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should I or should I not do a law degree?

18 July 2011

I was recently asked this question by an AS-level student who wanted to be a solicitor. She was worried how employees would view her commitment to law should she decide to pursue an undergraduate degree in another subject.

With UCAS applications on the horizon for many sixth form students, now is the time to start thinking what you would like to study.

My advice would be to study a subject at university you are interested in. After all it’s a minimum three years of study. For those of you with a panache for languages then consider a course which will allow you to combine languages with law. Languages are certainly a useful skill on the job market. Other courses can also be combined with law if that is the avenue you choose to pursue.

For those of you who want to be solicitors but do not relish the thought of studying law for three years, then perhaps it is worth considering alternatives. Four out of eight of the trainees in my year have not studied law and arguably you will acquire all the legal knowledge you need during the course of your GDL, LPC and training contract. So why not consider a degree in an alternative subject?

The legal world is changing. No longer can solicitors sit back and rely on their expertise to generate work and clients. With increasing competition and increasingly more demanding clients, law firms need act like a business and think like a business. Consequently, it may be worthwhile considering a business or marketing degree. If you can bring good business skills or marketing skills to an employer on top of your legal qualifications then you are certainly going to be an attractive candidate to law firms.

Other subject areas also provide invaluable skills. My research and analytical skills are wholly attributable to my history degree. Other specialisms may be useful depending on what law you may be interested in, for example nursing may assist with medical negligence and science degrees with intellectual property. By not taking law you are not closing any doors.

As a footnote I would add that it is always worth bearing in mind the costs involved in pursuing a degree other than law. The conversion course (known as the GDL) is very expensive and challenging. If you want to be a solicitor then any decision not to take law at university should not be entered into lightly.