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What A levels do you need if you want to study law at university  

Since we published our Blog Post “Want to be a Lawyer?” back in 2012, a great deal of you have written in with some very good questions about the subject, and we thought it would be a good idea to address some of these further.

So here we go, some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

1 What A Levels should I take to study Law at University?

By far and away the most popular question, and one that obviously concerns you all a great deal. The simple answer is that there is no single answer. Unlike many degree subjects like Medicine or Engineering, Law universities don’t have a set criteria you need to abide by, and they don’t tend to mind what subjects you do, so long as they are academic A Level subjects and you get good grades in them.

Law is essentially an essay based subject, so traditional academic subjects like History and English Literature will stand you in good stead, as will some newer subjects like Business Studies or Politics. These subjects encourage you to analyse information, think for yourself, debate with others, and come up with your own informed conclusions. All of these are vital skills needed if you want to study Law.

Traditional science subjects and Maths are also looked upon favourably, but you should be aware that you will be doing a lot of writing during your degree, so it is a good idea to take at least one, if not two, essay based A level to keep your essay writing skills up to scratch. Newer science subjects like Sociology and Psychology are also looked upon favourable and help show off your versatility.

However, it is very important to remember that Law universities care most about the grades that you get. So don’t do a subject you hate just because you think a university will look more favourably on it. You should pick academic subjects, but chose ones that you enjoy, that way you are more likely to excel in them.

2. A Level Law: Yes or No?

Another very popular question, and one that is very easily answered. No university requires you to have a Law A Level, and in fact many prefer that you do not. Everything you learn in a Law A Level, you will learn again at the beginning of your Law Degree. It will give you little to no advantage over any of your fellow students.

As to whether universities view Law A Level as “soft” or “hard” A Level, this is unclear. Law used to be regarded as a “soft” A Level, and not many universities regarded it favourably. Recently it has been beefed up and is now definitely a more difficult A level, but there are still universities who do not view it favourably. LSE is one such university.

The easy answer is this: Do it if you think you will enjoy it and will do well in it. But you don’t have to have it.

3. What GCSEs should I take?

A lot of you write in worried that your GCSE choices are poor, and are concerned that universities will look at them and reject your application. Some universities place more emphasis on GCSEs than others, but they are never the deciding factor in your application. You should try and take as many “hard” subjects as you can, for no other reason that it will help you gain valuable skill needed later on in your academic life, and that it will leave you with a broader range of options at A Level. Do not worry if you are studying Music or Art, as long as you have a solid number of more traditional subjects behind you. It goes without saying though that you try to do as well as you can and get the best grades possible.

4. Do I need to take the LNAT?

The LNAT is an aptitude test. It measures six core verbal reasoning skill sets:  Comprehension, Interpretation, Analysis, Synthesis, Induction, and Deduction, and you cannot revise for it. Some universities require you to sit it, others do not.

The LNAT website has all you need to know on the test. Have a look and find out more.

5. How hard do I have to work to be a Lawyer? Will I spend all of my time at university working?

Know this; a law degree is not easy, it is HARD work. You will be expected to do a full day’s work at university in lectures and tutorials, and to do a lot of extracurricular work as well. You will need to be highly motivated and be able to work on your own initiative. A Law Degree takes no prisoners and allows no passengers. This is to prepare you for the cut and thrust of working as a barrister or solicitor in the real world.

However it is not just work work work, you will have a social life. Law Schools at most universities are some of the most social and active around campus. You will work hard, but also play hard.

6. How do I stand out from all the other applicants?

There are a number of ways of doing this:

a) Fantastic Grades at GCSE and A Level. That goes without saying.

b) Personal Statement. A well written personal statement is very important when applying for any university place, but for Law it is even more so. This is where you can truly stand out from the crowd. Mention where your interest in Law comes from,  how you followed up this interest with work experience and how that has further cemented your desire to work in the legal profession. You should mention as many outside interests as possible, and really talk up your personal attributes and skills. Law schools like their students to be well read, rounded individuals.

c) Work Experience. Nothing shows you are really serious about law than some good work experience. It’s quite hard to get work experience, but if you can get some it is a definite plus. Contact as many legal firm as you can until one of them gives you a placement. Do not expect to be paid and expect to be given a lot of menial work – you will not go into court on work experience. You will get a flavour of the industry and it looks great on your personal statement.

7. Are there any books I can read to prepare me for a Law Degree?

Yes. Loads. Here are some of the best:

Letters to a Law Student by Nicholas McBride

What About Law? By Catherine Barnard et al

The Rule of Law by Tom Bingham

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Eve Was Framed by Helena Kennedy

A Short History of Western Legal Theory by John Kelly

How Law Works by Gary Slapper

And that’s it. Hopefully that has helped a little more. Don’t be afraid to message us if you have any more questions, we will always do our best to answer and help out if we can. There is also a lot to be said for contacting any universities directly if you have any entrance requirement questions, they are always more than happy to help out, and will have more up to date information.

Good luck!