The study of law is shrouded in countless, often diametrically opposing, myths. Some perceive lawyers to be dry, ethically dubious individuals; others are convinced that entering the profession facilitates transformation into Reese Witherspoon. It is fair to say that the path to law is cluttered with conflicting information.
Not only did many global leaders, including Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew and Barack Obama, graduate in law; a legal framework underpins countless current global issues, ranging from conflict over the Great Barrier Reef to the provision of medical care to a five-year-old boy. Yet, regardless of the apparent omnipresence of the law, both the requirements and uses of a legal qualification continue to be fundamentally misunderstood.
To rectify this, readers are asked to turn off ‘Legally Blonde’, clear their minds of all previous law-centric misconceptions and consider the following five reasons why students should learn to love law.
Choosing to study law means gaining the opportunity to…
1. Influence society
While legal qualifications emanate status, prestige and the promise of employment, encouraging many (probably your parents) to believe that they are a ‘smart choice’ for career development, prospective students often fail to delve deeper, overlooking the fact that legal activity is the foundation of social change.
Integral to situations as monumental as the Iraq – Afghanistan conflict, the war on sexual violence and individuals’ right to privacy in today’s digital age, the gravity of law is hugely understated. Rarely is there discussion of the discipline’s diversity; rarely do people speak of its power to shape lives, incite passion and appeal to international employers. Beneath the jargon and living room experience of court-room drama lies a profession which influences all aspects of society, from accommodation and corporate finance to criminal activity and human rights.
2. Choose a pay-grade
With average starting salaries of approximately £38,000 per year in London and up to $160,000 in the US, studying law can reward graduates with lucrative employment opportunities. Despite this, as the aim of this article is to demystify rather than rose-tint the discipline, it would be wrong to suggest that all of its facets offer equally attractive pay-packages.
The heights to which salaries can soar in the legal industry depend heavily on the type of law. Corporate law tends to win the pecuniary battle against family proceedings in the UK, whereas building and construction law looks far more appealing than immigration law in Australia. Ultimately, however, a legal qualification affords graduates the luxury of being able to choose a pay bracket and specialise accordingly; the option of financial altitude-sickness is certainly available.
3. Enjoy intellectual stimulation
A career in law is one of the most mentally challenging and rewarding pursuits available. Not only do students find themselves working alongside a generally like-minded, intelligent peer group, they can also learn to understand the intricacies of legal developments taking place within day-to-day society and use their independent judgement to fuel debate and discussion.
While the workload which accompanies law degrees may seem daunting, students would be well-advised to work smarter rather than harder, planning ahead and focussing on efficiency rather than counting the number of hours spent at the grindstone. Little that is worthwhile is achieved without effort, and success in law is no different.
4. Socialise to succeed
Law students’ calendars are invariably filled with social events, which range from lunches and Open Days to cocktail evenings and balls, and tend to ease particularly solemn periods of academic study. Such functions are, in fact, rare hybrids which combine career development with (hopefully) enjoyable social interaction. They are often attended by law specialists from a broad spectrum of international firms, thus providing students with an excellent opportunity to begin the creation of their professional network. Some might call it guilt-free socialising.
5. …choose not to be a lawyer!
Of course, law schools and courses are designed to prepare students for a career in the legal profession. However, would-be lawyers need not fear that they are on the brink of selling their soul for a life of professional tunnel-vision; the skill-set developed during law training is extremely broad.
Expertise honed throughout legal training, such as the ability to think and communicate under pressure, manage difficult clients and remain calm in stressful situations, are valuable across numerous areas of industry. Disciplines including consulting, publishing and finance prize individuals who have survived the intensive education characteristic of law tuition and find their advanced, diverse expertise extremely attractive.
Read on to discover globally-recognised institutions in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand which offer a range of qualifications in law.
DURHAM LAW SCHOOL, UNIVERSITY OF DURHAM – DURHAM, UK
Among the top 100 universities in the world and a member of the UK Russell Group, Durham University is internationally renowned its leadership and innovation in teaching and research. Its Law School is consistently rated as one of the top Law Schools in the UK, ranking 4th in the Complete University Guide 2015 and 6th in both the ‘The Sunday Times University Guide 2015 and The Guardian University Guide 2015. Not content with the aforementioned accolades, the School also appeared among the top 100 in the 20141 QS World University Rankings for Law. Read the full profile here.
SCHOOL OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF CANTERBURY – CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND
Recognised as the first New Zealand University to have received a 5-star rating under the QS Stars system, the University of Canterbury has been committed to producing leaders and innovators for more than 130 years. The University maintains an international reputation for the exemplary quality of its degrees, modern facilities, teaching staff and research; its focus on graduates’ employability and opportunities on the completion of their studies is reflected in the impressive destinations of its alumni. Among their more famous graduates are Prime Minister John Key and Booker-Prize winning author Eleanor Catton. Read the full profile here.
SCHOOL OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF ULSTER – IRELAND, UK
The University of Ulster’s School of Law, which is recognised internationally for the calibre of its specialist research, ranks among the top 15 Law Schools in the UK and enjoys a student satisfaction rate of 90%. Renowned for its practical approach, which links classroom study with realistic professional situations, the School prepares its students to excel on their entry into industry. To supplement its standard undergraduate and postgraduate course options, which include the LLB and LLM, students are offered a variety of specialist optional courses in areas such as Human Rights Law, Company Law and Environmental Law. The School of Law runs a popular student mentoring scheme to ensure that each individual has access to comprehensive support throughout their transition from school to university; this scheme is reinforced by members of staff, all of whom are keen to help and encourage their students to excel. Read the full profile here.
Proudly combining excellence and diversity, the University of Houston operates at the heart of a city which is not only the fourth largest in the USA but also home to one of the world’s largest legal markets. The equally prestigious Houston Law School, ranked 58th among the USA’s 200 Law Schools, offers one of the broadest curricula in the Southwest of America, and has been cited as one of the best institutions for providing value for money in the country. In addition to its commitment to admitting students from all corners of the globe, Houston Law Center maintains strong and fruitful connections with numerous international legal communities. Students are urged to look beyond the resources contained within the Center’s impressive faculty building and engage with its international presence, which involves participation in international symposia, visiting professorships and publication in international journals. Read the full profile here.
NOTTINGHAM LAW SCHOOL, NOTTINGHAM TRENT – NOTTINGHAM, UK
An institution which prides itself on its innovative, flexible approach and provision of bespoke courses tailored to international markets, Nottingham Law School is a leader in the field of legal education. The School is one of the largest in the UK, with over 100 academic staff and 2,500 students, and provides students with modern facilities and fruitful links with professional legal bodies. Nottingham Law School cultivates a globally-recognised research culture, with specialist research centres in areas such as Legal Education, Insolvency Law and Conflict. Students wishing to undertake research as part of a PhD in Law at Nottingham have access to the School’s specialised resources in areas such as European Private Law, Property Law and Rights and Justice.
NEWCASTLE LAW SCHOOL, UNIVERSITY OF NEWCASTLE – NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA
The Newcastle Law School is a research-focussed, intellectually stimulating institution which is committed to the development of the next generation of lawyers. The combination of progressive course options and collaboration with external partners creates in a dynamic learning environment in which students are encouraged to strive to make a positive difference within society. The quality of education available at the institution is evident in recent Graduate Destination Survey results, which reveal that 95% of students who completed the Professional Program found full-time employment within four months of graduation. All of the courses offered by Newcastle Law School, which range from LLB to PhD-level, equip students with transferrable skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving, which are much sought-after by employers around the world. Many members of academic staff have previous commercial experience, meaning that students have access to accurate, realistic insight into the legal industry and thus gain an edge in the current competitive job market.