Its not easy to know what to expect when starting out on a degree. We spoke to current LLB student Samantha Whale to find out her tips for studying law:
At school you may find social science subjects such as religious and modern studies are useful to prepare you for studying law. My advanced higher religious studies really helped me to improve my research skills as I had to complete a dissertation.
Taking a language may open up more opportunities – I didn’t do this but in some ways I wish I had, as you can study law with a language and it opens up opportunities to study international law and travel. However, most universities do offer opportunities to travel during the course so check what your options are, even if you are not taking a language with law.
Get involved in debating – this really helped me build my confidence and develop my communication skills.
Get involved with mooting – this is the best thing I ever did. I was the treasurer and also the vice president for the mooting society at my university. This built my confidence even more and helped with oral coursework at university.
Be motivated for self-study – sometimes it can be hard to motivate yourself to study, especially if you find the subject difficult or boring. I have had to study subjects which I have found both challenging and immensely boring – for me I enjoy case based subjects such as criminal and family law and find statutory based subjects such as constitutional law less interesting. Others may prefer the opposite!
Read quality newspapers regularly as this will improve your vocabulary and help you to understand some of the longer and more complex cases you will face.
Get as much work experience as possible – it is true that 3rd year is time to knuckle down and really think about this but why wait? Get as much experience as you can - either general experience or in your chosen field if you know what it is you want to do. Employers are not only looking for good grades they are looking for students who are committed to what they want to do and have taken the initiative to gain experience. I was lucky enough to find a criminal advocate who allowed me to shadow him through a trial and gain valuable experience.
If you can gain experience in the legal profession, that is great but all kinds of work experience will be helpful when it comes to applying for traineeships later on.
Attend court cases – this gave me a much deeper insight into the roles of solicitors and advocates and reaffirmed to me that I wanted to be an advocate.
Make networking cards - this is not something that I was advised to do at university but you do attend a lot of networking events and this is much more professional than handing over little bits of paper. Remember, you want to make a good impression.
After completing the LLB you have to complete a diploma in professional legal practice before you can work as a solicitor or advocate – you will need to look into this as different universities structure their courses differently so you need to the one that suits you best.
In order to qualify as a solicitor, you need to complete a traineeship – remember to look into this in 3rd year / your penultimate year. Some firms open their applications 2 years in advance so you have to make sure that you know where you want to apply and apply early enough. Always remember to speak with your University as they can help you with your applications.
Look up the book of Scottish Legal Terms – I didn’t know this book existed when I started university but it would have been so useful to have this.