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Starting a Law Degree?

A law degree is open to a wide range of students, no matter their background or intended career path. It provides students with a basis of knowledge in areas of law fundamental to life and hence also to the legal professions. Besides the understanding and knowledge of areas of Northern Ireland, UK, EU and international law, there is a growing focus on the development of transferrable skills. This is especially important considering that a significant proportion of law graduates enter into a broad range of professions that may not directly relate to law.

A law degree provides a range of skills for students. In particular those involved in carrying out independent research; filtering through vast swathes of material to identify those relevant aspects and sources; critically analysing material and applying knowledge of the law to answer both problem and essay style questions. Consequently, a student of the law should be able to take their existing legal knowledge and skills and apply these to new areas of the law or foreign jurisdictions. These same skills will also provide graduates with a strong basis to approach a wide range of other professions and tasks, whether related directly to law or not, and will stand to them throughout their lives and careers.

You should consider also that law students have wonderful opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills further, whilst having an incredible experience and enjoying university life, e.g. through optional modules, semesters abroad, summer schools, career trips, judge-shadowing at the courts, mooting (participating in mock trials/cases), participation in the Law Society’s or other societies’ activities, sports clubs and involvement in the Degree Plus programme run by Queen’s.

The question then remains, do I have the basic skills and knowledge to undertake a law degree? Plainly put, there is very little knowledge that is required for commencing a law degree, other than of the English language (or working language of wherever you are studying obviously) and an elementary knowledge of how society works. The requirements for a law degree are far more closely related to the skill level and determination of a student.  The basic requirements to undertake a law degree successfully include:

  • competence in the English language;
  • an ability to analyse and follow the logical steps in an argument;
  • an appetite for learning;
  • an ability to read and absorb significant amounts of data;
  • an ability to work independently;
  • an ability to develop one’s own arguments and analysis; and
  • an ability to adapt and consider the alternative position or arguments.

Of these, the one central to me would be the capability to critically analyse something- to look at an argument or a case and work out logically whether the argument flows in a sensible manner and/or whether an alternative analysis or conclusion could be drawn. If an individual is interested in the ‘why’ or the reasoning, then this is an immense step in the right direction to being a student of law. This combined with determination and willingness to apply oneself and actually carry out the research is core to undertaking a law degree.