The pointlessness of a law degree By The Lawyer 17 February 2012 11:49 17 December 2015 13:41 Sign in or register to continue reading. It's FREE Sign in Email Password Keep me logged in Forgot your password? Not registered? It's FREE! Register now Register with The Lawyer Oscar Boothby 17 February 2012 at 12:16 It is quite interesting… Reply Link D-Notice 17 February 2012 at 12:18 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”. Reply Link Ben 17 February 2012 at 12:20 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. Reply Link David Johnston 17 February 2012 at 12:26 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… Reply Link Robert Black 17 February 2012 at 12:28 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. Reply Link Anonymous 17 February 2012 at 12:42 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. Reply Link Ben H 17 February 2012 at 13:04 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. Reply Link Anonymous 17 February 2012 at 13:08 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… Reply Link JGC 17 February 2012 at 13:12 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. Reply Link JCG 17 February 2012 at 13:18 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. Reply Link Michael 17 February 2012 at 13:19 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. Reply Link Anonymous 17 February 2012 at 13:20 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. Reply Link Ex-lawyer 17 February 2012 at 13:33 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] Also, Mr Green, my skills in proof-reading (which I still use) may not have come from my law degree but I suspect very few law students would have the luxury of “naval-gazing” … unless maybe studying in Portsmouth? Reply Link Phil J 17 February 2012 at 13:39 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. Reply Link Legal Observer 17 February 2012 at 14:01 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. Reply Link Kim Evans 17 February 2012 at 14:08 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… Reply Link Anonymous 17 February 2012 at 15:38 It’s nothing but hurdle jumping of the highest order, put in place by a protectionist profession. Reply Link Anonymous 17 February 2012 at 15:58 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…. Reply Link Anonymous 17 February 2012 at 16:37 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. Reply Link Anonymous 17 February 2012 at 17:57 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. Reply Link James T 17 February 2012 at 18:17 As David is not a LLB graduate or lecturer himself, it’s interesting, but perhaps not surprising, that he feels free to weigh in regardless. Please can we have David explain how to be an astronaut next. Reply Link Lord Denning 17 February 2012 at 22:18 Another pile of diarrhoea from David Allen Green. Only a non-LLB graduate would come out with such tripe. What next? Studying medicine is a waste of time if you want to become a doctor? Reply Link David Allen Green 20 February 2012 at 10:40 @Lord Denning. Diarrhoea is an illness. You can’t thereby have a “pile” of it. What you mean is that it is a “pile of shit”. The meanings of words matter, even for LLB graduates 😉 Reply Link Rural Bliss 20 February 2012 at 11:49 I also disagree with the reductionist approach taken by the author. Studying law for a degree is not the same as doing a course on car mechanics at the local tech. It isn’t designed to train you to draft sales agreements or negotiate personal injury claims. The purpose of studying law at university is to train the mind to deal with abstract concepts and principles, to express these coherently and to apply logic to situations. Unfortunately, it would seem that the concept of studying a subject purely for the sake of it is alien to the author. He also displays a depressing level of ignorance about the practice of law if he thinks that practising lawyers never look at law reports or articles in `learned journals’. Every competent lawyer, whether engaged in contentious or non-contentious work, needs to keep up to date. In any case, many – I would hope most – lawyers are actually interested in the law and legal developments even if they don’t directly impact on their own field of practice. This attitude that all academic study must be justifiable by reference to a practical skill attained at the end of it is frankly crass, and exhibits a sad lack of understanding about the basic purpose of education. Reply Link Alex 20 February 2012 at 13:06 Completely agree. Pointless Reply Link A 20 February 2012 at 15:51 A few sensitive souls who clutch their LLB protectively have been offended by David Allen Green I see! I think Green has an both an LLB and a non-law degree so perhaps he is in a position to comment. Obviously this is intended to be an amusing article but it also raises good points, and not just many non-law degrees can equip one for a career in law just as well as a law degree. Most law degrees seem to have no regard whatsoever to the reality of legal work, except to an extent the reality of legal work as a barrister in independent practice. Since hardly any law graduates in England become practising barristers (check the statistics) it doesn’t make sense for LLBs to be seen as gold standard in education for aspirant lawyers. Nothing wrong with academic study as an end unto itself but LLB providers love to market their courses as the gateway to a lucrative career in love to prospective students – and as Green says, the only advantage in this respect that an LLB provides is by saving a year of time and expense. And the LLB in its current form is the excuse for why we all had to sit LPCs or BVCs which are pretty badly designed courses which leech money from us. Of course many lawyers, somewhat vainly, regard law as the ultimate intellectual challenge and believe an LLB reveals intellectual ability and that is why they think LLBs have value… Do LLBs have value? Unless you plan to be a barrister, about as much as other academic degress. No more. Reply Link Anonymous 20 February 2012 at 22:44 I don’t agree. I have found my LLB quite useful in practice. I feel that my legal knowledge is ahead of other junior associates and trainees who converted. As a trainee it took me a lot less time to get my head around the company law involved with corporate and finance practice and my work in litigation was rated extremely well. I definitely give some credit to my LLB. Doing an LLB gives you legal reasoning ability that other degrees don’t. You learn to draw fine distinctions, you learn about how cases are decided and you learn about how and why things go wrong. You simply don’t and can’t get this on a course as short as the GDL. It does depend what field you are doing. If you are doing residential conveyancing or asset finance, an LLB isn’t very useful. If you want to become a litigator then an LLB is extremely useful, because you need a good knowledge of complicated legal concepts, you need legal reasoning skills and you need the “lawyer’s instinct” for how cases get decided in this jurisdiction. You also have a much better understanding of how the various parts of law fit together; someone who did the GDL is not going to understand the importance and operation of Agency law and Partnership law when drafting a Partnership Agreement because they only studied contract, without experience this will lead to more mistakes. There is no reason why GDLers can’t develop this knowledge, but LLB students are definitely ahead both in their knowledge of different areas of law and legal reasoning skills. Its worth noting that LLBs are more recognised in other jurisdictions. The UK is one of the only jurisdictions that allows people to convert, most places in Europe/US/Canada/Asia require law degrees to train in that country. Reply Link Anonymous 20 February 2012 at 23:29 @ Rural Bliss – I agree with your sentiments. It is breathtaking how little “raw” legal knowledge is embedded in young lawyers by the time they are qualified. A degree in History, English or Modern Languages plus a 9months cram course (GDL) should not be an acceptable pre-requisite for entry onto a t/c. Reply Link lead circle 21 February 2012 at 12:20 Students go to university to study academic degrees shock! Seriously – you might as well opine on how unprepared politics graduates are for running their local council. Reply Link Anonymous 21 February 2012 at 12:47 Criminal lawyers do tend to read learned journals and cases due to the abundance of law and new law in this area. Otherwise I agree. Reply Link Anonymous 21 February 2012 at 12:48 Well done to the C of L for trying to make the law degree more relevant, more focused, and shorter! Reply Link Trainee at a US firm 21 February 2012 at 12:50 This is actually pretty offensive to people who have done a law degree and have gained a great deal from it, and it is a shame to put future students off. In my view there is no other degree which trains your mind to think about things in a legal way and from my experience people who have done certain other degrees or the GDL simply have not acquired those skills. The discussion of the postal acceptance rule etc. is just a means by which those skills are acquired. The law degree is not about learning law. I gained a huge amount from my LLB and whilst I would also love to do degrees in Economics, History, Spanish, English Literature and Politics, there isn’t time. I can pick these up as hobbies and I wouldn’t change what I have done. Reply Link Bristlawbod 21 February 2012 at 14:46 A half-arguable point stretched to destruction, in my view; and if “It would be odd that anyone actually paid to provide legal advice would ever read a learned journal article” is a genuinely-held belief I wouldn’t like to be one of this guy’s clients. There are often commercially practical nuggets in those sorts of pieces even if they can sometimes be a little academic. Reply Link Anonymous 21 February 2012 at 15:44 Some of my (trainee) colleagues genuinel believe an extrapolation of this article: that their GDL+LPC= LLB. I can only believe that this is because it has been so well marketed to them. The debate over law v non- law will rage as long as it is an option (and it should remain an option: some of the brightest lawyers I know are non-law graduates, equally, some are law graduates). If someone has the requisite skills to be a good lawyer it doesn’t matter what degree they do. However, to allow a 3 year specialist degree to be devalued (law is harder than most BA degrees) so that institutions like CoL and BPP can handle out additional qualifications is insulting to those who slaved away for 3 years to get an LLB. Reply Link Pjaay 21 February 2012 at 16:50 Law is not a pointless Degree. If you must know, nearly 1/3rd of the world’s legal system is based on the English Legal System. A Law degree is a must if you want to practice law in most places except UK. Reply Link A 21 February 2012 at 18:39 Trainee at a US firm “In my view there is no other degree which trains your mind to think about things in a legal way and from my experience people who have done certain other degrees or the GDL simply have not acquired those skills.” You’re right. Jonathan Sumption seems to be lacking the skills you set out. Perhaps a trainee at a US firm could give him some pointers. Reply Link Gary Manilow 21 February 2012 at 18:42 DAG is just trolling – he only wants your attention and some confirmation that someone has read his piece. Reply Link Anonymous 22 February 2012 at 04:51 I fully concur with this article, and it represents what I have thought for a long time. I studied both LLB and computer programming, and can confirm that preparing a contract is pretty much like preparing computer code (Code: Definitions, variables, procedures, logic gates, data. Contracts: Definitions, clauses, conditions, schedules). The LLB gave me a solid grounding in common law, which is useful in my line of law (Projects), though not essential. I am 10-years qualified and cannot recall the last time I read a case or undertook thorough legal research. One of the areas we studied during the first year of LL.B was the historical property rights of North American native Indians. I have no idea how that could be applied in business. I concur that law degrees, as with other “art” degrees, are very academic and theoretical in nature with limited application in modern business, though great if you want to be an academic. Science and economics degrees do however have practical application if you pursue a career in these fields. Having said all of this, I would say that law degree would be of more use to a barrister than to a solicitor. if I could turn back time, I would have studied for a language or a science. Reply Link Anonymous 22 February 2012 at 07:43 But does it do any good to have lots of musicians who can’t read music? Reply Link Anonymous 22 February 2012 at 09:43 I agree with some of this article but don’t think you could say that completing an LLB can be worse than useless. A lot of modern contract law is based on centuries of case law and it is often important to know the historical basis in order to know why certain clauses are drafted like they are. I often see GDL lawyers modify contractual clauses without realising that they are worded that way for a very specific reason – trust or partnership law is a big one for this. Reply Link Law Newbie 22 February 2012 at 14:18 Any degree is a good degree if you do it till yer bum hurts…Going to court for six weeks last summer brought it to life for me. Now I see the connections, the relevance, the application, the fault lines, the good advocate vs the incompetent one. It’s like most things in life you only get out of it what you put into it. Go LLBers… (2nd Yr LLB) Yerravvinnerlarrff DAG – whats yer real motive for writing this banal insulting drivel? Reply Link Anonymous 22 February 2012 at 14:50 I think what your column is actually saying is that there is not much law in the commercial practice of a law firm. Having practiced as a barrister and in an public sector role the meaningful understanding of how law is made, developed and interpreted, the relationship between different disciplines and their common themes that you (should) get from a law degree and in my experiance is not as evident from the GDL is vital to an advisory practice and would have quite neatly informed some of the commercial contracts that I have had to deal with in the past. I will note that one of the best lawyers I know was a GDL graduate but he also has a real appetite for the law and freely admits that he made up for gaps in his foundation through the most comprehensive and well maintained development of his skills through those law reports and journals that you suggest are meaningless. Reply Link Anonymous 22 February 2012 at 15:36 This article doesn’t reflect my experience of practice. I have and continue to have quite regular recouse to legal research in my work. The problem with this article is it treats all areas of law as the same. Sure, if you’re working in particular transactional areas where you are doing the same thing over and over again you probably don’t need great research skills. But if you work in (as I do) construction disputes, you quite regularly find yourself having to research answers to complex areas of fact and law. I’m sure that applies to a lot of other contentious areas of practice as well. Reply Link Alicia 22 February 2012 at 21:02 heaven forbid studying a subject where you have to think and question why we abide the rules we live by, why we punish people the way we do, why our legal system is structured the way it is, why you will be liable for causing others harm or losing them money and in which circumstances. The saddest thing about a law degree is personified in this article – all it is now perceived as is a rung in the ladder to city slicker success. Reply Link Anonymous 22 February 2012 at 21:07 A Law Degree would be even better if all the lecturers could speak and understand English. Time to investigate just what nonsense is being taught in some of the universities who should know better. why don’t the inspectors sit in on some of the lectures. Reply Link H.E miss Ntinda Mwiche1 22 February 2012 at 21:38 “If one really wants to draft complex contractual documents then learn to write computer code, which is a very similar activity” – this is where the pointlessness of his article had me. Is he talking about programming? That drafting a complex contractual document is similar to the symbolic arrangement of the data & instructions in a computer program? The breadth of knowledge in the LLB helps to develop skills and Lawyers have the abilities to work in different sectors Reply Link Anonymous 22 February 2012 at 22:41 This may be true for non-contentious lawyers but as a litigation NQ at a City firm I very much disagree. I regularly look up law reports. I have read numerous articles. Skills gained during my law degree have been invaluable when drafting compelling legal arguments. Friends who’ve sat in contentious and niche departments have complained of feeling disadvantaged by having not done a law degree. Above all else though, my law degree was incredibly interesting and stimulating. I couldn’t disagree with the author more. Reply Link Anna 22 February 2012 at 23:32 As a LLB student, and someone who took law at A Level, I feel get so annoyed the firms and chambers take on such a high percentage of non-law graduates. How can a non law graduate know that they will enjoy or excel in a career in law if they have never studied it? Maybe a LLB doesn’t prepare you much more for a career in law than any other degree, but I think recruiters are blind if they think that the majority of non-law graduates have only applied for training contracts on the basis that they didn’t really know what to do with their history degree and they saw a nice starting salary accompanied by sponsorship for postgraduate study. I understand the need for diversity, but why such a huge percentage of non-law grads? I have studied law for 6 years now (am now at the tail end of 4 year joint honors LLB) and I think I am in a much better position to start a legal career than a non-law grad. Even if only for the fact that I know it’s definitely what I want to do with my life. Reply Link Anna again 22 February 2012 at 23:44 It is especially unfair to put law degrees on the same level as other degree subjects when some degrees, such as maths, result in 30% of students getting first class degrees. For law (as far as I am aware) only around 6% of students get firsts. You cant really compare them. As I said, I do a joint honors LLB and I can get grades in my philosophy modules of around 80 without trying very hard at all. I can spend months on a law essay and just scrape a first. For me at least, some subjects are easier. I have no doubt that had I done a BA in philosophy I could have got a first. Whereas add law and an LLB into the mix and despite my best efforts, I will probably still come out with a 2:1. Reply Link Anonymous 22 February 2012 at 23:46 You could say that about any degree… but when you say do a history degree for this and a language degree for that… then you would be doing two degrees which would be a even bigger waste of time. Surely if you are going to argue this you should at least back it up with something like “law firms are more likely to consider someone with other degrees” which you have not. I’m sure most of the skills you learn and knowledge you gain is very useful and not pointless at all. What a very strange thing to say. Reply Link LH 23 February 2012 at 09:26 I can’t say I have scrolled through the 5 pages of comments so I apologise if I am about to repeat what has already been said. As an individual who took the GDL/LPC route as opposed to an LLB, I disagree with this articles’ extreme degradation of an LLB. As a final seat trainee I have had a good number of appraisals, and a common theme certainly in the earlier ones was that my underlying understanding of certain “basic” legal concepts was not perhaps as thorough or as deep as my peers who had completed an LLB. I would hasten to add that this isn’t due to a lack of intelligence in my part – I hope – having a first class degree and commendations/distinctions at GDL/LPC. I am happy with the route I took, and don’t think that in the long term there will be a significant difference as my exposure to legal concepts continues, but I do not think it’s fair to state that LLBs are “less than useless”, certainly as a trainee I can see the benefits that my colleagues are reaping from having done an LLB. Reply Link Holly 23 February 2012 at 13:26 This is a welll worded debating piece. BUT 1. Costs issues are significant to the choice 2. The foundations laid down in a good law degree ARE very useful skills, easy to undervalue 3.As someone practising commercial lit and employment but who has had to swop specialisms within those fields it provides confidence to swop fields within the legal sector 4. I regularly read cases and articles. It is critical for what I do. I’m an advocate. My law degree was invaluable 5. I loved the study of law (decades ago) and it confirmed my decision to join the profession Reply Link Anonymous 23 February 2012 at 13:37 I did the 1 year postgrad diploma and, apart from constitutional and jurisprudential aspects, found the whole thing deeply tedious as none of the statutory, caselaw and legal categories covered and crammed for were put into any kind of context (whether legal, political, social, economic, historical, or practical)…I’d like to think the full law degree gives more scope to do this..but probably not. Reply Link Gary Yam 23 February 2012 at 14:44 By this rationale, it would be better to take on the sex workers with the LLBs. There would be a natural synergy when it comes to billing in £200 ph in blocks. Reply Link Anonymous 23 February 2012 at 14:54 Obviously written by someone with below-average intelligence. Reply Link Anonymous 23 February 2012 at 17:14 I think this gentleman overstates his case. Certainly being a good lawyer is not about whether you have a law degree or not. However, it is alarming how little many lawyers in this country know about the basic principles of law from jurisprudence to civil, criminal, tort, wills and probate etc. You may also note that UK non-law graduates are not automatically accepted in many jurisdictions for exams such as the New York and California Bar exams. In many common law countries, NZ, Australia, Nigeria a law degree is a must- and they make better, more grounded and more knowledgeable lawyers. Reply Link Anonymous 23 February 2012 at 21:16 After reading this ridiculous article, I can tell a couple of things about the author. First, he has not read law at university. Second, he has not practiced law. The big flaw in his argument is when he outlines all the different elements and then recommends an alternative degree. What if an aspiring practitioner wants to do all of those things outlined whilst studying for a degree. In which case, the LL.B. is the only degree that can fulfil such an aspiration. Herein lies the worth of the Law Degree. It is the culmination and the diversity of skills that can be developed where the LL.B. shines. On a final note, I’d love this prat to inform Oxford or Harvard that their law degree is pointless. Reply Link Emma 23 February 2012 at 22:16 “As a LLB student, and someone who took law at A Level, I feel get so annoyed the firms and chambers take on such a high percentage of non-law graduates. How can a non law graduate know that they will enjoy or excel in a career in law if they have never studied it?” From personal experience, I’ve found that firms who take on non-law graduates prefer those who’ve had legal work experience, thus demonstrating that they do in fact know that a career in law is what they wish to enter into. Also, the expense which graduates put them through to complete the GDL and then the LP/BPTC shows dedication in my opinion – they’re unlikely to invest so much time and money without really considering whether this is the career that they wish to pursue…. Most other graduate career paths don’t have an associated degree, so people have no experience of those either…. Reply Link Spike 24 February 2012 at 14:25 What a load of tosh. The knowledge I gained on my law degrees is something I have constantly used in practice – over 20 years. It is occasionally noticeable that those who have qualified through cramming their way through a conversion course have sometimes quite astonishing gaps in their legal education. It wastes my time and my clients’ money having to complete these second grade practioners’ legal education. As for never looking up a law report – how else could one understand a key judgment? Reply Link Anonymous 24 February 2012 at 14:27 Is this a bit of a sweeping accusation? Perhaps this is true of many ‘traditional’ law LLBs, however, there are certainly LLBs available which do teach many of the more ‘practical’ elements which lawyers use on an everyday basis. The relatively new York Law School is a good example of this. Reply Link davis mavunduse 24 February 2012 at 22:33 a weapon is only as good as its owner……I wouldn’t completely rule out the usefulness of a law degree or any degree for that matter. however it is up to the owner of the degree to use it in a manner in which they see fit…..the realities of the working world are always different from the academic world (the taught world) but hey give me lemons and i will make lemonade……innovate !!! Reply Link Clever Cloggs 25 February 2012 at 02:42 As a holder of both law and non law degrees and as a solicitor turned barrister, I say what a load of Horlicks. For anyone considering the profession, a law degree is invaluable. I thought that old buffer types who boast of not having read a case in years had gone the way of the dinosaurs, but sadly it seems that is not the case. I would say I’ve looked up some law every day in practice for the last 25 years. The fact that undergrad law degrees focus on pure law for 3 years and not practice skills like clause drafting is a good thing. You can pick all that up later on the job. On the other hand, I’d say anyone not intending to be a lawyer should not consider spending their precious years at uni doing law just because it seems “interesting”. Spend the time on something that will enrich your life more like science, philosophy or literature. Reply Link Anonymous 26 February 2012 at 09:10 I completely disagree. I am currently studying an LLB in Hertfordshire and we draft injunctions, memo, run meditations and practice advocacy skills such as drafting opening speeches and cross examining witnesses etc. It is not all about learning the law. Reply Link pl 27 February 2012 at 13:15 so, what does everyone suggest to do instead of a law degree if I want to become a lawyer? Reply Link emma odanga 27 February 2012 at 15:16 This writer forgets that GDL is a truncated LLB. You can poke fun at the real deal but all the other degrees that have you mentioned as its match, equivalent will never prepare prospective Lawyers as the old faithful LLB does. Reply Link Anonymous 27 February 2012 at 15:28 True – I suppose when clients meet a very impressive lawyer, they don’t automatically assume “oh, that lawyer must have done a law degree”. They would rather, most probably ask where that person was trained. Reply Link Cynical 27 February 2012 at 16:43 Law degree, non-law degree, who cares. You’ve got so little chance of getting a TC or pupilage it doesn’t matter either way. Do something more worthwhile and fulfilling as a way of life than the private practice hell many people wind up in! Reply Link Anonymous 27 February 2012 at 21:29 I did English followed by GDL+LPC. I loved every minute of my degree and I did extremely well at law school – as someone else mentioned the fact that the fundamental principles of contract and tort were fresh in my mind was a considerable advantage on the LPC as those are subjects generally taken in the first year of an LLB. As a trainee I have observed no significant differences between my performance and that of my peers who studied law. At my firm about 60% of my intake studied subjects other than law so an LLB is clearly not seen as essential. It is obviously ridiculous to suggest that an LLB is pointless for the would-be lawyer, but I do think it is important that people realise that it is not the only route into the law. I’m sure that the vast majority of people choosing the LLB do do because they want to be lawyers, not because they are passionate about the law – how could they be? They’re 18 and have likely never studied it (yet 21yr old graduates studying the GDL can’t possibly know what they’re doing…). The LLB is a difficult degree and it is presumably more difficult if you’re not enjoying it. Then it comes to TC application time and you have to answer a load of legal questions while your non-law peers get asked about their work experience placements and hobbies, and are valued for the ‘diversity’ they bring to the workplace. For all the people who would have been happier studying English or history or languages or whatever, but did an LLB cos their parents/teachers told them it was a good career, it really is pointless. Reply Link Bristlawbod 28 February 2012 at 13:14 My Degree in ‘Advanced Frisbee and the Cooking of Frittata (AFCF)’ has stood me in good stead as a lawyer; my Law degree less so. Obvious really. The above article is of course quite brilliant and not intended in the least to provoke reaction. (Note to self: don’t bother to read anything else by him.) Reply Link ALH 28 February 2012 at 13:16 For those commenting, not very much research would reveal that (according to his profile at Preiskel & Co) the author is ‘Of Counsel’ with the following background: “David was educated at the Universities of Oxford and Birmingham and was called to the Bar in 1999. He cross-qualified as a solicitor in 2001 and has since worked for leading City law firms and the Treasury Solicitor. He joined Preiskel & Co in 2009 so as to develop his own commercial, media and technology law practice.” That said, I’d hate to rely on legal advice from someone who didn’t read any form of law reports or articles and I suspect this may be an exaggeration (or perhaps a provocation)… Reply Link Anonymous 28 February 2012 at 13:50 As a second year LLB student at Durham, I’ve must say that I completely agree with the points made in the article. The most useful thing to be gained from this LLB is determination and a tolerance for caffeine. Contrary to what the academic staff say their courses impart about as much ‘commercial awareness’ or practical knowledge as page 3 of the Sun. Sure, if you love the law and could see yourself spending your life in academia, then it’s clearly a fantastic option. For the rest of us who are simply looking at the LLB (and certainly the reputation it carries) as a stepping stone into a legal career it’s nothing more than 3 years of late nights and significantly more stress than counterparts on other degree courses. If I had my choices again I would certainly have chosen to study another course and then convert – the GDL may cover a lot in a short amount of time, but at least it removes a large chunk of the theoretical rubbish that most universities certainly do not mention in their LLB brochures. Reply Link Anonymous 28 February 2012 at 17:40 Another argument against a law degree is what happens (as it so often does) when you can’t get a training contract ? you then have to spend the rest of life explaining to yourself and to others that you could not find employment in your chosen profession. Add to this the cost ofthen needing to train in another field and the irritation caused by the fact that non-law graduates secure training contracts. Better to do something interesting, do well at it and convince a firm to give you a training contract and pay for the conversion course. Reply Link PAS 28 February 2012 at 18:24 “The one thing a law degree is not particularly useful for is the practice of law” – only if you discount the Bar and litigators. These two contingents are formed of a lot of lawyers. “There is little or nothing in a standard law degree which equips the average lawyer with the knowledge or skills of everyday legal work. Most professional lawyers have had no need to look up a law report for years. It would be odd that anyone actually paid to provide legal advice would ever read a learned journal article” – again, discounting the Bar and litigators here. These two contingents are formed of a lot of lawyers. I’d personally be dismayed if the barristers I instruct did not look at cases to shore up their opinions, and I’d be similarly dismayed if I tried to advance points to the other side without checking what the law says on the subject. I cannot speak too authoritatively for non-contentious lawyers, but I can’t imagine that, for example, employment lawyers do not look at case law reports, legislation, etc, or that corporate lawyers do not look at clauses they’ve drafted and compare them to what the courts have said about the enforceability of such clauses. Reply Link David 29 February 2012 at 13:54 Utter rubbish. Well almost. I am a commercial law partner; I read caselaw and learned articles regularly, both in order to stay on top of my game, and in order to maintain a broader understanding of the issues. And it is vital to my profession: how would I go about advising my client what their risks are if I did not know how the law treats them? And I regularly watch lawyers who do not know this lose their points in negotiation. The fundamentals for this knowledge are laid in the basic legal education. Now if the writer wants to suggest that there is much more to legal practice than knowing caselaw – yes there is. And if he wants to suggest that these skills are not acquired through a law degree (or even the LPC) – no they’re not. But that doesn’t make what is taught in those courses irrelevant. Just one example, based on his disparaging references to postal acceptance, consideration and intention to create legal relations: if one did not have a firm grip on the essentials of contract formation, how would one go about advising an online business on whether they have managed to incorporate their terms and conditions into their contracting. You will remember that a failure to spot this was at the basis of Hoover’s promotional problems (type ‘Hoover’ and ‘flights’ into Google, and it’s first prompt is to add the word ‘fiasco’). Reply Link Fratonistery 29 February 2012 at 14:43 HennyPenny makes an interesting point, I agree. Reply Link Anonymous 29 February 2012 at 18:33 At least a law degree will teach students the importance of the rule of law and give them a handle on constitutional issues. Perhaps these things seem irrelevant to commercial practice – but if lawyers have not been educated to protect the rule of law then who will? Reply Link ModelTrainee 2 March 2012 at 14:41 I’m afraid I have to disagree entirely. My law degree taught me the basics of everything I needed to know in becoming a trainee solicitor – contract, tort, equity and trusts, company and commercial law. A law degree is not advertised as being able to transform you into the perfect lawyer, nor teach you everything you will ever need to know. Rather, it is a foundation. The Legal Practice Course, though dry, is much more about bringing budding lawyers up to speed with the realities of a commercial legal environment, and the training contract even more so. If the degree purported to prepare junior lawyers fully for practice, neither the LPC or the TC would be required. Sure, the bulk of what I have learnt so far has been through working on live matters during my TC, but I’m the first to admit that it would have been extremely confusing without already understanding the basics. You wouldn’t expect a junior doctor to know everything from reading books, which is why they also complete placements akin to a lawyer’s TC. The same goes for almost any highly skilled profession where liability or negligence are potential issues. I wonder whether Mr Green has confused a law degree being “worse than useless” with the generalisation that students don’t pay attention at university. If you skip lectures and generally carry a blasé attitude, any degree is as worthless as the next. But if that is your attitude, you were never cut out for a career in law in the first place. Reply Link Arseniy 3 March 2012 at 08:10 How could you draft the contract if you do not know the theory of law? How can you draft the contract of sale if you do not know what is it? I disagree, my experience of law education shows that the law education in UK is very practical. Reply Link Simon Cairns 5 March 2012 at 13:16 Although I recall my GDL colleagues at Bar School saying “oh we didn’t do that” more often than not when comparing their course to my LLB, several of them went on to the Bar and are very successful seniors now. The point above about “doing what you love” is right on the money whether it be your choice of degree, practice area, or indeed chosen career if not in the law. Reply Link Mohamed Elmogy 6 March 2012 at 05:17 Generally, I agree with some points in the article, however I have different view in below points: 1. If one wants to learn how to use documentary evidence, then do a history degree, – Yes, but in historical topics, not in legal matters. Law students learn how to assess whether a certain document can affect the case or not. 2. If one enjoys words then study and enjoy literature or languages, – I agree, but in order to use the proper legal wording/terminology, one should study law. We have been told – in law school – that they build the legal concept in our minds. Drafting a legal document requires someone who studied law for sure. 3. If one really wants to draft complex contractual documents then learn to write computer code, – A lawyer will not be able to create legal relations without knowing the legal concepts of these relations, identifying parties’ intentions and the all-in-all from of a contract is an asset for any one who drafts a contract. Without law studies, no one can be able to draft proper legally formed contract. 4. if one wants to know how to construct a compelling argument then do a degree in philosophy, – Sometimes this argument is based upon a precedent or legal search, which can not be done by a philosophy degree holder. Above comments are based upon the legal system where I practice (Middle East – Civil system) Reply Link Anonymous 7 March 2012 at 12:38 An interesting perspective, but completely wrong. Anyone tried winning an argument over a contractual clause against someone who knows the legal reasons why the clause is there, can justify its content and existence, when you cannot? Yes, you lose the argument for not knowing the law. Try being a tax lawyer, an IP lawyer (transactional or not ), a regulatory law (to give a few examples) without being entirely on top of the law in your field. A good law degree can be hugely helpful in being ahead of the game, which is not to say that you cannot learn on the job too….. What this article misses is the real reasons for not doing a law degree: a) You want to study something else at degree level (sciences, languages – all good and potentially useful); b) Law is on average more difficult to get into; c) Law firms discriminate against law degrees, because they forget to take into account that the degree is harder to get in for AND harder to obtain a 2:1 or above (look at the entry requirements and the exit degrees of students for law vs other subjects at one and the same university). Perhaps the author should declare what HIS degree is in and whether he enjoyed it and we will then see more justification for his unpersuasive arguments. Reply Link Jaro Bernat 8 March 2012 at 13:59 Stand back and see the bigger picture (if you have an LLB you might know how to do it). You make it sound as though an LLB student was expected to start drafting a major contract 2 weeks after graduation. There is no degree that will prepare you for a “proper” career because individual modules at the academic level have to be just that – academic. There are principles to learn, one has be made aware of developments and the reasons behind them. Law is more than a collection of statutes and rationes decidendi. Studying philosophy or literature might load your head with big words and clever expressions but that can only lead to one thing: drafting documents that can only be understood by fellow nerds (ever read a book/album/play review and not understood half of what the reviewer had been saying??). I have studied computer programming and, as you say, algorithmic thinking helps put things in a logical order but it is no more of a stepping stone into contract drafting than learning to answer complex problem questions. Unlike the alternatives you mention, an LLB teaches you a mixture of skills that you can build upon. If a student fails to achieve his full potential, he has only himself to blame. Research cultivates the human mind, if nothing else. In any case, a lawyer who gets by without having to do some form of legal research at some point should consider calling himself an administrative worker, paper pusher, copy-paste clerk or similar. Your music analogy is weak. No one is saying that if you are doing an LLB you cannot at the same time engage in pro bono work or get work experience – that way you could start plucking those strings while learning to read sheet music. Unfortunately, your views seem to be endorsed by many professionals and therefore they will be accepted as correct. The world no longer needs well-rounded professionals. What it needs is money-making machines that have been taught enough to carry out mundane tasks. That is the same reason why “unimportant” degrees are being scrapped: society can no longer be bothered to waste money on something like exotic degrees. In a decade or two there will only be economists, accountants and, if you shout loudly enough and your views are implemented, Contract Drafters and Argument Compilers. Would you say that anyone wishing to become a GP should only learn about flu and possibly two other common illnesses? That way he could convert from history to medicine within a year and help 90% of his patients – it would make economic sense. How much skill does it take to identify flu and recommend drinking plenty of liquids? Your views do give me some hope, though. If you are right then I, and thousands of other LLB graduates, might simply take the fast-track Legal Executive route and skip the LPC and training contract madness. From what I hear, Legal Executives only learn what their specialist field requires. However, I am not sure how those elitist snobs view executives and the move might prove to be the last nail in the LLB graduate’s coffin. Reply Link Anonymous 8 March 2012 at 22:41 Whilst I would not say that a law degree is pointless, it is not where you learn about legal practice. I hold degrees in both history and politics and a law degree and I can hand on heart say that a law degree is not as academically demanding as my former degree. Learnt more academic skills on my BA, learnt the legal principles in my LLB and gained the practicalities of law whilst working as a secretary during my university years. Reply Link Aldo Navato 31 March 2012 at 09:16 I am on the final 3 month stretch of the LPC along with 6 other ex-GDL and 20 ex-LLB and there is no difference in the contributions made to sessions nor the results that are achieved by either camp. The LLB students have an advantage in being exposed to the need to arrange a Training Contract before the GDL students. Reply Link Anonymous 7 April 2012 at 14:56 I would imagine, from what I have observed, the most useful qualification is accountancy and the ability to juggle. Just think of racing through two accounts in court, in one day, through manipulation of the clients and to hell with justice; there is rent to pay and overheads. Reply Link Mary 22 November 2012 at 17:06 This is very true, I wish I had been advised of this prior to completing my LLB Reply Link Sidewinder 22 November 2012 at 21:35 Hello. Seems you’ve stopped thinking straight since I’ve been away. Fact is that when I have a problem I don’t brief anyone who doesn’t know what they are doing. I mean if you are under the knife you don’t want someone who has a degree in Estrucan pottery on the job with a few training DVDs under the belt. I like a bloke with a law degree from Oxbridge. Mind you, I might go for a Durham or Bristol type cos they probably had a bad day at the interview and couldn’t describe an artichoke to an alien. Reply Link Kenny Burgoyne 19 February 2013 at 22:25 This is brill, the comments are just as good. Posted it to facebooks Open Uni law student group where the subject of will we, can we, is it worth it is always on the agenda. Really funny with a generous portion of honesty including the comments. Thanks Reply Link Anonymous 1 March 2013 at 14:23 I’m doing the LPC… and the only thing fun about law (so far) has been the final year of my law degree. I’m holding on to that, because the rest is awful. Reply Link Jess Isaacs 11 June 2013 at 15:06 Say what will about it’s pointlessness if you have a 2:1 or higher in Law on your CV employers will think slightly longer before throwing it in the bin Reply Link Anonymous 2 September 2013 at 10:24 I have seen and read everyone’s ideas but to be honest law is not as crucial as economics because everything currently runs with business you cannot tell me that you will only rely on your law carrier what if you don’t have clients at the moment and you are not flexible yet you spent alot studying law……..::seriously!! Reply Link Dani 7 February 2014 at 18:11 This article is absolutely SPOT ON. I remember after the 4 years of studying my law degree (joint honours) with American Studies, coming out of Uni foggy brained and wondering to myself what I had actually learned. I shortly came to the conclusion that this was NOTHING. Well, actually I had learned how pointless my law degree was. It was boring, tedious and monotonous and taught me nothing about the real world and the practicality of working in the legal sector. It is only now, 7 years later that I have taken it upon myself to retrain for possible work in the legal sector that I am actually beginning to learn something, from an online distance learning course no less – that costs a vast amount less than the pointlessness of my degree. I have learned a great deal from doing odd jobs here and there, met people from all walks of life and backgrounds. Yes, I don’t earn much (yet), but I’m certainly learning more than i was when I was being forced to flog a dead in my law lectures. Turns about I’m a far better teacher than most of my lecturers could ever be…. Reply Link alex porter 21 February 2015 at 14:51 Deciding to do a law degree at 31 years of age was the worst decision I’ve ever made. I am now 37 unemployed and apparently unemployable. It is impossible to get a job in a law firm as they want 23 year olds and I cannot get so much as a cleaning job to tide me over because nobody will touch a graduate as they think I will leave if something better turns up. The law firms that want paralegal applicants to have a minimum of a law degree and the LPC are having a laugh, it is an uqualified role! Unless your daddy owns a law firm or you are young and go to the right university you are wasting your time. I have been left unemployed with a £30k debt and can’t even claim benefits as my partner works over 24 hours a week. The only winner out of it all is the university I went to. Reply Link Name Email Cancel reply Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.