Studying law... in England
In her article Charlotte provides important insight into studies and legal qualifications in England. English legal studies are one of the most popular in the world giving students the chance to live and practise in a vibrant and fast-developing environment, especially if they are London-based. However demanding and competitive, they give you a good school of life and a great start into the professional future.
Charlotte is a law student based in Bristol. Her CV is incredible and her many achievements keep motivating me on a daily basis.
My name is Charlotte and I am second year Law LLB student at the University of the West of England in Bristol. I am looking to qualify as a solicitor and have a keen interest in dispute resolution and environmental law. I also hope to undertake the New York Bar after I have finished my studies, so I will be qualified as a lawyer in both of the countries I hold citizenship in.
Studying in Bristol is an amazing experience. It has the connections to London, without the exorbitant costs, and is a beautiful city bordered by the Mendips and the Cotswolds. Bristol is a very friendly city with a range of amazing independent shops and restaurants and a vibrant nightlife, as well as a particular focus on greener living. Students also have access to opportunities at local, high-profile law firms like Womble Bond Dickinson and TLT.
In England, there are range of routes to qualification. Firstly, those looking to qualify as a lawyer must undertake either a three-year LLB Law course or any other three-year undergraduate course in combination with a one-year GDL conversion course. After this, prospective lawyers can either choose to become a barrister or a solicitor. To qualify as a barrister, you must undertake the BPTC and then a pupillage in chambers. To qualify as a solicitor, the route I am interested in, you must undertake the LPC and then a two-year training contract at a law firm.
There are options to take a placement year or study abroad through schemes like ERASMUS for a year built into some courses, which reduces the number of credits you need to obtain in your final year to graduate. You can also secure a qualifying law degree, even if you take it as a joint honours with a subject like Criminology. A qualifying law degree is achieved by taking specific core modules – Law of Contract, Criminal Law, Constitutional and Administrative Law, Land Law, Law of Torts, EU Law and Equity & Trusts. Beyond those core modules, there is a lot of freedom in terms of the optional modules you select.
Law, in of itself, is a very competitive field. To secure a training contract, you often have to devote hours of additional time to extracurriculars, applications and positions of responsibility. Most law firms in England recruit for their training contract schemes through their vacation schemes, as it allows them to get to know the individual better and to gain an understanding of their abilities. Vacation schemes will typically last for a week to two weeks and firms often reimburse participants for reasonable costs, sometimes supplying an additional stipend on top of this. This and taking on a placement are two of the best ways of securing work experience during your studies. You can also take on a voluntary role in a law clinic or pro bono group, providing people with legal advice or support.
I have involved myself in a range of activities beyond my studies to make myself a more well-rounded student. I have been heavily involved in two legal organisations – Bright Network and Aspiring Solicitors. Through these organisations, I have received mentoring, invitations to legal events, access to open days at law firms and application support. I have also participated in the Final of the Aspiring Solicitors Commercial Awareness Competition this academic year.
In terms of on-campus participation, I have acted as Charity Coordinator for the UWE LGBT+ Society, raising over £3,000 for UWE RAG and representing the Society on BBC Radio Bristol and at Pride. I have also participated in the Anti-Death Penalty Pro Bono group on campus, running events and supporting lawyers working on death row cases in America. In my next academic year, I am hoping to take on a position as Press Secretary for the Law Society, as well as a position as a Campus Ambassador for Legal Cheek. I am also hoping to set up a pro bono group on campus on behalf of the Environmental Law Foundation, as a way of giving back to my community.
I thoroughly enjoy my studies and have thrown myself into every activity available. However, law is a very challenging field to enter and requires years of devoted work. Every year, approximately 30,000 law students graduate, with only 5,500 training contracts available. As a result, the pressure to secure a training contract begins in the first year. As a disabled student and an individual who has to work an average of 15 hours a week to stabilise my income, this can prove to be very demoralising at times. Despite this, I am determined to make progress with my legal career and eventually qualify as a solicitor.”