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The highs and lows of a law degree

The highs and lows of a law degree

Bethany Barrett


As a recent graduate, I feel as though I’m in a good position to talk about some of the common tropes of a law degree. If you are a law fresher this year, or are considering applying to study law, I hope this gives you some insights into what is to come – good and bad.

The highs

My biggest reason for choosing to study law was the varied nature of the degree and the chance of specialisation within that. This was actualised for me at university, as I made sure to attend a law school that offered lots of different optional modules. This resulted in me doing almost entirely different units to some of my peers in my final year.

While I discovered in my first two years my love for black letter law and the corporate sphere (boring to some, I know!), my friends discovered a love for jurisprudence and legal sociology. Studying law allowed us to focus on areas that we enjoyed learning about and also finish university with the same qualification.

Another high was studying a subject that intersects with many areas of society. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of jurisprudence or philosophical thinking, but the law is an interesting lens through which society can be viewed.

For example, studying land law throughout the centuries gives a comprehensive account of how women were viewed and treated in different time periods. It also works the other way – I chose to do an economics open unit in my second year, which taught me things about competition law, for example.

Assessment style

A final high is that of the assessment style. I was assessed using problem questions and essays and was usually able to choose between the two. Despite never having completed one prior to coming to university, I quickly discovered that problem questions suited my abilities for logical thinking and problem-solving.

Especially for units such as equity and trusts or land law, I found the process of following the legal tests and applying the rules to the facts of the situation satisfying as it is almost like maths but without numbers (aka the bad part of maths).

The lows

Possibly the biggest thing I struggled with throughout my degree was the pressure. Most of this pressure came from me, because I felt the need to prove myself among peers whom I felt were far more knowledgeable of the legal sphere than I.

On my first day, I overheard some freshers discussing which order they would rank magic circle firms in. I, on the other hand, would have struggled to list them out in the first place. All too frequently I let the pressure from seeing my fellow students do 6:00am study sessions or apply for 15 first-year schemes consume me when all I really needed to do was keep my head down and be happy with my progress.

A real turning point was when I was offered my training contract, as this was concrete proof to me that I was doing well, but such proof should not be necessary.

I believe a law degree often encourages an overly competitive atmosphere. If you’re like me and struggle with this, it often pays to have a wider group of friends than just your law ones, as they will turn out to be real saviours in bringing you back down to earth when the going gets tough!


Perhaps linked to this pressure, a further low for me was having to balance career and academic pursuits from early on. In a lot of degrees, you only have to start seriously considering your post-undergraduate options in your third year.

However, the legal field is not like this due to the time taken to train you. For example, if you apply for a training contract in your final year, you will inevitably have a year’s gap between graduating and your Legal Practice Course. And that is if you are lucky enough to be offered a training contract in your first applications cycle.

While a gap is fine, it is something you should be aware of, and I certainly felt far more career-related pressure in my first and second years than my friends who were studying for other degrees.

Studying law is difficult, but it’s also possible, and highly rewarding. I believe it to be one of the most interesting degrees, even if it is often considered one of the more challenging ones. I may be biased though!