In popular culture, you don’t have to look too far to find snide jokes about lawyers and the fact that legal professionals seem to be in neverending supply. These gags at lawyers’ expense are so numerous that Marc Galanter, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin, published a book on this branch of humour called Lowering The Bar. All the same, law remains a highly respected profession that continues to attract eager undergraduates every year. So if you can hack being the butt of a few jokes, here are some things to consider before taking on a law degree:
The British education system has often been accused of spoon-feeding pupils and not doing enough to encourage independent thinking. So if you’re one of the spoonfed, wet-behind-the-ears freshers, studying law can feel like a big step up intellectually. In contrast to some humanities subjects, you won’t be able to bluff your way through legal technicalities and will have to thoroughly prepare for tutorials where your knowledge of the law will come under fierce scrutiny. Try to get as much hands on experience as you can before uni. A quick google of law firms in your area (“criminal lawyers manchester” for instance) and a few phone calls can sometimes be all it takes.
If you commit a few of the more groundbreaking and interesting cases to memory it’ll not only impress your tutors (if that’s something you care about) but it will also give you a small understanding of how the law has been shaped by seemingly small events. Look out for the “snail in the bottle” case, the murder trial of Kiranjit Ahluwalia which became a landmark in domestic abuse cases, and the Pinochet case that impacted international human rights law.
The horror stories are true. You’re definitely going to be spending a lot of time in the library. Leafing through weighty tomes full of cases and complex legal jargon. So don’t ignore the reading lists you’ll undoubtedly be sent before you start. We know you’ll be desperate to enjoy the summer holiday but getting some knowledge under your belt will stand you in good stead. And, remember, law books are expensive.
Without landing that all-important training contract, it can be pretty difficult to become a lawyer, given that this work experience is integral to qualifying. But many law graduates find that training contracts are not easy to come by. Some have asked that the law schools be more open about job prospects because prospective lawyers are sometimes spending thousands of pounds training only to fall at the final hurdle.
Not only will you have to practice law once you’re qualified but you’ll also get unsolicited requests for advice from the world and his wife. That won’t be too bad if you’re the kind of person who loves to talk shop when they’re out of the office. But getting asked to look over a friend’s mobile phone contract or about the legalities of setting up a business is bound to get on anyone’s nerves.
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