As we begin a new decade in the 21st century, the development of law has progressed steadily. Even so, law is conservative by nature: it neither expands its influence nor changes its course too rapidly. Alongside this, in today’s world of technology, fields like computer science and machine learning are experiencing immense growth in both popularity and possibilities, offering new conundrums law must adapt to.
One might therefore ask: does the study of law still appeal to many? This boils down to one essential issue: interest. While the economic prospects of professional lawyers remain decent, the economic justification for pursuing a legal degree is arguably no longer as pronounced given the developments that are mentioned above.
Despite this the core of the subject still remains appealing. Namely, an immense body of rules shaped through the ceaseless efforts of people over generations, which serve to govern the behaviour of individuals and states, seeking always to guide them according to our conceptions of what is fair, reasonable, and just.
Pursuing one’s legal education in the UK remains a popular choice nowadays, both because the UK is often regarded as the origin of common law and because of the quality of legal education it has to offer. That has not changed.
UK universities, compared to their American counterparts, place far more emphasis on academic interest, and candidates with a genuine interest in the study of law should certainly consider the UK. It is also one of the few places which allows completion of one’s legal degree within 3 years, and leads to professional employment within another year. This stands in contrast to other common law systems that employ the JD track, which can see students spending 5 to 7 years in education before gaining vocational qualifications.
UK university applications: how to improve one’s chances of receiving an offer
The below covers two areas in which applicants can stand out from the crowd when applying to law schools: the LNAT as well as the Personal Statement (PS).
What is the LNAT?
The LNAT consists of two sections. Section A is a multiple choice segment (95 mins) and Section B features an essay component (40 mins).
|Section A – MCQ||42 questions, 1 mark each||95 minutes|
|Section B - Essay||Marked by Individual Unis||40 minutes, 750 words|
Registration is done via the official LNAT website. You’ll be given a registration number which should then be included in your UCAS application.
In any given application year (we will use 2022 as an example here), the LNAT should be taken either before mid-October of the preceding year (i.e. October 2021) if candidates are applying to Oxford or January of the application year (i.e. Jan 2022) for all other universities requiring the LNAT.
Universities Requiring the LNAT
- University College London
- University of Bristol
- University of Durham
- University of Glasgow
- University of Nottingham
- University of Oxford
- King’s College London
- London School of Economics
- SOAS University of London
How is the LNAT scored?
As mentioned above, there are two components to the LNAT. The MCQ is graded out of a total of 42. The LNAT essay is also graded but the score is not made available to candidates. The LNAT MCQ score will be released in late January or sometime in February next year. You will not be receiving your LNAT score prior to your UCAS submission. It is clear that most of them will mark and assign a score to the essay.
The MCQ and Essay scores are then considered holistically with other elements of the candidate’s application, such as the personal statement.
How long should I spend preparing?
How much time is required to prepare for the LNAT depends on the circumstances of each candidate. I have seen students spend anywhere between 10 hours to 2 months preparing; with some students even starting in April before the exam to get extra practice.
If you are used to taking tests that have a similar style to the LNAT, then you might require less preparation. The only way to know for sure is to attempt one of the LNAT sample papers and see how you fare. Doing this diagnostic test early is helpful because you get a better idea of how much time you will need to spend preparing for the LNAT and, consequently, how much time you have left for other aspects of your application such as the personal statement.
Tips for LNAT Essays
Personal Statement (PS)
The PS is particularly important for the majority of law applications because aside from your LNAT scores and your school grades, the PS is the main way to distinguish yourself from other candidates.
Scores for the A-Levels and IB exams are grouped into bands (A*/A/B/C/D or 7/6/5 etc). This includes the predicted grades that you submit in your UCAS application. Therefore, from a university’s perspective, a student who scores 99% is identical to a student who scores 91% for his or her subject. Both students will have their grades reflected as either A* (in the case of an A Levels student) or 7 (in the case of an IB student).
This aspect specifically effects students applying to read law at university as they are not required to take law as a subject at high school. even if it is offered. So, how should the university decide who to pick when everyone’s grades are the same?
This is where the personal statement comes in. It helps to showcase your personality and academic interests. Below are a few key elements that will help you stand out from the crowd.
A myriad of PS templates are available on the internet. But in truth, there is no magic formula for writing a compelling PS. The best are those that are written in a style suited specifically to you.
Having said that, good PSs tend to share certain common features. Here’s the first: they all have a coherent structure. Having a clear structure is often just as important as having good content. Your are not the only applicant; the admissions officer has to read hundreds, even thousands of applications, so making sure your PS is clearly structured is vital.
If your personal statement does not have a good structure, you are going to lose the attention of your reader even before he or she gets to the content. One common strategy involves splitting the personal statement into 3 parts:
- Academic Interest - Why are you interested in this course?
- Academic Excellence - Do you have the ability to excel in your course?
- Extracurricular Interests - Do you have other skills which make you a suitable applicant?
Oxford law vs Cambridge law?
In terms of whether to read law at either Oxford or Cambridge, both universities adopt the tutorial system and learning is very much based around these tutorials which typically feature one or two students to one teacher at each session. This ensures that students have sufficient contact time with their tutors. At the same time, it challenges them to arrive at their own understanding of the law through active discussion instead of passive absorption of content.
A key difference lies between the schools in the fact that at Oxford there are 9 papers that have to be taken at the end of the third year, whereas at Cambridge there are exams at the end of every year. In terms of the curriculum at Oxford, of the 9 papers which are eventually taken, 7 of these are compulsory modules and students choose the other 2 modules. At Cambridge, there is a slightly greater proportion of modules which students can select throughout their degree.
This is one factor to take into account. Applicants who have a clear idea of their interest areas may wish to base their choice of university on whether tutors who specialise in that area are based at Oxford or Cambridge.
Ultimately, it really depends on what type of study environment you feel comfortable with and one good way to know is to actually make a trip to the campus to have a look (virtual tours are also possible).
- How to prepare
Cambridge Law Test
What is it?
The Cambridge Law Test (CLT) is an essay based examination which is compulsory for students applying to read law at Cambridge.
CLT vs LNAT
The difference between the CLT and the LNAT is more a question of front loading versus back loading in terms of when they take place.
Applicants for Oxford need to complete the LNAT by mid October. After that, all they need to prepare for are interviews in December.
By contrast, the CLT takes place at the same time as the interviews, which are also around December. The test is usually slotted between two interview sessions, so there are more things to focus on and prepare for on the day of the interview itself.
In terms of the nature of each exam, the LNAT has both a multiple choice component as well as an essay section wherein questions asked tend to be broader and more wide-ranging in terms of subject area. By contrast, the CLT is an essay based test and the questions almost always revolve around law, whereas on the LNAT one would see topics ranging from religion to gender to the environment.
Students should consider their ability to perform well on multiple choice based tests. If that is not your strength then perhaps taking the CLT may be the better option.
Common Questions in relation to Law Applications
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