This guest post is by Jack Williams. He completed his Law degree at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, earlier this summer. In this post, Jack makes some suggestions about what, as a prospective Law student, you should be thinking about and reading.
Many, if not most, of you will never have studied any Law before, not have any connections within the Law, nor have had any contact with Law yourself. This was the position which I found myself in before embarking on University applications. Why, then, Law? Where does one get the idea to study it from? Why do you want to study Law – do you even want to study Law?
As you are reading this blog, these are the sorts of questions which you may currently be asking yourself. Perhaps not, but you should certainly be expecting admissions tutors and interviewers to be looking for answers to them! There are therefore three reasons why you should read widely this summer before your applications:
- First, to enable you to discover more about Law and its many different areas. This will help you decide whether you would enjoy studying it (and perhaps which parts in particular) for three years.
- Second, to prepare you for applications and interviews, thus giving you the best possible chance to shine and demonstrate your motivation and interest.
- Third, to give you a basic grounding from which you can kick-start your undergraduate studies and ‘hit the ground running’ when you arrive at University.
So what should you be reading? Elsewhere on this blog two particular books have been highly recommended: What About Law? and Letters to a Law Student. I cannot endorse these suggestions to you more strongly; both are excellent. I would recommend starting with What About Law? before moving onto Letters to a Law Student. This is because each of its seven chapters discusses a substantive aspect of the Law so will enable you to see if you actually might enjoy the content of a Law degree. If you find yourself thoroughly bored by the actual subject matters of each subject, then a Law degree probably isn’t for you. Otherwise, you will want (probably need) to know more about the practicalities of researching, applying for, and studying Law, which Letters to a Law Student gives excellent accounts of. This will enable you to see if you are suited to studying the Law, not just whether it interests you.
One other introductory book which you might also enjoy is Glanville Williams: Learning the Law (14th ed). This book will thoroughly, but concisely, explain the workings of the legal system as a whole along with its methods and skills involved. It will provide an overview of how the courts work, the divisions between legal subjects/areas and enable you to grasp the basic framework of the British justice system.
Not really an ‘introduction to Law’ type book, but another good (and short!) read is The Devil’s Advocate by Iain Morley QC (a criminal Barrister). This book describes itself as a “short polemic on how to be seriously good in Court” and outlines how to be a seriously good advocate. Many of you may wish to become Barristers yourselves in which case this is an excellent book because over the next few years you’ll have to do a lot of mooting competitions which are basically mini-mock trials where students will be given a legal scenario and asked to debate the academic aspects therein. Even if you don’t want to become a Barrister, many of you may have interviews in which case you’ll certainly be expected to talk and hopefully persuade them to admit you – this is a perfect little guide for that purpose too!
I’ll be putting up another post by Jack tomorrow, suggesting some fiction books that might be of interest to prospective Law students, and offering some other thoughts on studying law.