When we talk about law double degrees, people generally assume it is only a lot of readings, late nights spent at the library, and no more.

If you are about to go into Law, know how to speak French and are wondering if the French Law and Common Law double degree are for you, then look no further because, as a second year Law student undertaking this degree, I am about to tell everything you need to know.

French map with law hammer on top of it

The Double Degree in general: How does it work?

The French Law and Common Law double degree is a three-year degree between the University of Essex and four French universities, Paris Nanterre, Toulouse, Lyon III and a newly added member as of this year, Nice.

There are two ways to get into this Double Degree. The first one is by applying directly through the French system called Parcoursup’ after high school, or you can apply via UCAS to the University of Essex. The first two years are spent in England and the last in France.

It is straightforward, each term for the two first years spent at the University of Essex, instead of choosing your modules, you follow a predefined course with specific modules, some of them are in French (one by term for each year) such as ‘Droit constitutionnel’, ‘Droit privé I’ for the first year (and ‘Droit privé II’ and ‘Droit administratif’ for the second year), the rest of the modules are in English (Tort Law, Introduction to Land Law, Land Law, Criminal Law, Contract Law, Law of Obligations, etc.)

For the Third and last year, we go to our respective universities; the ones that applied through the French platform will already have their designated university (the ones that sent them here to Essex), they can still change, but the people who applied through UCAS will get the opportunity to choose between what used to be three universities, now four! Université Paris Nanterre, Université Lyon III, Université de Toulouse or Université de Nice.

How do I find it?

The double degree is very rewarding, especially intellectually, as we learn about two different legal systems that are very different indeed. I still remember how in the first year, everyone was astonished by the differences as we had never seen them before studying the Double Degree.

It is definitely more complex than a simple course of Common law or straight French Law, as we have to juggle between two different languages, which happens for some of us to be different from our mother tongues. We also have twice the workload as well! There are many readings, and sometimes there are late nights in the library, but it gives us a push and a feeling of accomplishment.

Overall, I do not regret the decision to choose this double degree at all, as it is fascinating, it also makes me push my limits, and I think having to learn about those two different legal systems makes it easier to remember because we can see how very different both are on some points, to the extent sometimes it is astounding.

French double degree students during their first day of teaching

Here are some tips if you are thinking about applying to the French Law and Common Law Double Degree:

Work hard

It may sound stupid and obvious, but sometimes it can be hard to see what we are working for. We can feel overwhelmed or think, ‘Why am I doing that for?’; ‘I feel like what we are learning is useless, as I heard from some students in the Double Degree. But it would be best if you remembered that it is a great opportunity that enables you to later work in both Europe and the United Kingdom, which really is an asset for your future.

- Do the reading

There is much reading to do, and they are always very helpful in understanding what the lecture is about; it also gives many case law examples and even talk about the current debates surrounding certain aspects of law.

Get yourself a dictionary

As I mentioned earlier, juggling French and English can be difficult, especially if it is not your first language. Even though French is one of my first languages, I still got a little legal dictionary because the vocabulary of both legal systems is very specific and sometimes does not translate well or quickly. The one dictionary recommended by our teachers is called ‘Lexique des termes juridiques’; it has proven very useful when writing essays.

Time management can be an issue, so planning is very important

When enjoying your time at Essex, you might end up being very busy like myself; during my first year, I struggled to organise myself and sometimes even be on time with the lectures (they were online at that time still), but this year, I am doing way better. In addition to studying for the Double Degree, I’m a Law Star; I work at Starbucks on campus, and I am a Resident Assistant, captain and vice-president of the Badminton Club, as well as just having my own business on the side. It is a lot to handle, but with time you get better at managing everything if you plan everything.

Enjoy yourself

Get the most out of this fantastic opportunity because I don’t think any of us can find an experience like the one we have been living anywhere else. The student life at the University of Essex is perfect, and there are lots of things to do every day for those who want sports and other societies, such as the Women in Law society or just Law society. There is even the French Connection society where students make crêpes and other French things like this. You can join the Law Clinic and get more experience in the field.