared to its London counterparts make it the perfect place to embark on law student life. Having grown up not far from the Durham itself, the city, due to its high student population, offers a unique and friendly atmosphere.
Got a view? Add your own advice in the comments below.
For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek’s careers events, sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub.