Among the blur of never-ending university open days, one of the questions I always asked the students I met was which books they read before their degree or included in their personal statements. Here is my list of pre-degree reading.
When researching, applying for or awaiting the start of a law degree, it is useful to begin reading a few books to develop a keen interest in the subject and to discover more about what the degree entails. Including literature in a personal statement is also vital to evidence a genuine interest in the subject and to show the ability to digest and understand legal texts (although the books recommended below are nothing compared to reading 100 pages of a contract law case, they’re still a good start!)
I read two books before applying to universities and in my personal statement I discussed only one of them because if you are applying to a university that interviews (ie, Oxbridge) then having another book up your sleeve that you haven’t previously mentioned is helpful to show that you have read more than what was necessary for a good personal statement – again showing a genuine interest in the subject.
Letters to a Law Student by Nicholas J McBride
This book, written by an Oxbridge graduate and fellow, is basically the ultimate guide to a law degree. It comprises a series of letters to a fictional law student in which McBride advises on researching, applying, starting, navigating and finishing a law degree at every step. From information about what to look for when picking a law school, to the skills that a good law student needs to develop – this book is basically the bible for aspiring law students. The letter style makes it light and quick to read and it is easy to pull out areas for discussion in a personal statement or interview. For example, in my personal statement I discussed the skills that McBride lists as being vital to a good law student and then showed my experience in these areas.
Landmarks in the Law by Lord Denning
Within the first few days of starting a law degree, Lord Denning’s name will become one that you are extremely familiar with. His book comprises a series of landmark cases which have shaped the law as we know it and he explains each, and their significance, well. There are various headings such as ‘murder’ and ‘high treason’, which make the book easy to digest. It is truly fascinating to follow the cases that have made such significant changes to our country. This book is the one that I kept under my sleeve ready for interviews as it is easy to mention in response to the question “why do you want to study law?” because it shows how cases and real people can impact not only the law but also the entire Constitution.
I read both of these books during the summer that I wrote my personal statement, and I made notes and took photos of sections which stood out as ones that I could discuss and quote in my applications. While these books are slightly heavier than your average summer read, reading them is definitely worth the extra concentration that they require and will certainly help you in the long run.