It’s an odd thing, but an A Level in Law is not a requirement for studying law at degree level. In students’ choice of A-levels, the subject is of low-ish rank, with 11,517 people sitting the exam in 2014. This compares with the numbers taking a core subject such as maths at nearly 89,000 entrants. But of course, many schools do not have a teacher qualified to teach the subject, so it will not be an available option compared with the more common subjects.
The numbers taking the A Level were a major fall of 8% on the previous year. This could be because subject choices have shifted towards the more traditional, mainstream options to help schools meet the government’s new measures of performance. Most pupils who choose law will be considering exploring the law as a career – and if you want to decide whether you enjoy the subject or not, the AS level would be a good starting point.
However, if you are fairly sure you want to pursue law at degree level, check the entry requirements of specific universities, because you may well not need Law A Level and could use up your options with other subjects that you’re interested in. Generally speaking, the higher education providers just count law as another subject. They focus on your grades and your aptitude for the subject rather than having an A Level. In 2012, only 22% of Nottingham University law students had a Law A Level, while as many as 66% studying at Portsmouth had the qualification. UCL in London lists law as a preferred subject for entrants, while the LSE designates it as non-preferred!
What does attract the universities is evidence of your interest in law – and work experience at a local solicitor or law courts is a good starting point. Law affects every aspect of our daily lives, and selectors will want you to be able to show you take an active interest in current affairs. Following legal blogs and keeping an eye on the twitter feeds of the major law firms are further ways to keep abreast of current changes and issues.
What you may need to pass to enter one of the top universities is the LNAT – the National Admissions Test for Law, an online aptitude test used as part of the selection process by major universities. Practice makes perfect with these tests – even down to making sure your typing is accurate and speedy, because part of the test involves an essay which you will be writing in limited time. There are test papers available and private tutors who can help you get up to speed with the content of the tests.
However, it’s an even odder thing, but you don’t need a law degree to become a solicitor or barrister! You can opt to take a degree in another subject, but then study the Graduate Law Diploma (GDL) for a year to convert yourself for readiness to work in the law. This course is only available privately and costs around £10,000. And THEN, when you have either a degree or a GDL, you will need to complete a further period of specific study towards becoming a solicitor (the Legal Practice Course) or barrister (the Bar Professional Training Course).
So, if you don’t like exams…. don’t do law! But if you want a career that is challenging and fascinating, involving long hours but bringing big rewards, give it a shot.