Law School: Expectations vs Reality.

Forget what you might know about studying Law from movies and TV series like Suits, Legally Blonde and How to Get Away with Murder. We're here to tell you what to really expect studying LLB Law at Essex Law School from a final year Law student.

 Fortunately, this means if you are about to undertake your law degree, you are unlikely to be involved in a series of murders with your Criminal Law lecturer. However, you might still find yourself spending your days in the library like Elle Woods.

Knowing what to expect allows you to prepare for your degree and not be in total shock when you arrive on your first day. It's important to remember these programmes are made to be entertaining, and therefore a lot of elements are dramatised or complete fiction.

Expectation 1: There is a lot of studying!


This expectation is the reality of studying Law. Law degrees are hard – it is not ranked in the top five hardest degrees for no reason. But do not let this deter you, it is manageable, and you will find your balance.

A lot of your time will be spent studying independently, including reading many textbooks, case law and statutory provisions.A big bonus to doing this alone is that you can efficiently cater your studies to your learning style.

Amongst the long hours, you will interact with so many brilliant academics and peers that will hopefully inspire you as much as it does us.Some will help you on your journey to being a lawyer, and others may be friends for life!

Studying Law is extremely rewarding (the late nights will be worth it) and comes with great benefits, like:

  • Competitive salary
  • Growth and transferable skills
  • Ability to make a difference
  • Challenging yourself

Expectation 2: Lecturers will pick on you for answers.

Lecturer giving a lecture

Much like in the famous first lecture scene of How to Get Away with Murder, where Annalise picks on students in their first lecture, some lecturers will pick on you for answers. But don't worry, you won't be penalised if you don't know the answer at Essex.

Lecturers allow you to use this (sometimes awkward) moment as a great learning opportunity to guide you to the correct answer. They don't want to catch you out. Sometimes they may even break down the question to provide clarity.

You are expected to prepare for lectures and tutorials, hence why lecturers ask you questions. Questions will be based on the materials you've been given. Preparation will likely include topic handouts and/or pre-reading of textbooks or cases.

Expectation 3: You will practice Law during your degree.

Courtroom empty

The law students in How to Get Away with Murder work for Annalise on critical criminal cases and often miss their studies to do so. It would be best if you got the best possible grades you could. For the students winning Annalise's trophy is top priority. In reality you will have up to 8 modules per academic year which you must prioritise equally. Law firms will also look at individual module grades when reviewing your applications and CVs.

In Essex Law School, we have the Law Clinic, which allows you to work alongside qualified lawyers and clinical teaching staff to advise real clients. This an amazing opportunity to boost your confidence, knowledge, and experience. But bear in mind it is not quite the same as Annalise Keating's students learning how to destroy evidence for her client's trial.

A law degree is a necessary (but not crucial) first step if you want to practice Law. Your degree is there to give you knowledge of different areas of Law and offer a more in-depth understanding of some aspects of Law. So do not worry if you do not have any first-hand law experience, as you are not expected to – that is why you go through so much training after your degree.

Expectation 4: Training contracts are easy to secure.

Getting a training contract for most students is the end goal after studying for their law degree or law conversion course, which makes it highly competitive. You can't just turn up to an interview unprepared, having never studied Law and expecting to get the role (unless you're Mike Ross). You will most likely apply to multiple training contracts and may only hear back from 1 or 2 – potentially none – especially if it's your first-ever application.

Perfecting applications takes time and practice. It sometimes feels like getting a training contract is more complex than getting a job at Mcdonald's and can be frustrating. It is vital to make your application:

• Personalised to the law firm – research the firm first.

• Honest and about yourself – it will make you stand out to the employer

• Include all relevant work experience (don't undersell yourself)

The Careers Hub offers excellent support, including workshops, careers guidance and application support. We highly recommend contacting the team while it is available at Essex. It can help give some great insight into all potential career paths. The application process is long and can differ from firm to firm, so familiarising yourself is essential. The application process will usually look something like this (but will vary from firm to firm):

  1. Application 
  2. Interview 
  3. Psychometric test 
  4. Assessment Centre 
  5. Vacation Scheme 
  6. Training Contract Offer 

Important links

Book an appointment on CareerHub

Find out more about The Law Clinic