The majority of people wishing to study law do so because they want to become practising lawyers. However, it is important not to forget that modern day legal practice not only requires you to be a good lawyer, but also a good business advisor. As a current Law with Politics student, I’ve really learnt the benefits of studying law and I hope to offer comfort and conviction to any doubtful students thinking about studying the discipline. However, I also want to propel the decision to study with a twist.
Firstly, a law degree is inherently a strong foundation for your legal career, as learning to become a lawyer means that you’ll be equipped with a variety of skills for a whole host of professional paths. It may appear to be an odd claim, but lawyers are modern day philosophers, scientists and detectives all in one. Law students consider philosophical questions surrounding concepts such as justice and morality and, most importantly, do not think in isolation. We are on the ground, thinking and contributing to very real discussions and responding to very real problems, from theoretical academia into practice. We are taught from a young age that science is the process of asking questions, carrying out research, constructing a hypothesis and drawing conclusions based on the results. However, it is arguable that the law is a product of the same process: we examine legal rules, read the cases that have challenged it and explore the academic and research perspective of the rule. For law students, our significant “scientific breakthroughs” come in the form of a landmark judgement or legislative reform. Law students also gain a keen eye for detail and the ability to think critically, which also means that we equip ourselves with unique problem solving abilities. Studying law is therefore more than just legal concepts and I believe that the strong foundation of law, whilst combined with alternative disciplines such as business, history or politics, develops an individual’s potential to become well-rounded professionals beyond measure.
It is also important to note that studying law would be a stepping stone rather than a holding cell for any future aspirations, as English law is globally influential. The common-law system is derived from English law and has influence across the world. To study this system will give you the opportunity to gain an insight into other legal systems and for anyone pondering the idea of travelling after your degree; the choices are unlimited. Perhaps studying law with a foreign language might be attractive for you as, chances are, it will be very useful in your future profession. Employers will be impressed as anyone wishing to go into international law may have to travel a lot, frequently communicate with foreign clients and other governmental agencies and interpret or translate a series of legal documents. In the globalised world of today, where the large majority of top firms are international, being able to show that you’ve learnt another language and studied that country’s legal system demonstrates your commitment to working in a multi-jurisdictional organisation. You will stand out from the crowd, but mostly importantly, you gain wider benefits from having learnt to adapt to living in a different environment and gaining a perspective on issues in other parts of the world.
In addition, once you become a law student, all of a sudden “commercial awareness” is something that law firms, lecturers and students go on about all the time, as keeping up with developments in the corporate world is essential to becoming a lawyer. A lawyer must assist clients in achieving their business aims, which is why firms are so keen to hire candidates who offer more than their academics and embody a deeper commercial acumen. This involves being up to speed with the political, economic and social frameworks, as firms want to know that you will survive in this business savvy habitat during your training. Therefore, legal firms are now realising that practising law is not just about explaining law to clients but also advising them on the specific issues that they deal with. It is important to note that this shouldn’t be about being able to regurgitate as many facts as possible but instead should be a way of thinking. Studying law with business or finance or alternative subjects may then demonstrate that you understand the unique challenges that a global financial firm faces in a legal context and really show employers that you are intrigued about the legal profession and the market in which it operates.
Whilst studying law is interesting in its own right and offers a wonderful intellectual challenge - in that it develops the ability to argue from a basis of evidence in a way which can be very hard for non-lawyers to counter - I truly advise studying law with another specialisation. As outlined, a joint law degree will open a wider range of career opportunities in a myriad of fields and ground you to the basis of the legal system that affects nearly every aspect of our society. As the main link between laws and the community, it is important that our lawyers study and develop a knowledge and interest in a wide range of fields rather than in a legal vacuum. Most importantly, choosing what to study at university will be one of the biggest decisions that you will have to make as a young person. So, whatever pathway you choose, try to ensure that it is one that is right for you and something that you are really passionate about. Research a variety of disciplines that may be of interest to you and don’t confuse your hobby with your career prospects. Play to your strengths and if you’re lucky to have two that overlap, go for it!