To think just because you're studying law doesn't mean you want to be a lawyer?

(79 Posts)
IAmOlderThanILook Sun 27-Jul-14 11:35:37

I've always been interested in doing a law degree and I've decided that I am going to get round to fulfilling that aim next year by studying it through the open university.

However I don't actually want to be a lawyer. I just want to study it because I am genuinely interested in the subject and want to learn more about it.

Whenever people find out that's what I want to do though, people always assume that I want to be a lawyer and the conversation generally leads to (without prompting from me) how long it takes to become a solicitor, the training involved after the degree, how competitive the legal profession is, how snobby it is, etc. I've even seen it on threads here - whenever people mention they or their child wants to/are studying law the general assumption is that they want to work in the legal profession (be careful what university you go to, it's very competitive, etc).

Given that most people with law degrees aren't lawyers then it doesn't really make sense to assume everyone studying law wants to become one. I wonder if people assume that people studying French want to become French...?

SnakeInMyBoots Sun 27-Jul-14 11:48:23

Presumably people who study French want to speak French not be French.
Yours is not really a question of unreasonableness.
I would wonder why someone would go to the bother and expense of doing a law degree when they had no intention of training as a lawyer. Would it not make more practical sense to read legal books in your spare time, if that is your interest, and complete a degree that you would use.

Pandora37 Sun 27-Jul-14 11:52:01

YANBU although I guess it's a fair assumption to make because it is why a lot of people go into it, or are at least considering it as an option.

I studied law with the intention of becoming a solicitor but I changed my mind during the course. Be prepared for people to make comments like this constantly. Even in some job interviews I went to I was asked why I'd studied law if I wasn't going to work in that field. There's nothing wrong with only being interested in it as an academic subject, although there will always be people baffled by it. Practising law and studying it is actually very different and some people just don't get that.

beccajoh Sun 27-Jul-14 11:53:04

My SIL did a law degree and is now a manager at JL/Waitrose.

MagratsHair Sun 27-Jul-14 11:54:13

I have no idea what proportion of law undergraduates go on to become lawyers or not, to me its a sensible start to a conversation with you where you can then go on to explain that you're not going to be a practising lawyer if you wish.

It wouldn't occur to me that you were offended because I made a reasonable & intelligent assumption about your degree subject tbh

IAmOlderThanILook Sun 27-Jul-14 11:56:59

No it wouldn't make sense to do a different degree because I'm not really interested in any other subject enough to want to study it to degree level.

Why the assumption that somebody studying law but doesn't want to be a lawyer is not planning on using the degree? You can still apply for other graduate jobs that just require a degree (as opposed to a specific subject) with a law degree, so it's not like you'll never be using it. And a law degree isn't more expensive than any other degree?

I also never said I was intending on not using my degree for anything ever. I want to study it partly because I am interested in it however I am planning on applying for graduate jobs that require degrees afterwards.

IAmOlderThanILook Sun 27-Jul-14 11:58:06

That was aimed at Snake.

Pandora37 Sun 27-Jul-14 12:00:36

Just to add, Snake just because the OP doesn't want to be a lawyer doesn't mean she won't use her degree. A law degree is very highly valued and useful in all sorts of different careers.

It may be different with the OU but at traditional universities, getting top marks in law is very difficult and only a tiny percentage get firsts (I think 15 out of my cohort of 400 got a first). That's why I think actually in some ways if you want to be a lawyer, where academics is very important, you're better off getting a different degree where you know you'll definitely get high marks. Anyway, just something for the OP to bear in mind if getting a first is very important to her.

MagratsHair Sun 27-Jul-14 12:01:05

I'm thinking who I know with a law degree now smile

1 - is a practising solicitor

2 - works for the CJS in the probation services

3 - wants to be a coroner

I think that if it interests you then you should study it for pleasure, I don't use my degree at all as it happens but a degree is about more than the subject. It shows you are able to commit, study academically at a high level & can carry a 3 or 4 year project to the end. Go for it

MilkandCereal Sun 27-Jul-14 12:01:23

I think that it's a reasonable assumption. YABU.

No not everyone who completes a law degree works as a solicitor/barrister etc ,but I'd imagine that a great number who don't would like to,but were unable to find a position at the time of graduation. It's a very tough and competitive field.

Of course there will be some who never intended to work as a lawyer,but it's a fairly safe assumption that most do.

IAmOlderThanILook Sun 27-Jul-14 12:01:54

MagratsHair I am not offended by these comments, I just don't think it's that much of a stretch to believe someone wants to study law because they are interested in it.

MilkandCereal Sun 27-Jul-14 12:04:39

I think it's perfectly fine to want to study law and not work in law though,but if someone was studying medicine for example,it's probably unlikely that they have a burning ambition to be a jockey.

I think it's just small talk - you probably have to suck it up.

It could be worse. I've spent the last ten years with people saying 'oh, you do English? You want to be a teacher then?' hmm grin

(Not that there's anything wrong with teaching, it's just there are other jobs out there.)

HolgerDanske Sun 27-Jul-14 12:10:09

Law is an extremely useful degree for many reasons. It's also an extremely rigorous subject so a degree demonstrates a great deal of skill and commitment.

Law and lawmaking permeates the foundation of society. It is a fascinating subject.

I am studying law purely out of interest.

Gennz Sun 27-Jul-14 12:10:32

It's a reasonable assumption to make, that someone studying law is likely to want to be a lawyer.

I wouldn't have studied it if I hadn't have wanted to become one - a lot of the compulsory papers were tedious in the extreme. That said I come from a country where you have to have an LL.B to be a lawyer - I was surprised when I moved to the UK to find many lawyers had not studied law at university.

chipsandpeas Sun 27-Jul-14 12:11:22

i have a law degree but never wanted to be a lawyer, theres many jobs in the legal profession/politics/working in the courts that required a law degree but not as a practising solicitor - so you get the benefit of a decent career but dont have to do the practicing course and qualify thus saving cash

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Sun 27-Jul-14 12:15:18

I think it's because some people don't realise that a law degree doesn't mean you become a lawyer the day you graduate. They forget about the practical, post-qualification element. So up until you do that 'bit' it's a degree like any other, IMO. Albeit a very tough one.

That said, if you don't want to be a lawyer keep an open mind. OU has some fantastic courses which you can combine for a more general degree. For eg, if you are interested in law then there's a link to classical studies, history, philosophy - keep your options open. It's tough but incredibly rewarding and really good fun.

RainbowB7 Sun 27-Jul-14 12:40:06

I am a lawyer and probably would assume a law student wanted to work within the legal profession unless they stated otherwise, as most of them do! However, you are quite right that a law degree is a worthwhile degree in its own right and can lead to lots of different careers.

Andrewofgg Sun 27-Jul-14 12:40:19

My career has been in law but my degree is not. And many law graduates do not qualify in the profession and some who do don't practice.

Not everyone understands that and it is not intuitively obvious, so don't get upset by those who don't.

And good luck with it.

IAmOlderThanILook Sun 27-Jul-14 17:28:37

I've actually been thinking about this some more and I actually think that a law degree can be odd in this regard. By that I mean because people do tend to assume that people studying it/have one are aiming to work in the legal profession eventually then they might view doing a law degree as a waste of time or not putting it to use afterwards if you're not planning on becoming a lawyer. Whereas they wouldn't always assume the same thing about someone doing an English or maths degree for example if they didn't use it afterwards iyswim.

So say you had someone with a law degree and someone else with a maths degree who were both working in the same graduate job which just required a degree, doesn't matter what subject. However neither of them actually use the knowledge they obtained in their degree in their job. I highly doubt that many people would think that the maths graduate had wasted their time by going to the expense and bother of doing a maths degree if they're not actually using it but I have a feeling that a lot more people might think that the law graduate had wasted their time by doing their degree if they're not actually "using" it (even though they're working in a job that they wouldn't have got in the first place without their degree).

weegiemum Sun 27-Jul-14 17:34:32

One of my best friends did Law at university, but never did her legal practice diploma. Went on to an MA in Social Work and is now working in Child Protection training. She's also doing a PhD in theology!

That said, there's nothing wrong with studying for the pleasure of it, if you can afford it. Both dh and I went back to being undergrads in Theology about 8 years ago for the love of the subject. It was brilliant, and I got much more out of the experience of studying at the age of 35 than I did when I was 18!

Lilymaid Sun 27-Jul-14 17:35:21

In my university year (good university back in the 70s) about one third of students didn't go on to qualify as solicitors and barristers. And a lot that did, changed career later on.
I work for lawyers, am a law graduate, but my professional field falls into the lsupport category.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 27-Jul-14 17:43:06

When I was in law school, I did intend to practice and did for a few years. I am in the US so it was a post-graduate degree. The work I do now has law-related elements, but I am no longer a practicing attorney.

I really liked law school, but I am not sure that I would have gone to the time and expense had I not planned to practice law. I am glad I did it though.

I think that it is reasonable to assume that if you are studying a subject you might want to work in the field confused. Seems a fairly safe conversation topic!

ICanSeeTheSun Sun 27-Jul-14 17:55:58

if someone was doing a law degree, i would assume they are looking to do a career in Law.

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