in Legal Profession, Training Contracts, Pupillage and Work Experience

Which University is the best for studying for a law degree?

What University should I go to in order to study Law?

This is a question we are often, or “What is the best university to study law at” or “which Universities do commercial law firms consider to be the best?” or “Are there any universities that law firms will not take applications from”.

The answer is probably fairly simple. Yes – there are universities where you should be aiming to go in order to study law. They tend to be those with the highest A Level grade requirements.

Feel free to comment, but in my experience there are two universities you can go to where London law firms will very often fall over themselves to offer you a training contract:

The Universities that are clearly the best for studying for a law degree (or indeed any other type of degree apart from medicine) are:

  1. Oxford University
  2. Cambridge University

Surely this is blatant elitism, I hear anyone who went to a former polytechnic or a university with an enormous campus and low costs.

Well yes, it is, to a certain extent.

However, I can almost guarantee that the applicant from Cambridge or Oxford University will have the following on their CV:

  1. Exemplary academic consistency.
  2. Good school record (ie head boy, captain of the 1st Hockey team).
  3. Outstanding extra-curricular activities throughout life.
  4. Legal or other relevant work experience.

This is because anyone who has got into either Oxford or Cambridge University will have jumped through rather a lot of burning hoops already, whereas students at some other universities will have done absolutely nothing to get there other than fill out an UCAS form (or its modern day equivalent).

The next tier of universities to get into if you can’t quite make it into Oxford or Cambridge are:

  1. Bristol University
  2. University of London (and the various colleges including University College London).

This is because these are two well regarded universities – UCL and the other London colleges are good as it shows a commitment to London as a location and also because a lot of London solicitors went to them.

The bottom tier of universities to go to if none of the above apply are:

  1. Durham University
  2. Nottingham University
  3. Sheffield University
  4. Newcastle University
  5. Manchester University
  6. Bath University
  7. Exeter University
  8. Liverpool University
  9. Leicester University
  10. Reading University

These are probably all considered the same sort of level – still not too bad, but not on the same level as Oxford and Cambridge, London University or Bristol. I have included universities in this list simply on their reputation rather than whether or not they offer specific LLB courses. A good number of training contract and pupillage applicants come via the GDL conversion route from non-law undergraduate degrees.

Of course I am very happy to add any comments you may have on these lists or our opinion. This is based on over 10 years worth of experience of working with law firms of all shapes and sizes. Time and again we get Oxbridge graduates going for interviews as qualified solicitors where the only thing we can see that is relevant to the post and elevates them up the short list is the fact that they went to Oxford or Cambridge.

Top London law firms actually go and recruit Oxbridge graduates, not the other way round. At the other universities you have to prove yourself to the firms.

Other universities, unless missed off the lists above by an oversight on my part, may well be considered acceptable by firms, but I don’t often see Magic Circle solicitors who went to the University of Wolverhampton or South Bank University. Please tell me otherwise if this is the case.

Think carefully about your choice of university – if you are an academic high flyer, aim high. If you are not a high flyer, think about where you are likely to end up realistically. The high street or local government are more lilely to be your best targets…

Jonathan Fagan is a legal recruitment consultant and MD at Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. Prior to qualification as a solicitor, Jonathan was an undergraduate BA Hons Popular Music and Sound Recording (!) student at University College Salford (Salford College of Technology) and subsequently an LLB student at Leicester University and a postgraduate student at De Montfort University (LPC) and University of Northumbria (LLM).

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Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 17 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at www.legalcareercoaching.co.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk