Advice

‘I’m not enjoying my law degree. Will I enjoy being a lawyer?’

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Lengthy judgments and dull modules

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one law student is worried a career as a lawyer might not be for them.

“Hello Legal Cheek. I recently moved into the second year of my three year law degree at university and I must say I’m not really enjoying it. I find reading lengthy judgments boring and most of my modules, with the odd exception, are quite dull. I started law school with the goal of working for a commercial law firm and I wonder if it is still possible to enjoy this as a career despite not enjoying law school. I would like to get your readers views on this. Thank you.”

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34 Comments

2 year PQE

Bring a commercial lawyer is totally different from a law degree. Unless you are in some sort of litigation team, you probably won’t ever read a judgment again. Transactional teams (corporate, any finance, real estate etc.) are all about drafting and negotiating documents and getting deals done. If you don’t actually like the law, then that doesn’t mean you won’t like working in law because there is not much actual law involved in these teams. Don’t be too disheartened – most people who study law don’t actually like it that much (or at all).

(122)(1)

lol

Nail on head

(12)(0)

Electrician

I hated studying law

(30)(3)

Talter

Fortunately law school is nothing like working as a lawyer, particularly in the City.

I’ve never seen a partner sprint across the office to show a client a copy of R v Brown

(68)(1)

Anon

You’ll like the salary x

(71)(4)

Anon

For the vast majority of commercial lawyers who are transactional, you are an insurance policy to businesses in case things go wrong with their deals. It is boring but it is very well paid.

If you make partner you will get to do some selling and some people management, which makes it more interesting. You will also be paid even more.

That’s the City law deal. It isn’t interesting, but it’s lucrative, secure and well respected.

(36)(9)

Howdy Pardna

You sound dull and witless. Corporate law may suit you if you are willing to do stupid hours at the office.

(19)(25)

Emma

I loved my undergrad but hated you postgrad. Decided to quit it and start working at a firm from the ground up, there are lots of options open to you. Try to get a look inside of a firm (easier said than done, I know) by filing/shadowing, firms like Clifford Chance do free commercial law virtual internships (I enjoyed those.) Ultimately it is your decision how important happiness/status/money is to you, but I would advise changing direction if you are very unhappy.

(14)(3)

Emma

I loved my undergrad but hated you postgrad. Decided to quit it and start working at a firm from the ground up, there are lots of options open to you. Try to get a look inside of a firm (easier said than done, I know) by filing/shadowing, firms like Clifford Chance do free commercial law virtual internships (I enjoyed those.) Ultimately it is your decision how important happiness/status/money is to you, but I would advise changing direction if you are very unhappy

(0)(5)

ez

Just focus on commercial topics and challenge yourself to get your degree well over the line. At best you will enjoy the environment of challenges which is basically commercial law, at worst you’re gonna end up with a good background which opens doors for almost any profession.

(3)(0)

Graham

Unfortunately a lot of subjects at degree level are boring – I’m sure your friends doing Economics or Medicine are equally bored most of the time. However, you’re doing it to open doors in the future whether that’s commercial law or not, if it helps almost all jobs are a lot more boring than being at uni – so you may as well try and enjoy 2 hours of lectures a day whilst you can!

(17)(0)

So

Law as a degree was extremely dry. If you’re finding it dull, try and study more interesting optional modules.

Working as a lawyer is completely different – I am a commercial lawyer and I enjoy the work. Its not so academic in reality for many teams.

(9)(1)

Anon Reply

If you like running redlines and sitting silently on calls then law is for you.

(42)(3)

burned out

Plenty of people love studying law but don’t like commercial law. It’s not a direct link between the two. If you’re not sure enough to commit several years to a training contract, try and find some proper work experience (e.g. paralegalling) before you start applying.

(9)(1)

Anon

I hated my second year as well. Pick options you’re passionate about in third year, avoid modules with lots of coursework if you don’t like reading the very boring judgements, as exams are always more facts of the case based rather than the excessive detail of what the dissenting judge said!

As for practice, I can’t speak for commercial law but I work in a high street firm and I think I’ve looked up one judgment in 4 years. Best advice, try and get some work experience and see what the lawyers in your chosen field are actually doing with their days and then decide if it’s for you. Good luck!

(8)(1)

Anonymous

Never read a full judgment in my time at uni. Google was enough to get a 2.1. If I bothered, may have got a first?

(3)(9)

Grema

Hahahaha, I also read the intro and conclusion and hence got ratio!!

(0)(0)

THIRDYEAR

I know it may sound hard but u can do it! You started for a reason and u got this!

(1)(0)

Jhjhhsysyuqwndbau

I didn’t like law at university. Law in practice is much, much worse.

If you do advisory, including litigation, looking up boring bits of information and regurgitating them is what you do.

If you do transactional, contrary to what is being implied above, your life will suck. Yes, you will not be looking up law. You will be drafting board resolutions, and making minor tedious amends to long boring documents, and versioning up, redlining against the previous version. You are an office administrator specialising in tediousness. The hours are especially long and unpredictable, and you will have no life at any decent firm. Most people leave after 2-5 years. And if they make it 5, they have serious issues.

(12)(9)

Name

Law as an academic subject is dull as dishwater. I always recommend for people to study what they love for their undergraduate degree, then convert later if they still want to be lawyers.

The actual job itself, eh. It has its ups and downs.

(8)(0)

Lit Partner

I hated my law degree but the LPC and private practice were totally different. Even the practice of law (I am a litigator) is very different to your undergrad. Yes, you will need to read judgments, but as a litigator what really matters is that you understand the concepts and principles that establish what is/isn’t a valid claim and how to use the Court Rules to develop and execute an effective litigation strategy for your clients.

(6)(0)

Nt

Studying law and practising law are completely different so don’t be disheartened. Go and get involved in some pro bono work through your university (most have clinics or arrange other opportunities) and see what you think. It’s good for your CV and will also help you get a taste or practice, even if it is not commercial.

(2)(0)

Archibald Pomp O'City

BETTERIDGE! Over ‘ere son. Is it a ‘no’ ???

(0)(0)

Anon

Reflect on why you want to work for a commercial law firm. I started law school with that in my head, as I knew I didn’t want to do family and crime, and the commercial firms were the ones who sponsored/hosted law society events at uni. I assumed that should be my goal. I didn’t realise at first how much more to the legal industry there is. Some areas involve lots more black letter law than others – sounds like these may not be for you. Personally I couldn’t think of anything more dull than corporate transactional work. I practice in employment and personal injury litigation, and I love that these are more ‘human’ areas of law, but still with a good salary. I share your feeling of finding reading long judgments boring! But I’m not doing that all the time. I agree with the comments above about trying to get some work experience. But I recommend not being blinkered only by the big commercial firms, try and get a taste of the wider legal industry to see what sparks your interest.

(2)(0)

Anon

Unless you become a barrister, you will not encounter the law again after university. Non-contentious solicitors just cobble together boilerplate documents; and contentious solicitors merely manage the litigation process, delegate the law, drafting and legal argument to counsel and, in court, just sit at the back, taking notes.

(5)(0)

Natashia L

I was in exactly the same shoes as you. I ended up putting my degree on pause when the piddling firm I was working at became hostile due to my disability and I realised I hated every person I had worked with over the previous year. It was so toxic as a work environment. It made me second guess how pleasant bigger firms would actually be to work at.

As a career changer in my 30’s (from working as a head teacher), it was quite devastating to give up on a childhood dream, but I am so much happier now.

I earn more than I would have as a solicitor (note that most aren’t actually paid a fortune) but I bring home over £100k in my first year and that is only set to increase. I am a director and work as a business consultant. Everything I studied has helped with this work. So there was no wasted effort.

You need to evaluate why you are working on the degree and consider if there are alternatives that might make you happier. You should put some time in at a firm to meet the people who would be colleagues. You need to ask how you and those around you will feel of you decide to quit and what the back up option is.

The good news is, you would make a desirable candidate for other jobs even with saying you were a law student. It proves your ability to research and write, to understand jargon, review policies and procedures, to recognise unethical practices, and much more. Frankly, my business often looks for law student drop-outs when we hire because we find them to be exceptionally talented individuals who are perfect for the business consultant role. Some do return to the law after a few years, others don’t.

Whatever you decide to do, I wish you all the best.

(2)(0)

Doc John

I went to law school after coming out from the Army as an ER physician. I never planned on getting my law degree as a career, but as a knowledge base instead. (I think that every citizen in a democracy should be educated at the law school level honestly.) However, upon graduation, what I have since found is the plethora of opportunities that just merely having a law degree will afford you. You may want to adjust your preconceived notions of what field of law you want to go into before you get the complete sampling that your law program has to offer. I too went in to focus on business and corporate law, and while I do also do that to pay the bills at times, my most passionate legal works usually comes criminal and family law cases. Think of your law degree as a license to officially use your voice for someone else. There are many you can use it for, but you can choose when and for whom you decide to use it. In this day and age, there are just so many people who are simply unaware or ignorant of the law in many ways, so you are being trained to understand how you can bear advise them, whether it’s a commercial legal firm or a public defender’s office. Plus there’s the added perk of having your older brother call you when he’s in a jam with the cops, and you get to lord it over his head FOREVER! 😁😜😈

All the best with your studies.
Doc

(3)(1)

Magic Circle Lawyer

Don’t stress. I found it hard studying law (both undergrad and postgrad) and had those same thoughts at one point, but I work in a Magic Circle firm now and genuinely enjoy being a lawyer. It’s so different in practice, even in the groups where you need to read cases (like Disputes or Tax), because it’s always done with a practical element in mind.

Keep at it!

(4)(0)

stressed law student

Does the modules you take at law school matter to be a commercial lawyer?

(0)(2)

Grocer S Apostrophe

It does not matter as much as failing to have a command of basic grammar. Anyone who writes “does the modules” without flinching needs to consider other career options.

(4)(3)

MC Lawyer

Not at all. I didn’t do any at undergraduate level and I work at a Magic Circle firm. That being said, all of my LPC modules were done with the firm and were commercial.

(0)(0)

Me

Dislike of particular aspects (substantive modules, reading judgments) is probably surmountable. Dislike of law as a system / concept is a different story. If it’s the latter, you’re committing yourself to working long hours in a tedious role where the pinnacle of your abilities will be “bang average”. You’ll get to your deathbed and wonder why you even bothered. Instead spend your life doing something you enjoy / will be good at.

(3)(0)

Comments from Legal

I find some of the comments here quite worrying to be honest. Yes, if you end up in transactional work, the majority of your work is playing around with language rather than advising on cases; but the law is foundational to it. You can’t competently draft a contract without knowing what Parking Eye v Beavis did to the law on penalties. The law underpins and permeates every area of practice, whether or not you spend time telling your clients what cases say (nobody does that except barristers to their instructing solicitors, or maybe a few regulatory lawyers to more sophisticated in house counsel clients) – but you still need to know what the important sources of law say, and sometimes cases are important.

But I’d come at this from a slightly different perspective. The vast majority of cases are boring. Some legal principles are boring or arcane or seemingly pointless journeys of abstract introspective piffle. However: There will certainly be cases you are interested in. Use them as a gateway. For me, I found that hook in sports law cases. I hated EU law until I read Bosman. I didn’t understand Bosman the first time I read it, but I wanted to know more because I cared about the subject matter. From there I moved to Meca-Medina. From there I moved to Wouters, which is just a straight up competition law case, no sporting dimension, but because it was important to the cases I was interested in, I devoured it.

Find your thing. Maybe it’s cases in music, or fashion, or freedom of speech, or whatever. Read some cases, read some statutes. Pick modules that will give you a chance to do that.

If you can’t find inspiration in cases on subject matters you care about, then maybe law just doesn’t grab you. That’s not to say you can’t forage a comfortable career in it, but there are easier ways to make money if you’re not into the basic concepts that underpin the law. Go and do consulting at one of the Big 4, go into finance. Your law degree will stand you in good stead whatever the case.

(10)(2)

Counsel

This is far and away the most sensible thing on this page.

(1)(0)

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