Why Study law?
Students are often attracted to the prestige and glamour of the legal profession. However a law degree is useful for a variety of career paths because law teaches the discipline and skills of logical intellectual thought and articulate expression. A law degree also requires a strong work ethic and commitment. As a result of this law graduates are prized in and emerge in a number of other prestige careers. An example is Investment banking. Law graduates with good degrees and an aptitude for finance and an ambition to enter investment banking are able to do so.
Other careers in which lawyers also turn up include Tech investors/entrepreneurs, business and politics.
Joining the legal profession requires a professional qualification which is often attainable only after an academic qualification but this depends on the particular jurisdiction. The law is a broad field. Legal professionals tend to either specialise in or become associated with particular areas of the law.
There are quite a few areas ranging from e.g. family law to maritime law etc.
Qualifications and skills needed.
The law degree is an essay based course that requires a good command of the English language or such other language as the course is presented in.
However for Nigerians the preference is English because a large number of the key legal areas in the world (referred to as jurisdictions) are based on the Common Law, which has its origins in England. These jurisdictions include England and Wales, The United States, Singapore, Canada, Australia and Nigeria. A number of the most desirable study destinations include England, USA and Canada. Prestige schools of law include Harvard Law School and Yale law in the USA and Oxford and Cambridge universities in England.
There are no set qualifying subjects for studying law at University. However due to its essay based nature and the historical evolution of the common law, good exam passes in English, history and government and politics are desirable since they give background and language skill.
It is important to plan in advance and obtain advice because Medicine and law are subjects which have been attracting higher university admission grades. Jobs in the top tier commercial law firms also require a good qualification.
We outline below the requirements for the top three destinations for studying law.
Studying Law in the United Kingdom (UK)
The United Kingdom is a popular choice for Nigerian students wishing to practice law because of the associations between the two countries and the two legal systems. The Nigerian legal system is based on English Common law and returning graduates benefit from the similarities between the two jurisdictions when reading for the Nigerian bar.
Qualification requires the attainment of a Bachelors Degree either in law or in a subject of the candidates choice. Most applicants will choose to study law as a first degree. Entry into a university to study is competitive and students should be committed to the hard work and discipline of attaining high marks. A first degree will be followed by professional training. The legal profession in England and Wales is divided into the two categories of Barristers and Solicitors. Barristers practice advocacy and skillfully represent their clients before a judge. Solicitors give advice, prepare legal documents and refer advocacy matters to barristers. They may also support barristers in advocacy.
Candidates may either train for the bar which requires the passing of exams and attendance at the Inns of Court or train for practice as Solicitors which requires the passing of Solicitors exams. In both cases a period of further professional training is undertaken either with qualified barristers (Pupillage) or solicitors (Articles). The quality of education at law schools in the UK is highly attractive and hence the high influx of international students. Between 96–165 UCAS points are required for entry to an undergraduate Law degree. Different courses may have lower or higher requirements, and not all universities base their offer on UCAS points. The standard qualifications required may include the following :
- Cambridge A-Levels A*AA–CCC
- Business and Technology Education Council (BTECs): D*D*D*–DMM
- Scottish Highers: AAAAA– ABBB (Advanced Highers: AAA)
- International Baccalaureate: 42–29
- Some Law degree courses require an interview and a pass on the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT) or equivalent.
UK law school applicants are assessed based on their high school, A-level or University Foundation (which would include English and Essay subjects; Sociology, Law, Business, Psychology, Economics) along with personal statements and references. The deadline for UK (home) students is January 15th, while international students can apply up until June 30th. Masters of Law ( LLM ) degrees are a valuable investment for many lawyers as the degree allows an exploration of different aspects of the law such as; international law or a field of study of much more limited scope, such as arbitration or tax law. The LLM degrees allow students to design their degree programs to focus on their specific career interests.
Studying Law in the United States of America (USA)
To become a lawyer a the United States of America a Bachelors Degree (i.e. first degree) is the minimum educational requirement for entry into law school. The subject of the first degree is at the discretion of the student but studies which give some background such as history, English, government and politics or criminology are useful but there is no restriction.
First degrees usually take about 4 years. First degree holders are required to pass a Law School Admission Test (LSAT), the results of which assists law schools in assessing a candidates aptitude for the subject. These tests are designed by the American Bar association. Applicants should attend a law school accredited by the American Bar Association and study for the Juris Doctor (JD) which is the nationally recognised degree for practising law in the United States. A JD will usually take about three years. A JD holder can then apply to sit the bar exam. Each state sets its own bar exam.
Studying Law in Canada
In Canada, the first professional degree granted by law schools is the Bachelor of Law (LLB) or, as has become more common in recent years, the Juris Doctor or Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) which takes up to 3years to complete. It is an undergraduate degree program, and not a graduate degree program, even though prior undergraduate education is required for entry. Similar to the USA before a Law degree in The qualification path for Canada bears resemblance to that undertaken in the USA. Candidates are required to complete at least three years of an undergraduate degree. This is followed by the Law Schools Admission Test (LSAT). Application is then made to law schools to read for a Law Degree. It is best to apply for a Law School which teaches the Common Law since Quebec teaches Civil Law. After attainment of the Doctor Juris (JD) the candidate will sit for a provincial bar examination. Success in the exams is followed by professional training.
Students are advised to acquaint themselves with the procedure that they wish to follow and plan in advance. Advice may be sought from members of Bridge House College staff who are pleased to discuss this with students and their parents.