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Why study law in the uk

The first question you should ask yourself is "Why study Law?" We asked Professor Philip Thomas, Director of External Affairs in the Cardiff Law School at Cardiff University to tell its readers the advantages of studying Law in the United Kingdom.

Probably, you have a view of lawyers, perhaps received from a family member, friend, or even from your favourite television programme. You may wish to be a successful lawyer in order to enter into politics, business, international finance and banking or simply practice law in your home town or city.

A law degree is certainly considered a smart career move as it commands status, prestige, employment and promotion prospects and it often has a good or even large income attached to it. Law and legal activity is the foundation stone of all social change - this means that your contribution to your nation’s development can be made through a legal career. So, if it’s law for you, then the next question is: Where should you study?

The English Law may sound distant and irrelevant to you, but in fact the opposite is true. The United Kingdom’s colonial past resulted in a huge empire, now long gone. However, our legal system was transported across the oceans and superimposed upon people throughout the world. Canada, USA, West Indies, Israel, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Australia and New Zealand are but some of the countries which adopted English Law and their legal systems, continue to be based upon this legal process which is called "common law".

The commonwealth countries still continue to work according to the common law although the local jurisdictions have developed their own rules and case law. Overseas legal professions also recognise the validity of the English Law degree and the associated professional qualification.

Studying law in the United Kingdom means a three year undergraduate degree programme which results in an LLB. This is an academic qualification but is not a license to practice as a lawyer. :Lawyers are divided into solicitors and barristers and these people undertake different tasks in which is called a split profession.

However, many commonwealth jurisdictions have a fused profession and no such distinction is found. The evidence shows that overseas law graduates usually seek to qualify as a barrister at law before returning home rather than qualify as solicitors, as this takes considerably longer to complete.

The barrister’s course lasts for one academic year and is called the bar vocational course. It is offered by a number of universities throughout England and Wales and also in London. During this time the student will have joined one of the four Inns of Court based in London.

At the end of the course the successful student will be ‘called to the bar’ which in effect means the professional qualification to practice as a lawyer has been granted. Becoming a barrister will normally be accepted as a sufficient qualification to practise law in the home jurisdiction although a "top-up", domestic course may be required by the local bar council.

Having described the process of qualification as a barrister, let me touch on the more immediate issues of where to study law. It is unlikely that you would wish to study law in Scotland, or even Northern Ireland, as there are significant regional differences in the law and its procedure, especially in Scotland.

In England and Wales there are over ninety university law schools. As the tuition fees are largely standard, the financial question become less important. However, studying in London is particularly expensive as the cost of living in the capital city can be as high as 25 per cent above that of living in a regional city.

Being relatively poor in London can be distressing as the quality of housing is variable and travel-to-work times can be long and costly. You should ask yourself what size community attracts you, where are the prime locations, what is the reputation of that particular law schools, and what do they offer which might be attractive to you?

You might be attracted to a sleepy, small town in the country which houses a small university, such as Aberystwyth in Wales, or a ‘green field’ new site, again in the country, such as Essex or Warwick. There are various ‘new’ university law schools throughout England and Wales and many in London, such as the universities of Westminster or North London.

The ‘new’ university law schools will probably ask for lower entry grades, but you should always seek to get into the best possible university that will accept your qualifications. Each university has a reputation and standing, so the better the university the higher your personal standing is likely to be on your return home.

You may be attracted to a large civic university such as Cardiff, Bristol or Birmingham. For example, Cardiff has almost three hundred overseas students from 26 countries reading law and is probably the largest ‘old’ university law school in the United Kingdom.

The size of the school is relevant, as the larger it is the more courses options it can offer. Again, make sure the law library is of good quality as this is an essential feature of a sound legal education. Usually, the older law schools have better and larger library collections and associated I.T. facilities.

The location is important as you may wish to be in a city rather than in the country. Where ever you chose, you should check out the quality and cost of the accommodation. Does the university guarantee you university accommodation of a high standard for three years and can you walk to the law school from your flat, room or hall? If you have to use public transport then your living costs will rise. In addition, you may be some distance from the university which could make student social life difficult to enjoy.

The academic standing of various law schools can be obtained by asking for the Research Assessment Exercise, December 1996, which was a government organised evaluation of all law schools. This independent exercise took almost three years to complete and is the latest and most accurate evaluation of the different law schools. In addition, you should read the individual prospectuses, visit the web sites, and seek as much information as possible about the various schools that attract you.

Studying law in England and Wales is a life experience rather than simply gaining a law degree. Your English language skills will improve beyond all recognition and some of your flat and class mates will become, and remain, your friends wherever you live. The world is becoming a global village and English is the language of communication.

Thus, a degree from the United Kingdom means that you have an international work passport allowing you to communicate, negotiate and transact on behalf of clients, no matter where they are located. International investment strategies demand lawyers with international skills, training and a fluent command of English. Your national clients need both local and international legal advice. A law degree from Britain sets you on the right career path to fulfil those requirements as well as your personal ambitions.

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