Advice

‘Do law students really have it tough?’

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One soon-to-be fresher is concerned about the challenge ahead

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one fresher wants to know if law students really have it tough.

“I am due to start my undergraduate law degree in a few weeks’ time and I am slightly concerned about the challenge ahead. I read your recent story that law students are among the “least hardworking” of all students. It received lots of comments: some agreeing and some disagreeing. I want to know if law school really is as bad as some law students make it out to be?”

43 Comments

Geography grad (2:2)

Piece of p*ss

(24)(1)

Anonymous

First year is a walk in the park, however things do step up in third year – but perfectly manageable providing you’re not going out on the lash every night

(39)(21)

Anonymous

Nope

(3)(0)

Anonymous

There’s this perception law students work really hard. It’s not true. The real beasting starts as trainee.

(22)(3)

Anonymous

Law students have it easy compared to medicine and engineering students.

They have it hard when compared to English literature students.

(43)(12)

Kirkland NQ

Interesting article although regrettably I have little to add as (as is well known) I only attended my first lecture at Harvard before being headhunted into an associate role.

Can’t imagine it’s that tough though?

(37)(8)

Anonymous

How’s that 2:2 degree going

(1)(1)

Anonymous

The sad thing is you probably enjoy playing this persona as a distraction from your real life

(1)(0)

Anonymous

It’s a piece of piss – minimal free thought required until the later stages of your degree. Mostly lovely rote learning followed by academic regurgitation in exams. The only challenge is getting a TC.

(14)(1)

Anonymous

The rote learning aspect is what really disappointed me about studying law. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily easy, but certainly straightforward.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Is it easier to get a Freshies TC (3000 annual apps) or HSF TC (4000 annual apps)???

(1)(4)

Anonymous

How about getting a TC first

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Depends. You can easily coast to a 2:1 assuming you haven’t ended up at an institution above your ability. But if you want to put in the work, you’ll find there’s a hell of a lot of work you can do. I think grade-wise uni suffers from dimishing returns; that extra mile you went to on an already good essay will only get you a couple more marks if it’s a first already. But that extra work is your education, and that goes deeper than your grade, and is, as above commenters have said, part of what recruiters are looking for.

(21)(1)

Bluebell time in Kent

I write as someone who has devised an LL.B. degree (as well as a Foundation Course, BA and an LL.M.).

This is the way it (now) works.

Firstly, you make the first semester courses in the first year as easy as possible. Why? Because of funding. If you ‘intimidate’ students ‘early doors’ you have a potential retention problem and, if they drop out in (if I remember correctly) the first three weeks, you get no funding for them. So start of with lots of ‘muppetry.’

Secondly, because the first year mark does not contribute to the degree calculation, you put ‘difficult’ subjects in the second semester of the first year. Say Land Law or Equity and Trusts. These courses used to be the preserve of the the third year. Not any more! Then you assess them by means of a presentation (well, it’s sort of an exam isn’t it?). They have three opportunities to pass it with a mark of 40% and then it is out of the way.

Second year. Probably the most difficult year. If you can, you have as few exams (and as simple an exam) as possible. Under the new dispensation this is now easier to do than ever (see SQE).

Third year. Here the students have a large choice over the modules they pick. Have everything assessed by assignment or presentation (if you can). Students always get better marks when you do so. Plagiarism is a massive problem with regard to assignments (despite TurnitinUK), but what the hell! Oh, and to help with ‘Exit Velocity’ you have a dissertation (‘edited and mixed’ by a supervisor) on which you can get double the number of credits. This can make all the difference in your classification.

To answer the question: Law degrees are now easier than they have ever been. You can see why. University establishments have, in effect, forced Heads of Law to ‘play the system.’

One other point should be raised, however. Law degrees – any degree – is as difficult as the student finds it or wants to make it.

The good news, however, is that in my day the average law degree classification was a 2.2. Students would be delighted with a 2.2 because it would not in any way impair their chances to getting onto he LPC and articles (as we called them then). Now the average is a 2.1. Not only that, Law Schools are starting to hand out bucket-loads of “Firsts.” This is not due to more and better work by the staff and students. It is by rigging the system (see above) and by changing the way in which the eventual mark in calculated.

(50)(2)

Anonymous

This makes a hell of a lot from my degree make sense…

(13)(1)

Anonymous

Remember a 2.1 outside Oxbridge is seen now by employers as a 2.2 ever since the tertiary sector started advertising and treating students as consumers. But still, with proper strategy a very high quality law degree is quite simple to achieve. Just read the five most recent appellate cases on a topic, read the academic case comments on those cases, read three or four good articles on the issues and the chapter in the hardest student level text books going. That’s plenty. Lots of time to go out get drunk and try to get laid.

(7)(21)

tommy tank

“try” being the key.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Really? So a 2.1 from LSE/ UCL/ Durham is actually a 2.2. Who knew.

(24)(0)

Anon

Law degrees are generally only as hard as you make them. As others have mentioned you can coast fairly easily to a 2.1 if you put in limited hours a week and are happy to revise for the exams a month or so before. Nothing wild.

But law degrees are notoriously unforgiving when it comes to giving 1st class grades. It’s statistically more difficult to get a first in law than in engineering or maths. Whether that’s because the students themselves don’t work hard is up for debate but remember: in maths, 2+2 is always 4. And if you write 4, you’ll get 100%. In law (at least at top unis – I went to UCL), you can write the essay of your life and get 72. It makes averaging 70 quite difficult.

Tl;dr easy to get a 2.1, harder than most to get a 1st.

(39)(0)

Ray

But also let’s be realistic about how students have optimized exam strategy (I say this as a former UCL student as well). Certain modules in every university always have a high first-rate (Healthcare, Employment, etc) percentile in the class. You can also take advantage of the fact that some people take outside (non-legal) modules which have extremely high averages (Management/Accounting & Finance- 72%/74% average) to boost your grade and get you up to the requisite number of overall firsts. Coupled with the fact that in almost all universities you don’t actually need a 70 overall average but more or less X (Usually 4 but LSE allows for 3 as well) number of firsts and a > 67 average means that more students than ever are optimizing module and exam strategy to get a first. I don’t have any view on if this is a positive/negative development but it does show that at least from my experience, getting a good grade is now as much about work-ethic/intellect as it is second and third year strategy.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

How would an LPC compare to a typical LLB course difficulty wise, as I have completed the LLB and will start the LPC this month.

(0)(0)

Peter

Even easier. Equivalent to a introductory calculus class in terms of the intellectual effort required.

(4)(1)

MC LPC Student

Content is easier / more straightforward. Workload is a lot higher and a lot more fast paced.

(1)(0)

Peter

Law is no longer a serious intellectual subject. Hasn’t been for a couple of decades, like the rest of the humanities it has been dumbed down enormously. You only need to look at the sort of people who are “law students” these days. The LLb requires little to no understanding of complex concepts. 90% of law students would fail a STEM degree at a top university. Don’t even get me started on the GDL.

(11)(5)

Anonymous

Indeed. Across the sector this would be a perfectly fair comment. I write this having taught law at various institutions and having been an external for over two decades.

I would add that at the very top end it is still a very difficult and taxing discipline. However, the standard has – as with almost all subjects – been “dumbed down” at 98% of universities (or thereabouts).

Why? The answer is very simple. When I went to university only 4% of 18-year-olds were in higher education. Last year it was 27.9%. Something has to give, particularly when for a large part of the population (and this is in no sense a criticism) spending all your days in lectures and bent over formidably dull tomes in a library, when you are between the ages of 18 and 21, is a grossly unnatural act.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

The GDL is taxing but not challenging. It requires a decent amount of stamina and organisational skill to do well at, but next to no intellectual abilities. Then again, that descriptor could also apply to most LLBs (a handful of top institutions aside).

(6)(0)

Anonymous

In my experience the worst aspect of studying law is having to deal with insufferable sjw change the world nutters and careerist suits wannabees. Get past that and studying law can be quite interesting.

Unlike most other social science/arts courses law It can be quite instructive in illuminating money making ways to capitalise on the bullish culture of entitlement that is so prevalent nowadays.

It can also help if you want to conjure bs reasons for getting out small debts, and minor phone contracts. Rule of thumb look over your notes and make sure your letters are laden with legalese. Worked for me most of the time.

Always remember, becoming a lawyer places you in the best stead to pump and dump golddigers or exploit hypergamy in general. Once you’ve qualified its mostly google searches and filing in the blanks of lexis templates if you’re solicitor, or learning how to convince idiots if you are a barrister.

(12)(1)

Entitled law student

Could you expand on this ‘culture of entitlement’ point?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I blame PPI.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Really the worst part about studying law is other law students. Case in point: this website.

(26)(0)

Anonymous

Law should be a subject in which most fail or do badly. It ought to be a blue chip discipline.

But soft socio-law and pseudo-law have taken over. It’s now just another humanities course (Russell Group and especially Oxbridge excepted). We should go back to the days of handfuls of (the brightest) law students at degree level with most learning law as graduates or non-graduates as they train and work.

(1)(3)

Anon SB

As a Law student at a Russel Group uni, I believe that Law is a challenging degree but it cannot be denied that it has been watered down over the years and grade inflation is not helping either.

STEM degrees are of course equally difficult, but they were always perceived to be a different kind of difficult to the Law degree. As the Anon earlier mentioned, there is no right or wrong when it comes to Law and the modules reflect that, unlike STEM degrees which are more ‘black and white’ in that respect.

Because of this, the Law degree was designed to be challenging in a way that it required law students to think and study in a creative way and outside of the box. When it comes to law essays and problem questions, there are certain right and wrong things to mention but there is no restriction on what angle to take and what examples and ideas to include.

However, instead of using this to work harder, there are many law students who take advantage and take a lazy approach. I have seen fellow students writing crappy essays and doing the bare minimum with research and studying because they know all they have to do is write a few unoriginal basic ideas in their essays and can still get away with a 2:1.

Whereas in STEM subjects there is less opportunity for a ‘shortcut’ or easy way of fluking a good grade. Because of this, law students (at least the ones I have seen in my cohort) do not turn up to lectures, or when they do they talk or sleep, they turn up to seminars/tutorials not having prepared at all.. basically, they do not care.

I think there are several reasons for this, but a main reason is that people are choosing to study law for the wrong reasons. I have noticed that there are a lot of law students who do not have any clue of career prospects so they decide to do a law degree because they do not know what else to do. I also think it is to do with the fact that the standards have been lowered for law students to get into university. It used to have the same high standard as Medicine but not anymore.

Still, I believe it requires hard work and working smart to get a first class in Law. There was an article posted online which revealed that statistically Law is the easiest degree to get a 2:1 but Law also sees the lowest % of First Class degrees given out.

So to the law student starting university in a few weeks, what I would say is that essentially law is a degree that can be as easy as you make it or as hard as you make it, depending on what you are aiming to achieve at the end of it terms of grades and career wise. You will get out what you put in and Law gives you the independence and flexibility to choose for yourself how much effort you want to put in, in regards to reading, additional reading, attendance, visiting office hours etc.

If you are a law student who is genuinely passionate about studying law or pursuing a career in law you should be fine, if not, then I would be worried.

(7)(2)

Anonymous

lol I have heard law students say that they are studying law because they were told at the age of 7 that they were ‘good at arguing’ and think they are going to be amazing because of that. People do not know what they are getting themselves into

(16)(0)

Anon J

Cannot stand her. Her whole vibe and personality just seems fake as hell. You can tell shes one of those law students who fluked her way into getting a training contract. Anyways, Linklaters can get some free promotion out of it

(1)(0)

1/512th Cheyenne.

I dossed through my History degree, some topics are like that. Law? You need to know it.

(4)(0)

Counsel

Do they have it tough??

They do if they have to listen to the pr1cks from Wellbeing at the Bar…

(15)(0)

Polly

Would you like to talk to is about abuse in the legal profession? We would love to hear from you.

All in the strictest confidence..

law.editors@theguardian.com

(8)(0)

Depressed counsel

My life is a mess… The pressure at the Bar made my wife leave me and my family fall apart.

It was nothing to do with me constantly shouting and abusing them…

It was completely the pressure of the Bar.

Come and learn more at Wellbeing at the Bar

(8)(0)

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