You’re going to have to work damn hard during your law degree – if you want to become a solicitor or barrister that is! Your social life will be reduced and you may find that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. So why not make good use of your time over the summer before university starts?
Yes we know you would rather be sat out in the sun or going out with friends, but you should dedicate at least a few hours a week to preparing for your law degree. This will help you so much when it comes to the start of the academic year and may even give you an advantage over the people who didn’t bother preparing. Anyway if you want a career in law you better get used to putting in some extra hours. If anything it will make it less of a shock when you degree starts!
Recommended reading for law
Your university will give you a reading list for your law degree way before the start of your course. It usually is a pretty long list. The good news is you may not have to read all of it. When I was doing the recommended reading I bought two introduction to law books which were very similar. Reading one would have sufficed. But each university will provide different reading lists. As a general rule just make sure you don’t read two books which are obviously the same.
So what’s the best introduction to law book? Well I’ve just read a few – certainly not all of them but Glanville Williams: Learning the Law really stood out. I learnt a lot from reading that book. It’s brilliant at laying the foundations before you start you degree. That’s not just in relation to knowledge, it’s good at showing you the sort of legal thinking & skills that you will need too. So when you start your lectures the topics and themes won’t be too alien to you. I found the book contained a good mix of theoretical and practical knowledge. Since university focuses on academic law some key practicalities of the legal process are sometimes overlooked. Learning the Law gives you what you need to know in regards to practical law until you start your LPC / BPTC.
What else should you do?
The recommended reading isn’t the only thing you should do before the start of the academic year. You should try and get some work experience. Even if it’s just for a week, or even if it’s for 2 days! It will help demonstrate you have had a strong interest in the law from an early age. That one piece of experience could also be the difference between getting a mini pupillage / vacation scheme and not getting one.
It may also be a good idea to go down to your local court / magistrates and observe a hearing. This is even more important if you want to be a barrister. I really wish I could go back in time and tell myself to get more experience before university (yes if I could time travel I probably wouldn’t need to go to law school, I know!) But it really will make the difference when you’re in the final year of university and you’re aiming for the top. The fact is it’s not even going to be that much time out of your summer. Surely you can spare one week?
Setting goals out for yourself is crucial. No one is expecting you to know exactly where you want to be in 3 years, but at least have a rough idea of what you want to do. This way you won’t miss training contract / pupillage deadline and have to wait another year. It also allows you to make full use of the university societies. So do some thinking!
The last thing you should do is keep up to date with the latest legal news and developments. Again this doesn’t need to take hours of your time up every single day (or even week!) but a little work can really help your chances of getting a training contract. Reading the legal news will allow you to see the most important issues currently facing the legal sector. And keeping up to date with it over a matter of years will let you see how these issues evolve and change. If someone just started reading the legal news weeks before an interview they won’t be able to do this. This in our opinion is key to commercial awareness and demonstrating depth of knowledge at any kind of interview.