The offers have been accepted and soon thousands of students will be commencing their Law undergraduate course. Well done for making it this far! Studying law, regardless of the university, is a competitive and challenging choice. You may already feel completely overwhelmed with information but it’s important that you take the time over the next few weeks to get as prepared for your studies as possible.
Before I commenced my degree last year I was keen to ensure I knew as much as possible about the basics of law. It is of course easy to think of law as ‘administering justice’ or ‘giving a voice to the voiceless’ but the practical out workings of law in England & Wales isn’t quite as neat as that. Law has built up over hundreds of years and it’s not something which you can simply rote learn and move on. As such, I would recommend you take the time to look at the following resources. I am aware that maintenance loans have not yet been received (only nine days to go!) and that not everyone has disposable income to spend on lots of books, so all of these things are completely free!
The Secret Barrister Blog
An excellently written blog exploring the current legal issues hitting the press. The Secret Barrister breaks down the issue and systematically applies the law to help anyone reading understand the limitations of what the law can and cannot do in each situation. The writing is funny but extremely informative, and focuses on criminal law issues.
You can also follow the Secret Barrister on Twitter (@BarristerSecret) or buy their book (‘The Secret Barrister’).
Watch Supreme Court judgments
And no, this isn’t only for those who can catch a train to Parliament Square at a moments notice, this is for anyone! Supreme Court judgments are recorded (video & sound) and put on their website. Judgments last between 6 – 10 minutes and will explain the facts of the case and the decision of the court. At first, it is difficult to understand the judgements however part of your studies will involve reading judgments so it’s a great way to start getting familiar with legal terminology and judicial language.
Additionally, all proceedings in the court are also recorded so you can watch these too if you’d like to watch the best barristers in the country presenting a case. These last much longer (up to 2.5 hours) and so these are a bit more of a time investment. But there’s nothing stopping you simply watching 15/20 minutes just to get a feel for it.
Check out the decided cases here: https://www.supremecourt.uk/decided-cases/index.html
Go to any local court
By nature of our justice system, the public are able to attend almost all trials – the exceptions are trials involving children or vulnerable witnesses. This means that you can walk into a court, sit down, and see solicitors and barristers advocating on behalf of their clients. Different courts run different trials, so check out the court online before you go to make sure there will be something of interest happening.
You may be daunted to walk into such a formal setting for the first time, but I can assure you that it’s unlikely anyone will even notice you going into the public gallery. The only thing you need to make sure you do is that you sit quietly throughout the proceedings and you do as the clerk tells you (e.g. rise (stand up), clear the courtroom, etc).
It is always worth checking if they have any restrictions on what you can and cannot go with. The Old Bailey (or Central Criminal Court) is particularly strict to the point that you cannot even take a large back in, or your phone even if it’s switched off.
You can search for your local court here: https://courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk/search/
Have a read of mcbridesguides
Written by a Cambridge Law lecturer, mcbridesguides are a useful resource for covering some of the basic topic areas and points of contention which you will face in your undergraduate studies. Nicholas McBride has an excellent way of written about legal theory in an engaging and information tone. You may wish to revisit this site once you have commenced your studies as having the basis of the subject areas can help with making the essays more digestible.
The mcbrideguides can be found here: https://mcbridesguides.com/
All of these resources won’t necessarily teach you what you need to know for your undergraduate studies, but with so much new information all at once it is exceedingly helpful to have a basis of familiarity with the realities of the legal world. Studying and reading with the context in mind is very helpful and makes things fall into place much quicker. Some of the Supreme Court judgments I have watched have actually ended up coming up as part of my assessment.
Best of luck as you commence your studies. And if you have any questions, pop them in the comments section below.