Life in the fast lane - some tips for studying the accelerated LLB degree
Christopher Murphy graduated from the University of Stirling with an honours degree in philosophy and politics before moving to the University of Aberdeen to complete the accelerated LLB and will be studying the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Aberdeen. He's the first member of his family to go to university and his interested in access to justice and private client work.
The accelerated LLB is an option for graduates who wish to pursue a career as a legal professional. It’s a quick, albeit expensive, way of beginning the process of qualifying as a solicitor in Scotland, and is more efficient than studying the three or four year LLB degree (which costs the same amount per year as the accelerated course). With the benefit of hindsight, here are some pointers for those considering applying to the course.
1. Know what you’re getting yourself into
As much as this statement is obvious, it’s worth repeating. The accelerated LLB in Scotland is a Scots law qualification which condenses the ordinary three-year LLB into two. It’s not a four-year honours degree studied in half of the time (thankfully). It therefore also doesn't have a dissertation component or involve any honours subjects. Instead, it focuses solely on the necessary courses that are required to qualify as a solicitor accredited by the Law Society of Scotland.
These requirements and the limited timeframe mean that the course structure is fairly rigid, with little choice available (I was able to choose two subjects out of 17 studied across the two years).
This can work to your advantage, as a large amount of preparatory work can be taken prior to the course beginning, particularly with regards to the time commitment required and what to expect when the course begins. I would also suggest that should you be given the opportunity to choose a couple of courses, participating in other disciplines, take them. These can keep you from burning out before all those compulsory law exams.
2. Deadlines come thick and fast
While coursework deadlines are clearly important, the less obvious and arguably more important deadlines for graduates are those pertinent to career prospects. The larger law firms recruit up to two years in advance and their training contract application deadlines tend to crop up fairly close together at the end of summer (either before or during the first few weeks of your degree!).
I found this out during my first week of the course, after some deadlines had already passed, and nearly worked myself into a caffeine-induced coma stressing over what to say to legal recruiters at an upcoming law fair, only to be told that they are aware of the accelerated students and the different circumstances.
I was also informed of the existence of summer placement schemes (which in turn can lead to training contract offers), which are short internships designed to take place during the summer immediately following their application deadlines. These deadlines are typically in the winter, and so are more suitable for accelerated students than applying for training contracts in first year as you will have a semester of teaching under your belt rather than a fortnight!
3. Your time is valuable, use it wisely
The two-year course not only impacts on the amount of time you have to study, but also the amount of time you have to get the most out of your university life. Although the course gives the impression of all work and no play, this doesn’t mean that you will have no free time. I found myself with more free time than I expected as the freshers social calendar is somewhat more sparse for mature students, and decided to apply this into making myself more a more desirable candidate for law firms.
Working part time to support your studies or even just for the experience is highly recommended, and law-related extracurricular activities on offer at your university will be of special interest to prospective employers (I participated in both and it still left me enough time to relax at the weekends).
For example, joining a student-run legal clinic in my first year allowed me to gain management and legal experience which was almost the exclusive topic of conversation at interviews with large law firms.
4. Use your previous degree to your advantage.
For those who decide to take on the accelerated degree fresh from academic study, this may be akin to saying ‘remember to blink’, but there are some tools which you possess that will give you an upper hand over the competition - where the competition is every other law student, accelerated or not.
As a mature student, it will take less time to acclimatise to your new academic environment and you will have the added benefit of years of exam experience and research techniques under your belt which new students simply will not possess. Whilst legal skills may be new to you, the majority of the methods of teaching and learning will be similar to other arts degrees and you will likely already know your optimum studying methods.
The accelerated LLB degree is an intense but extremely rewarding experience and if you do your research and manage your time appropriately, you will find yourself graduating in two years wondering what all the fuss was about. I wish you the best of luck in your studies!