Scott King, accelerated LLB student at Glasgow University, explains what to expect on the accelerated LLB and gives advice on how to get through it.
Changing direction towards law
My decision to return to university to pursue a legal career wasn’t an easy one. Unlike other law students, I can’t say that I’ve always had a burning desire to be a lawyer. Rather, my path towards law has come about by changing career direction – a decision which I believe I am all the better for making.
When I left school in 2009 I studied Politics and History, before completing a research Masters in History as a postgraduate. Indeed, after successfully completing my Masters, it was my intention to then pursue an academic career, with a PhD the seemingly obvious next step. However, I was left disappointed as I was unable to secure the funding necessary to go down the PhD route. Unsure about where my future would lie, I attended a ‘career changer’ event held by the Law Society of Scotland in October 2015 which was aimed at attracting individuals from different backgrounds into the profession. I quickly realised that many of the skills I had already acquired, were equally transferrable to the legal profession.
The Accelerated LLB: what to expect
Having spent time away from uni, working part-time as a barman and as a labourer, I decided to take a chance on a law, and enrolled in the accelerated-LLB at Glasgow. A graduate entry degree, the accelerated-LLB gives graduates a chance to complete the necessary courses required to qualify as a solicitor, as recognised by the Law Society of Scotland, in two years rather than three. Since students have already completed an honours year in their previous degree, a fourth year of study is not required for the accelerated degree. Cost is, nevertheless, a factor to bear in mind. Unlike a first degree, Scottish students must be prepared to meet the costs of tuition fees for the fast-track course. Given the intense nature of the program and the limits this must put on full-time work; cost is an especially important factor to consider. That said, I would encourage anyone considering the fast-track degree to find time for part-time work – even one shift a week. In my experience, my part-time job has been a welcome break from law. Prospective employers will also be impressed by a student’s ability to work in a non-university environment.
The course itself is genuinely interesting, if intensive. Aside from academic assessments you will be required to prepare for, you should expect to encounter employment-related deadlines almost immediately. This may come as a shock to the system, particularly the strange phenomenon of applying for summer placements literally weeks into your law degree! Though this was at first daunting, I found that by managing these deadlines, favouring quality over quantity of applications, this task can be completed around your university commitments.
I would also recommend that accelerated students make the most of their time and volunteer. Generating legal experience is vitally important, and there are plenty of organisations looking for enthusiastic and mature law students. While an internship with a big firm is great, spaces are limited and competition is fierce. Voluntary work is another way students can develop the skills pertinent to legal practice. As I knew I wanted to do the accelerated degree, but had to wait until September to start, I decided to make the most of my time and volunteer with the Citizens Advice Bureau months before starting my degree. This meant that by the time I started the degree, I already had gained a reasonable amount of experience dealing with various legal and financial issues on a one-to-one basis with clients.
Have confidence in your skills and experience
In my experience, accelerated students demand the best from themselves from the get go – particularly as far as exams are concerned. Many thrive on this pressure, but it can prove overbearing – particularly as Law Society accredited exams (such as Criminal law and Delict) will be upon you before you know it. I’d admit this pressure was tough at first. But as second-time students, you’ll already have a wealth of university experience to draw upon, and this is particularly beneficial. While much of the law was new to me, I’ve found that it’s not as impenetrable as it may first seem. My previous studies have arguably given me a broader understanding of the issues behind legal problems, than if I had chosen law as a first-degree subject. You’ll possess many of these tools already, even if you don’t realise. I would thoroughly recommend that anyone considering the accelerated-LLB should give it a go. If it seems right for you, then it probably is. Good luck!