The pointlessness of a law degree

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  • 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.

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  • 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

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Obviously written by someone with below-average intelligence.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • "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....

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  • 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?

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  • 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.

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  • 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 !!!

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • so, what does everyone suggest to do instead of a law degree if I want to become a lawyer?

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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!

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  • 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.

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  • 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.)

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  • 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)...

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • "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.

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  • 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').

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  • HennyPenny makes an interesting point, I agree.

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  • 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?

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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)

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • This is very true, I wish I had been advised of this prior to completing my LLB

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  • 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.

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  • 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

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  • 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.

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  • 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

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  • 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!!

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  • 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....

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