What is law?
Law is the rule book by which states govern and people must live their lives.
The law has often been found to be restrictive or even immoral, but when applied correctly and ethically it is nothing less than the moral fabric that holds society together.
It is the responsibility of the state to see that criminal justice be served and that people pay the penalty for the offences they have committed.
Law is also the arbiter of civil disputes, and is designed with the intention that either claimant or defendant shall receive the settlement they deserve.
The law may also be applied to business, ensuring the legality of contracts and ethical behaviour. Perhaps the most important role of all in law is not when it is applied to individuals or companies, but when deciding if political decrees themselves are legal and constitutional in the eyes of the state and the world.
What should I study to do a law degree?
Studying English or a humanities-based subject at school can be a helpful first step towards studying law at university.
These subjects require a student to eloquently argue their interpretation of a text in an essay format, which makes for an ideal segue into argument within a legal framework.
They also promote a heightened level of language, an essential skill when reading and understanding the law itself.
If a school is offering a course in law outright then a student may be advised to take it up, but many university courses do not take prior law education into account as they prefer to teach the subject from a starting position.
Student experience of studying law
What can I expect to study on a law degree?
The first year of a law degree will be centred around giving a student a strong foundation in the legal frameworks of both the nation of study and in international bodies such as the UN and the European Union. Core modules may include tort law, contract law and the relationship between the individual and the state prosecution service.
In later years a wider selection of courses will be available to pick a specialised area including family law and comparative human rights.
A core undergraduate degree in law, or an LLB, will last for three years and can be extended to four if a study abroad option is also available.
A master's degree in law, also known as an LLM, is a four year course. All stages of law training will be graded on a combination of examination results and papers and a university course can conclude with a lengthier dissertation.
Legal training can be a lengthy process, with the path to becoming a solicitor taking at least three to six years dependent on whether you have a pre-existing law degree.
However, there are options available for those who are considering pursuing a career in law but are also interested in studying an unrelated bachelors, as many universities and companies will accept students onto law conversion and graduate law courses who have not studied the subject before.
One reason for this is a prevailing philosophy that there is a gulf between the academic study of law and the actual practice of it, that once you have proved a penchant for academic dedication and working under pressure the necessary qualifications can follow.
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What do people who study law do after graduation?
Due to the wide range of crucial industries and services that are actively seeking law graduates, law degrees are one of the most useful university qualifications one can hold when looking for employment.
The most well known route is as a solicitor or barrister, which after a career of hard work and dedication can lead to a position as esteemed as head of a legal firm or a judge.
Outside of handling criminal and civil cases are jobs such as a licensed conveyancer, engaging in the drafting of contracts and representing clients when buying and selling property.
The personable and erudite manner required of a lawyer, as well as the ability to engage in public debate, can also make them ideal for a position in the political sphere and many prominent figures in a local and national government will have had a background in the legal profession.
The critical judgement skills gained from a time spent studying law can be applied to the financial sector. For instance positions in arbitration and insurance both require an eye for detail and negotiation skills, which can be ideal for a candidate with a law background.
A career in chartered accountancy is also an option taken by many law students, though of course this requires further training and an aptitude for mathematics.
Which famous people studied law?
Former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton studied at Yale Law School, where she also met her husband Bill Clinton, former president of the United States.
Other well known legal professionals include human rights lawyer Amal Clooney (New York University) and Robert Kardashian (University of San Diego), who represented OJ Simpson at his 1995 murder trial and is father to the Kardashian sisters.
Studying law can also be a stepping stone towards a highly successful business career, as evidenced by brake line manufacturer and self-made billionaire Heinz Hermann Thiele (University of Munich.) Or it could lead to the acquisition of a football team as in the case of Chelsea football club chairman Roman Abramovich (Moscow State Law Academy).
Some other celebrities who studied law are actor John Cleese (University of Cambridge), actress Portia Di Rossi (University of Melbourne), and singer Julio Iglesias (Complutense University of Madrid).
Read more: Best universities for law degrees