What subjects do you need to take law at uni

(30 Posts)
mrsmobbs Mon 26-Aug-13 17:32:01

My ds starts year 10 next week and is really keen on going into law, he did a young lawyers summer school course and loved it, I know it is too early to be thinking about A levels yet, but no one seems to be able to give a definitive answer on what subjects would be best to take at A level, everyone talks about doing a general degree and doing a conversion course, not sure I understand what that means, but if he wanted to go to uni to take actual law what subjects would be best to continue with, his GCSE options are English, maths, triple science, history, German, Spanish and Latin

Jewelledkaleidoscope Mon 26-Aug-13 17:35:02

History, English lit and German would be great choices for law.

Sparklegeek Mon 26-Aug-13 17:39:18

From what I understand any of those would be good as he has no 'soft' subjects there! So whichever he expects to do best in & enjoys the most. I guess the humanities may make more sense than say, taking 3 science A-levels as that usually leads down the path to a sciencey degree.

In answer to your question, what people mean is that it's best to do a good solid degree in a subject of your DS's choice, wherever his strengths lie, & then study the conversion course to Law after as a postgrad, rather than study for a degree in Law at uni.

Hope I've got it all right, I'm not an expert by any means, just what I've picked up on as I have a DS a year ahead of yours.

titchy Mon 26-Aug-13 17:45:35

Any essay subject fine for a level, maybe a language to broaden options if he's good at languages. If he's set on law may as well go straight into LLB rather than another degree with a further (costly!) year on a conversion course.

ginmakesitallok Mon 26-Aug-13 17:48:12

I did English, chemistry and biology at a level, fine for law. (But that was 20 years ago!)

AmandaCooper Mon 26-Aug-13 17:50:39

Personally I think he'd be better off doing a law degree rather than incurring more than £10k additional cost. The exception is if he is gifted in sciences, he might find a path to law via engineering or chemistry for example with a view to specialising in patents or clinical negligence or similar. Otherwise it doesn't matter that much what subjects he takes - much more important to get top grades across the board. Subjects which teach analytical thinking and test reading comprehension would be good choices.
My top tip for your DS is to download now a copy of the application forms for training contracts at the top firms. These often ask situation based questions. The next few years are the time for him to get relevant experiences under his belt to demonstrate his leadership skills, teamwork skills, self reflection, self promotion, presentation skills, etc.

mrsmobbs Mon 26-Aug-13 17:51:15

Thanks for both messages, It is really hard trying to get info on uni sites, but I agree about the science, he was thinking of history and one language and one other, so he is on the right track, one question that puzzles me, is that my niece was turned down for a place at Cambridge because she did not take maths, surely not all uni's require maths do they as I am not sure ds wants to take this? I have also heard that doing law as a degree can be really boring!

OldRoan Mon 26-Aug-13 17:51:25

Yep, Sparkle is right. His options would be a 3 year (generally) law course, or an undergraduate degree in anything he enjoys, followed by the GDL which is a one year course where he will study the 7 core modules (generally spread over 2 years in the undergrad followed by a year choosing modules you like, although some unis will let you do them over 3 years and fit additional modules in every year).

It is worth bearing in mind that to be a qualified solicitor you need to do the LPC, and to be a qualified barrister you need to do the BPTC regardless of if you did law as your undergrad degree. So add 1 year onto the length of the undergrad degree.

See what he enjoys doing. I think languages would be helpful because you have to be analytical and precise, history is useful because it is seen as a strong academic subject and you need to have well structured essays. Sciences will be good because they are academic and show he can be methodical, which is helpful when applying the law.

If he enjoys it at gcse, Latin will be a really interesting a level and will help him with well constructed English grammar. English a level with help him become a quick reader whilst retaining meaning - invaluable for a law degree.

I graduated (in law) three years ago smile.

LadyMaryQuiteContrary Mon 26-Aug-13 17:51:30

I had 1 A'Level in English and they let me on the course (I did beg and argue about it with them though so this may have helped) grin

Ds is doing Latin, German, Spanish, RS, History, Physics, Chemistry, Maths and English. His tutor has said History and RS are very useful for law as they are research and essay based and the RS is philosophy and moral based.

OldRoan Mon 26-Aug-13 17:54:26

Sorry, meant to add - I found law utterly mind numbingly dull, but it wasn't the right subject for me (I'm now a teacher!). Even I found bits of it I enjoyed.

Ultimately I chose a law degree because I knew it was structured and there was a strong career path at the end if I enjoyed it. If I had done English (I should have), I was worried I would end up drifting about with no idea what to do. Law degrees give you lots of transferable skills making you employable in many areas.

I'm surprised about the maths thing, unless maybe she said she was doing it then changed her mind?

TippiShagpile Mon 26-Aug-13 17:56:55

I did Latin, History, English and Economics.

No probs at all getting a place.

TheFarSide Mon 26-Aug-13 18:01:22

The Russell Group of universities say usually there are no essential A Levels but a few universities require English. History and "other facilitating subjects" (defined as maths, the sciences, English, geography, classical or modern languages) may be useful. "Maybe one choice should involve essay/report writing. History gives you good relevant skills for law but is not essential". Have a look at their publication russellgroup.org/InformedChoices-latest.pdf.

That's the Russell Group: other universities are likely to be more open minded.

The main issue with law is the difficulty in getting a training contract after graduating. Getting some significant work experience is essential, and if possible a sandwich degree including work experience would be a good idea.

mrsmobbs Mon 26-Aug-13 18:02:10

Wow, thanks for all the replies, they are really helpful, thanks amanda for the tip on training contracts, I know it seems early to do this, but I am really concerned about all those poor kids who had just left 6th form with top results and are not being offered places, the reports on the news mention that a lot of youngsters are taking science, so want to make sure we go down the right route to have some chance of a place in the future.

GraduallyGoingInsane Mon 26-Aug-13 18:26:06

I'm a lawyer and I do help our recruitment panel. I'd say pick A levels he will do well in. It's not uncommon for us to sift through hundreds of AAA grade students (A*s haven't really come through yet to our level) so a rouge B, whilst not the end of the world, might hurt him down the line. If he's good at something, do that. An essay subject is helpful, but equally chemistry can aid with a job in patents and pharmaceutical work, maths is always helpful, biology would help clinical negligence work and so on.

I always worry about applicants who do another degree because law is dull. If its too boring to tolerate 3 years of it, what makes you think you'd stick at a 20 year career?! When choosing trainees and pupils you look for a passion for law. Finding it dull doesn't help you demonstrate this. The only exception being languages, which are always valuable particularly in the EU context, or a science which can translate to patent and IP law.

legallady Mon 26-Aug-13 18:44:05


I completely agree that getting the training contract is the big thing to worry about down the line but he should be thinking about that fairly early on in his university life. Larger firms will pay for your conversion course (if relevant) and LPC if you are offered a contract during your last year of degree, so it really is worth doing everything possible to impress at the earliest stage. I personally would tell any child of mine to think very carefully about doing two extra years of study (after the degree) if they haven't already secured a training contract. It's very expensive and there are many many more applicants than there are training contracts. The other ways of qualifying as a solicitor shouldn't be discounted either e.g. legal executive route.

Of course your DS won't know what type of firm he will want to join yet, but large commercial firms can afford to be very picky with who they employ as they have dozens of applicants for every training contract. A minimum 2:1 degree from a well respected university will be required (not necessarily Oxbridge by the way) and some relevant experience is always useful. The type of degree is actually not that important and many firms like science related degrees, particularly if you are interested in specialising in a "sciencey" area of law such as intellectual property, life sciences, oil and gas etc.

I personally did a law degree and saved myself a year's extra study! The firms that I have experience of will generally employ a mixture of LLB and other graduates, but probably slightly more will be those who have done a law degree. If your DS doesn't have a great passion to study something else at undergrad level, then there is no reason not to do a law degree really. He can pretty much take his pick of facilitating subjects at A Level (well I would recommend atleast two out of three be facilitating). It would also help if he has a fairly analytical mind and a good memory is useful for case names. Also as someone said up thread, being able to construct a decent essay is essential.

Good luck!

OldRoan Mon 26-Aug-13 18:56:18

Might be worth keeping the Bright Network at the back of your mind for when he is in sixth form - they do workshops and networking things and invited applications from my cohort at uni (DP joined and went to a few useful things) and I know that they offer conferences and the like for sixth formers.

Some of the lawyers on here might be able to tell you if they think it makes a difference in applications, but I know DP found it quite reassuring to know he was ticking the right boxes at the right stage (he got a training contract with a big firm who funded his LPC as well as additional costs for living/travel).

Fairdene Mon 26-Aug-13 19:51:49

Absolutely any of his subjects are fine. He should choose what he enjoys most for AS and A2. A*s count and he'll maximise his chances by doing subjects he enjoys.

Trix2323 Tue 27-Aug-13 12:27:32

I work with lawyers. Any of his subjects that he would enjoy most, and for which he would be most likely to get an A*.

Any science, any language and an essay-writing subject would be a very broad combination.

I would also advocate maths, at least to AS-level, if he can do it.

JammieMummy Tue 27-Aug-13 13:09:47

I am also a lawyer and am now part of the recruitment panel for my set. We look for academic subjects at GCSE and A-level (and we do look at your grades for both), we personally wouldn't mind what degree you did just where you did it and the result and the result of your GLD if you did one. The key to us would be that they were more "traditional" subjects no business studies or photography course past GCSE and that you achieved high grades. I have said to a number of people wanting a carer in law if they have a 2:2 we wouldn't even begin to consider them, unless there were genuine extenuating circumstances.

Based on that and your DS's current subjects, for A-level he should select the subjects where he is confident he will get the best results, often the ones you enjoy the most. Also I would agree with the comment above about a law degree being boring, we ask in interview why people didn't do a straight law degree so he needs to have a good answer.

My other tip is LOTS of work experience, I would be looking for at least three mini pupillages, experience in a solicitors firm, a marshalling and volunteer work with a legal based charity (universities will have these connections for students on their law degrees). So the other bonus of doing a straight law degree is that you are more likely to access these opportunities earlier on through the uni and it is never too young to get some experience as it shows the interviewer you are committed to a carer in law.

I believe law A level is not highly regarded by university law admissions, other solid academic subjects are much preferred.

OldRoan Tue 27-Aug-13 15:39:21

Do universities help with marshalling now, Jammie? I've never come across someone marshalling whilst they are an undergraduate. I know my friends who have done it found it very interesting and helped them lots so it would be great if it is being done earlier.

JammieMummy Tue 27-Aug-13 17:21:19

I would imagine some do, I have had a number of applications from those that have done marshalling at undergrad and I know it is often one of the prizes for mooting competitions (not just the winner, if you impress a judge who is actually a Judge IYSWIM). I wouldn't expect someone to have all that experience at undergrad level but I would expect them to have all that experience as a minimum if applying to us. Unfortunately it is a very competitive career and these days people are doing all that and much more! You would be amazed at some of the CV's I read (I am).

Although would add sometimes those with the best CV's can barely stammer out their own name and definitely cant answer even basic questions to a reasonable level so academics aren't everything.

OldRoan Tue 27-Aug-13 17:38:21

My university (a well respected London one) had some essay competition where the prize was "coffee and a chat with a high court judge". I'm sure it was meant to be a useful springboard for career things/marshalling but the law school made it sound like the prize was basically guaranteeing you a mentor through your career at the bar and in actually fact it was just thirty minutes. The winner in my year was distinctly underwhelmed!

mrsmobbs Tue 27-Aug-13 17:53:54

I am really overwhelmed with all the replies, which are really helpful, I am lucky that ds is very studious, very analytical and downright argumentative, with very good arguments for his views, not sure if that is a good trait or not! There is another 5 day young lawyers course at the university of london next year, would this be worth doing or would that not be seen as adding any value to his cv? He did a 3 day starter to see if he enjoyed it and I wondered whether any firms are involved in these courses ie looking for future trainees.

SkiSchoolRun Tue 27-Aug-13 18:02:48

I did law and Spanish at degree level. English language, Spanish and Business Studies at a level. Got offers from everywhere back in the day and am now senior in a great firm.

If I were him, I'd make myself a rounded individual with good interests outside of school so he stands out from all the other applicants. Venture Scouts, DofE, Saturday job - showing commitment to something helps get a cv noticed. Also make sure he has a good command of written English. I have so many trainees who struggle when it comes to writing business English. It's either legalese because they think it sounds important or just not very precise.

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