Advice

‘Should I do a law degree if I want to be a solicitor?’

By on
32

I would love to study English and then convert to law — but I’m worried about an additional year of study and costs

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one aspiring solicitor isn’t sure whether she should embark on a law or non-law degree.

“I recently achieved A*AB at A-Level and have accepted an offer to study law at a university in London. I’m excited to start my course next month and be on my way to eventually qualifying as a solicitor, but I can’t shake off doubts I have in the back of my mind that I should do an English degree instead.

I got my A* in English literature and I worry a degree in law might stifle my outlet for creative expression. But then there’s a year of extra study (and costs) involved with studying a non-law subject at uni. I would like to ask your readers whether I should do a law or non-law degree if I want to be a solicitor?

I’d love to eventually qualify at a law firm in London but I’m not sure how they view non-law students, and whether they are viewed any differently? I also don’t quite understand why they tend to recruit law students in the second year of their degree, and non-law students in their final year? Any advice would be great, thanks.”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at team@legalcheek.com.

32 Comments

A lawyer

Do you a degree subject you’ll actually enjoy. Law firms don’t care, unless it’s something mad like zoology or politics.

(59)(5)

Counter Point

Actually I know someone who is a future MC trainee that studied Veterinary Medicine at Uni..

(6)(8)

English v Law

When you’re at a firm it really does not matter what subject you studied at which university. Just do what you’re most passionate about, do it well, and you’ll get a firm to fund your course fees…

(38)(1)

Law lord

Do law

(10)(22)

solicitor in practice

Agreed – do you want. Plenty of time to stifle that creativity in practice afterall

(17)(1)

ancient non law applicant

Non-law students are viewed favourably by law firms because they think differently and have different skills to law students. That being said, they like STEM degrees most as it is thought they will understand industries like energy, construction, pharmaceutical and financial markets more easily.
Doing a law degree won’t stifle your creative outlet – as shocking as it may sound – university life is not all about the classroom. If you’re worried about it in terms of work then maybe you need to reconsider law as a profession. While there are times when it is a little creative, for the most part it is not.
Re:costs – do an apprenticeship then the firm will pay you to study.

(21)(41)

Non-creative solicitor

Your advice about reconsidering a career in law if the OP is concerned about law stifling his creative expression shouldn’t be downvoted as much as it is.

If OP is that concerned about his creative expression for the 3 years of a degree, then OP should also be concerned about his creative expression for a potential 40 year career in law. If anything, OP will have more free time to do creative things on the side during uni than he will in an career.

(26)(1)

Anon

With regards to the question on whether to do an LLB or non-law degree, the correct advice is largely what you consider you will achieve the best grades in. The split between non-law and law students in a large amount of firms’ trainee intake is roughly 50/50, so you are not at a disadvantage from not taking law at university. The only real consideration is whether you will enjoy the course and get a 2:1 or higher as that will be a considerable factor in how difficult it is to get a training contract. However, if you do a non-law undergraduate course, firms will invariably question why you have chosen to pursue a career in law and therefore you should have relevant experience or interests to suitably answer those questions.

Secondly, firms recruit law students in second year because an LLB is a qualifying course to take the LPC, meaning second year law students can complete third year and immediately take the LPC prior to starting a TC. Non-law students are required to take the GDL to make them eligible, meaning there is an additional year of teaching after completing their undergrad.

Finally, if you are concerned about your creative expression, a career in law may not be appropriate for you.

(41)(1)

Is there a better place?

With regard to your post, the correct term of reference is not “with regards to”. You may use “with regard to” or “in respect of” or if you are totally obsessed with using the word “regards” you may use “as regards”.

In respect of your assertion that non-law students are not at a disadvantage, law being one of many degrees accounts for 50% of roles. Seems a bit of an advantage?

As regards you implication that law does not lend itself to creative expression, I would say that bespoke drafting offers the same.

Kind regards (an example of an acceptable usage of” regards”)

(3)(47)

Tips@legalcheek.com

If only you had not made a typo in your own post… People in glass houses shouldn’t throw black pots and all that.

Kind regards.

(33)(0)

Please

‘Is there a better place’…you are so boring. Bore off.

Sincerely, The World.

(4)(0)

Take a lap

Bet you’re fun at parties.

(0)(0)

Anon

Neither would give a distinct advantage over the other. Usually this leads most people to suggest doing the subject that isn’t law, and that’s fair enough. However, i will say that I actually really enjoyed large parts of my law degree. Depending on your module choices, it’s not as dull as people make out, and there is often room for ‘creative’ arguments. In general, I found it quite fulfilling in a way that maybe other degrees aren’t, and I do think it can really enhance someone’s analytical skills (I know that’s incredibly, incredibly cliche). And, if I’m being totally honest, it doesn’t require as much work as people make out, either. All my friends studying sciences worked consistently harder than me. I’d say I worked as hard as someone studying something like history, although that could be because the history course at my uni is considered very good and is apparently quite difficult!
All the best!

(20)(0)

Legal lurker

Study a subject you and enjoy and most importantly, will do well in. Three years is a long time to be studying something you do not enjoy and many law students will testify to this fact.

Law firms care more about your grades, your university, legal experience and commitment to the profession than any subject that you have studied. Focus on getting experience early, pro-bono work, vacation schemes, mooting, marshalling or simply attending court hearings. If you’re on track for a strong 2:1 or First by the end of your second year, you’re in pole position.

(12)(0)

Just Anonymous

In my view, a law degree is neither inherently better nor inherently worse than a non-law degree (provided of course that the non-law degree is sufficiently academic, which English Literature certainly is).

Each route has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some people are inherently better suited to one of those two routes. But neither is superior to the other per se.

In my opinion, if there exists a (sufficiently academic) non-law subject which you are passionate about and which you are sufficiently good at, then in my view you should choose that subject. Such a person, in my view, is inherently suited to take full advantage of the particular benefits that a non-law degree brings: namely (in one simple sentence) a broader awareness of the world we live in beyond the narrow confines of law.

Here, assuming the reader actually exists, I would have no hesitation in advising her to study English Literature if that is still a realistic option for her.

(15)(0)

Anon

Study what you enjoy. If it’s law, great. You save yourself a year.

If it’s non-law, great, you do something you enjoy more. If you land a TC, they’ll pay for your PGDL anway. Just be ready to evidence that you are actually interested in law, and don’t want to be something more closely linked to your degree.

(4)(0)

Anon

Don’t go into law if you want to keep your outlet for creative expression. There are very few professions that encourage creativity and law isn’t one of them.

(8)(0)

Al

“There are very few professions that encourage creativity and law isn’t one of them.”

Oh I dunno. You should see some of the excuses people come up with in relief from sanctions applications.

(23)(0)

Man said "relief from sanctions applications" LOL

I don’t want to see them because I’m not a litigation clown. Inferior practice area.

(1)(18)

Name

Studying law is generally quite boring and not really all that relevant to the job itself (beyond the need to understand the basics, which is what you get with the GDL). Study what you enjoy and are interested in. You’ll (probably) only be an undergraduate once so don’t waste the opportunity on a dull degree.

(11)(5)

Legal lurker

Lord Sumption says if you want to be a great lawyer, don’t do a law degree.

His reason is that most cases are decided by the facts, not the law, lawyers from non-law backgrounds come from a world of facts, be it history, chemistry, physics etc and so are well versed in fact analysis. The problem with a law degree, according to Lord Sumption, is that it teaches the law but not much else.

Make of that what you will.

(12)(0)

well-wisher

How would his Lordship know what a law degree does or doesn’t teach? He read history.

(8)(1)

Older gent

I suspect with your A-levels that you do not have a place on a top program in London (LSE, UCL, KCL, QM, SOAS) but I am happy to be corrected on that. I therefore think you should try to get a degree in English from a top University, and that will be more likely with your grades. The snobbery in law is incredible, I was an AAA student with great GCSEs and I faced some difficulty on the basis that I went to a Redbrick Uni for my LLB (think Manchester/Leeds/Birmingham/Newcastle/Exeter). People with AAB who studied Social Policy at UCL and Geography at Durham will try to look down on you, and there are some limitations to entry even though grades wise I was okay (social events, firms visiting and hosting talks etc.). Ultimately I did get a City job, and I persisted because the Redbricks are still very prestigious and there were still opportunities. However if you are facing a choice between an LLB at City University-Royal Holloway (or lower like Westminster, London Met etc.), or a BA in English Literature at KCL or Bristol, I would go to the more prestigious Unis. Also your A* suggests you may be capable of getting a first with some hard work, so a first in English from Bristol will serve you a lot better to get into the top firms than an LLB from City.

If, for whatever reason, KCL, QM or SOAS have accepted you despite slipping a grade with the B, then I would go there and do the LLB. A 2.1 from these Unis will be enough to get you a TC almost anywhere, and it is sufficient prestige to not go crazy in social events with snobs in your firm or at BPP. I doubt UCL/LSE has accepted the slipped grade, but if they have you should snap that up as both are top notch.

(26)(0)

Archibald Pomp O'City

“Also your A* suggests you may be capable of getting a first with some hard work”

It will have been teacher-assessed, so sadly rather tricky to know whether (as it might) it signifies genuine academic excellence.

(10)(0)

Older gent

Fair point, but if the teacher gave a genuine and honest assessment based on 2 years of work, it could be a more accurate reflection of ability than the modular exams of A levels. Also I did observe many arts degrees at Uni had a lot of coursework and fewer exams than the LLB. But you are correct.

(3)(0)

Emma

Given the SQE route to qualification is now the route (no more LPC) the question is a bit of an irrelevancy. Do what you’re interested in. Try to get legal work experience whilst studying (which ever subject you choose) which will go towards your SQE – theoretically you don’t need any background in law to begin your qualification path with SQE.

(6)(2)

Hello again

many firms ask or are likely to ask their future trainees to have completed the GDL – it depends on what the OP is gunning for!

(8)(0)

I'm right, you're wrong

This is incorrect. All firms will still require the GDL so for all practical purposes nothing has changed.

(1)(1)

Jules

For the purpose of legal practice, it doesn’t really matter whether you study a law or non-law degree. Experience is king. Unless you want to pursue a career in hard intellectual property law (i.e. patents, life sciences etc) – in which case it is hugely beneficial (if not absolutely necessary) to study a science at uni.

(4)(0)

Archibald Pomp O'City

“I worry a degree in law might stifle my outlet for creative expression”

I doubt that, given the confected bullshit many solicitors churn out on a daily basis.

(1)(0)

Non Lawyer

If English is your passion, then you should study that at degree level as you won’t get another chance. However, if you don’t intend using this degree to pursue a career related to that and law interests you, then you have answered your own question. A good degree from a good university will stand you in good stead to pursue law. The downside is doing the conversion course puts you back a year and you will need to have secured that training contract first from a decent London shop who will mostly fund that year unless you pay for it yourself. (Not recommended although my daughter did and now works for a New York based firm)…. Good luck….

(2)(0)

Ex Barrister

Study English if you like English. If you still want to do law in a couple of years’ time then do the conversion and try to get funding from firms. You can get legal experience while you are studying on vac schemes and make the decision as to whether you really want to spend the rest of your life reading legal documents.

If you want to be creative then please do something else (something better) with your life than law.

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.