The pointlessness of a law degree

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  • It is quite interesting...

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  • The best reason for doing a law degree in the current economic climate is that it cuts out an expensive year of having to do the conversion General Diploma in Law.I agree, it's also - speaking from experience - a hard-core cram of 2/3rd of a law degree in a year.
    Although it's actually known as the "Graduate Diploma in Law".

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  • I suspect your general point about the fitness of the law degree is valid. You've stretched your point a little far though. I very much doubt that my history degree (I took the GDL route) is of more use than a law degree would have been. And of course, as you say, the law degree would have been quicker and cheaper.

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  • Spot on.
    Can someone also please let the students whose parents aren't equity partners already know quite how excessive the hot housing and cramming has become before during and after the terms - there is no level playing field here either.
    There are more law graduates now outside the profession than inside it - and guess what - they're busy having even more fun...

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  • I was for years a court practitioner and a part-time judge (as well as being a law professor). I found what I learned in my law degree very useful in practice (and I found myself reading law reports and learned articles in the course of that practice virtually daily). But that may be because I'm qualified in the Scottish system rather than the English, and am an advocate rather than a solicitor.

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  • I agree with many of your points here, but I'll take one piece of bait...
    Surely, learning how to read a case carefully and extract the various principles and arguments is a valuable skill for solicitors and barristers, and one not readily obtained by, as you suggest, doing a history degree.
    I realise that that skill isn't going to be used daily by most lawyers, most obviously non-contentious lawyers, but trainees are often required to research case law, and I can't imagine budding barristers will get very far without it.

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  • I'm in the final year of my Law degree and have long suspected the pointlessness of it in relation to a career in law. This is especially so since I did a few vacation schemes - there, the students on non-law degrees were just as capable of doing the work given to us as those of us on law degrees.
    In the same way that A-Levels are little more than a stepping stone to university, a law degree is only a stepping stone to a career in law and certainly not a foundation for it.

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  • I also can appreciate the underlying point here, although it does depend upon the area of law that you are working in.

    As someone that does a lot of commercial contracts, it is often surprising/alarming to see how few lawyers actually have a solid grounding in fundamental contract law principles, which can leave their client very exposed in a negotiation.

    The prime offenders are often non-law graduates who have missed some of the basics in the deluge of information in the one year crammer...

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  • This guy totally misses the point. Sure I could have studied any degree, topped it up with a GDL and still bagged a training contract.. but I didn't, because -believe it or not- I'm actually interested in law as a subject.

    Law degrees aren't pointless, they just rank equally with any other degree. Firms don't care what degree you have as long as it shows the skills they're after. Take whatever you enjoy. Hell you're spending enough money on it.

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  • Law degrees are not solely intended to teach students how to be lawyers. Unlike the GDL or other comparable courses, a law degree should seek to place the law in its political, social, historical, and economic context, so naturally it imparts information that is not directly relevant to practice as a lawyer. Many would consider that to be a good thing (especially given how early a student can begin to specialise in the English education system). Sometimes, the extra breadth and depth of knowledge provided by a law degree equips a lawyer with a greater degree of versatility in his/her dealings with the law, but that's a point on which it will be almost impossible to find a consensus. The article raises some interesting wider questions: Should university-level degrees be more vocational? Should they exist at all? And are universities here to provide education, or training?

    Unfortunately, as usual, DAG overstates his case in an attempt to be controversial. I don't think of my law degree as "worse than useless" and, I suspect, DAG is not similarly dismissive of his own.

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  • Why does a degree have to be subject to post-hoc rationalisation and justification as to what relevance and use it bears to a career? I hope most people at the age of 18 aren't doing a degree because they feel it will benefit their career.

    Obviously the increasing commercialisation of higher education has increased the chances of this, but as a general rule, 18 is a young age to be making decisions about your career (or maybe I'm just extremely immature and incapable of long-term planning...).

    I studied law because I thought it would be an interesting subject, and wanted to learn more about the rules and regulations that impact upon so many different areas of life, particularly because of the broader range of subjects I studied on the LLB as opposed to the GDL.

    On a side note, can anyone explain why the College of Law is able to issue LLBs to students who have done the GDL and the LPC with them? I realise that in reality no sensible person would pay any heed to an LLB from the institution but it still strikes me as a little odd.

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  • Agree with 99% of this and if only this sort of article was around when we were students.  Only comments are: 1. For the bar as opposed to solicitor I would say still worth doing law degree; 2. the money point is a good one, i.e. conversion year must be v.expensive now; and 3. Amazed that all the typos and factual inaccuracies evaded the Lawyer's editors!  Perhaps pedantry is one good thing the LLB Hons taught me.

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  • Another contribution to an ongoing debate about the validity of university education as a whole....can I make the bold suggestion that one learns a lot more about the practice of law by ACTUALLY practising law under an engaged and interested mentor. Yes, I am suggesting an "apprenticeship", not training contract or pupillage. [Prepares for flames in comments]

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  • I too am in the final year of a law degree and, yes, certain aspects of it seem a bit far fetched to be of any practical use in the world of traditional practice (barrister or solicitor). However, H&S and HR officers, in addition to those who take a law degree as a method by which to learn to research in-depth, might well disagree.

    Suggesting a law degree is pointless (or not fit for the legal profession) is missing the point entirely - the LPC / BPTC are what equip you for the practice of the law, at least in part. The LLB has, in my view, two purposes: (1) to demonstrate how to undertake detailed research, whether it be legal or otherwise and (2) to sort the wheat from the chaff at an early stage. Of the 160 (or so) students who started their law degrees at the same time as me, only 80 remain on my course... and it wouldn't surprise me if this story was repeated up and down the country.

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  • This is purely an opinion piece and contains no evidence to back up it's contentious and spurious claims. The only thing it proves is that DAG has poor research skills.

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  • I have no experience of degrees, law or otherwise but take a little issue with your point that most lawyers have no need to look up law reports. As a criminal lawyer I frequently update myself in relation to sentencing appeals. For example, it's important to know what judges find to be mitigating and aggravating factors in the commission of crimes. I relate that directly to my advice in the police station to clients. Read any appeal against sentence and you will find it packed with reference to case law. But maybe I'm missing your point...

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  • It's nothing but hurdle jumping of the highest order, put in place by a protectionist profession.

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  • As a Scottish litigation solicitor who has spent the best part of the last three days reading cases in preparation for a hearing, those days being forced to read Donaghue v Stevenson or Smith v BOS were definitely worth it....

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  • Good article. Worth noting that careers advisors and teachers have wides up to this and now positively encourage studying a non-law degree (that was the case for me 8 or so years ago). They emphasise how potential employers value expertise in other areas.

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  • I completely disagree with the majority of this article.

    Firstly, this article seems to be almost entirely focused on solicitors in England, rather than those engaged as barristers, or perhaps as solicitors in Scotland who do a reasonable amount of advocacy. Most barristers that I have worked with spend a great deal of time tackling legislation and reading cases, even if just to make sure their knowledge is up-to-date. Whether it is writing an opinion, arguing in Court (especially beyond first instance) or doing research - barristers engage with the law every day. A law degree gives a good level of background knowledge and provides the requisite skills to use the law in a practical way.

    Secondly, it is important to study something at University that you enjoy. I enjoyed studying law and my impression is that if you didn't enjoy it, you're not going to practise in it or you won't be very good at doing so. Therefore if you enjoy studying law - it is as useful a degree as any other.

    Finally, studying law and reading widely on the subject tends to provide an enthusiasm and passion for the law that it is difficult to obtain from cramming the basics into a year long GDL. Reading high profile cases that make a huge difference to people's lives and wrestling with the philosophy behind the law is invaluable in this regard.

    N.B the above is inapplicable to the study of Roman Law. Knowing about the 'animus revitendi' of a pigeon is indeed, useless.

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