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
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 of Cambridge*
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
*Please note that Cambridge now requires applicants to take the LNAT as the admission test for 2023 entry.
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
Begin with the end in mind. Make sure your essay has the features that markers are looking for. We’ll teach you techniques specifically designed to address the marking rubric.
The LNAT administrators frequently emphasise that candidates are not expected to have any prior knowledge of the law, nor are they tested on mastery of content. This is no doubt true, but at the same time, it is difficult to separate the quality of one's argument from the content used to support it.
Put simply, if you know more about a particular subject, your argument sounds more convincing. When you understand the subtle issues involved, and you support your position with concrete examples and statistics, you’re already ahead of the competition.
LNAT essay questions typically fall under various themes.
Our comprehensive collection of articles is organised around these same themes, which include law, religion, terrorism, gender, and the environment. Questions are often topical, so they revolve around recent events. For instance, in 2015, there was controversy concerning Danish cartoons which depicted the Prophet Mohammed. The issue was discussed in one of the LNAT questions in the following year.
In preparing you for the LNAT, we take into account recent events around the world and feed that into our content. Using our handouts, you will have all the examples and arguments you need to write a convincing essay regardless of the topic.
The only way to improve your LNAT essay score is to practise writing. But things will backfire if you blindly churn out essays. Obtaining feedback on your strengths and the areas you need to work on is key. By practising with a clear objective in mind, you will notice a marked improvement in your writing within two to three essays.
Based on our correspondence with universities, there are certain “high mark features” that all good LNAT essays have. Likewise, there are “low mark features” which students should avoid. Below is a sample rubric:
Low scoring essays will normally exhibit:
Application: poor attention to the question(s) asked, no sustained and focussed treatment of the issues
Reasoning ability: poorly developed arguments, a preponderance of irrelevant points, few or no well-drawn distinctions, a lack of awareness of more than one possible line of argument, no evidence of independent critical judgement.
Communication: lack of fluency and clarity and no clear or appropriate structure or argument.
At the end of our LNAT Preparation Course, you will know exactly how to write your essays so they have all high mark features examiners are looking for.
Here’s the truth. It’s definitely possible to study for the LNAT on your own. For those of you who enjoy writing argumentative essays, writing an LNAT essay is not an entirely unfamiliar exercise. The information we have here is more than enough to get you started. For other students, the LNAT essay can be a little tricky. If you take Literature or IB English, you might be used to a different essay writing style. But being a lawyer requires a very specific skill set. You need to make concise arguments that drive home your point. And that takes practice. If you have time, we definitely recommend studying for the LNAT on your own.
Having said that, we were in your shoes once. And we know how busy things can get! You have to juggle A level / IB / DSE / AP preparations with revision classes, extracurricular activities and more. It can leave you with very little breathing space. With our guidance, you’ll know what to write in your essay and you’ll know when you’re ready for the LNAT. That will give you peace of mind, so you can focus on more important things.
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?
Applying through UCAS allows students to create a common application that is sent to the 5 different universities you wish to study at. This means that the personal statement received by each university is the same. So instead of writing about why you’d like to study at a particular university, focus your personal statement on the subject that you are applying for. If the university you’re applying to has an interview as part of the admissions process, you will have the chance to explain your choice of university at that stage.
(a) Personal Aspirations and Experiences
For many students, demonstrating their passion for law is the most challenging part of writing the personal statement.
Here’s one tip: use examples. It sounds disingenuous when a personal statement says “I am really passionate about law”. Anyone can say that. But actions speak louder than words, so write about real experiences that demonstrate such passion.
Are there any particular experiences in your life which inspired you to choose your current path?
For a subject like law, which can lead to professional qualifications, what you hope to achieve in a professional capacity can also be a motivating factor. A classic example would be a student who wishes to read law because he wants to become a judge in future. Another way to demonstrate passion for a subject is through work experience. Why?
Because if you’re interested in a subject you’d naturally spend more time learning about it. You also sound more credible when you make a statement like “after shadowing a barrister at Gray’s Inn, I am certain that a career in law is what I want”. The admissions officer gets the impression that this is a student who has thought clearly about his or her subject and is serious about it.
(b) Academic Interest In the Course Material
The personal statement is one of the few places where you can write about your interest in a subject in great detail, without being called a nerd. It is also a good idea to demonstrate to the admissions officer that you’ve done your research. What sort of modules does the university offer for your subject? Which of these are you particularly interested in and why? Feel free to talk about any of these areas. If you’ve read any notable books or journals, it helps to cite them in your personal statement.
(c) Academically Related Activities
Another way to demonstrate your interest in a subject is through the activities you take part in at school. For instance, if you’re applying to read Law and you write about your time as a member of the human rights debate club, that’s a relevant activity.
Some students believe that they should only write about high profile events or competitions.
That’s not always the case. Suppose we have a student; let’s call him John. John is applying to read law but he is also interested in Literature. He participates actively in a book reading group where each week one member does research on a novel and gives a presentation to the rest. John would be perfectly justified to talk about this activity in his personal statement, particularly if he is trying to demonstrate the parallels between literature and law: the importance of language and how words are interpreted. Additionally, he could mention how this activity involves speaking in a crowd, providing his own arguments and ideas in a pressured and knowledgeable environment.
As a student applying to read law, there are only a few formal competitions that you can take part in. Nonetheless, some universities, like Cambridge, do have law related competitions that are open to high school students. Don’t worry if you do not win any awards; the experience of participating in an academic competition is worth writing about and can give your application a boost.
The reason you should include your participation within the competition in your PS, even if you do not win, is because universities understand how demanding it is for a high school student to create a work that is worth consideration. Submitting an entry for an essay competition will often require extensive research and extra reading on the part of the student. The process of preparing for and writing these 2000+ word essays is also a wonderful opportunity to deepen your understanding of the subject.
The last part of the personal statement is about other qualities that you possess which make you suitable as a law student. You have to pick and choose the activities you want to include. Do not, under any circumstance, just write down every single extracurricular activity you’ve taken part in.
When writing your PS, always remember you are applying for a place at the university. The extracurricular experiences you write about should demonstrate some skill or trait that makes you suitable as a law student. For instance, writing about a debating competition which you won would be relevant because it demonstrates your ability to communicate effectively.
On the other hand, if you won a prize in a baking competition you probably should not write that in your personal statement because it is not evidently relevant. That said, if you can find a way to make it relevant then go ahead and put it in.
Always use your experiences to showcase a particular attribute. Leadership, perseverance and organisational skills are just some examples of the attributes which universities look out for in students.
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?
In the past, the Cambridge Law Test (CLT) was an essay based examination which was compulsory for students applying to read law at Cambridge. Please note that Cambridge now requires applicants to take the LNAT as the admission test for 2023 entry.
Common Questions in relation to Law Applications
Some students ask us whether work experience is necessary and if their applications would be negatively affected if they failed to secure such experiences.
The simple answer is no; it is not necessary for you to have done any kind of internship with an actual law firm or barrister chamber.
Of course, such experiences are useful in the sense that you have a better idea of what the actual practice of law is like. However, do bear in mind that there is a difference between practicing and studying law.
Work experience will only help your application stand out if you can find a way to relate it to your academic interest in law.
One helpful tip is to avoid fixating on what counts as a “formal” legal work experience. Weekly discussions with your classmates on topics like freedom of religion, or writing about newly enacted pieces of legislation can equally help to demonstrate your interest in the subject.
Start by asking yourself, what aspect of the law do I find interesting? Then, try to broaden your general understanding of this topic. Watch videos online, read some books (and this doesn’t mean you need to pick up a 2,000 page legal treatise), and attend seminars or lectures and talk to the speakers after the event.
See where these things lead you. Following your interest is the most organic way of building up your CV. This narrative of growing and learning will be of use when you begin crafting your personal statement. Good luck!
The right school differs for each candidate. While Oxford and Cambridge are highly prestigious universities, students with a very specific interest in a particular type of law may do better to study at a university that excels in this area. We believe that the most important thing for any applicant is to enjoy your legal education. This means finding a study environment which best suits your own personal attributes, not what other people think is best for you; sometimes you need to tune out the noise and listen to your heart.
We advise candidates to have a look at the law faculty pages of each university that they are considering to see what modules are on offer. From there, it is also possible to reach out to the relevant admissions officers or university alumni to better understand what the university experience is like.
Here at CANA Elite, we truly believe that every student is unique and has the potential to reach their goals with the right guidance. Academic excellence is derived from both passionate teachers and eager students. That is why we provide a unique learning experience tailored to each individual student. Named after the location of the first miracle in the Bible, we hope CANA elite can be the place of miracles for all our students, allowing them to achieve their dreams.