To study law at university, it is important to have a solid understanding of the subject and grade requirements to ensure your best chances of securing a place on a law degree course. Although most universities do not have specific subject requirements, some subjects may be viewed more favourably than others when it comes to applying for law degrees.
Take 30 seconds to sign up to TLP and you’ll receive free, tailored information for your aspirations and stage straight to your inbox, as well as be the first to know about new, free events – what are you waiting for?Sign-Up Now
On the whole, the A-Level subjects best suited to a career in law are simply those that build relevant skills and knowledge. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how to choose the best A-Levels to maximise your chances of acceptance into a law degree course. If you’re aspiring to a career in this field especially, then choosing the best A-Levels to be a lawyer is the first step!
Traditionally, the most valued subjects have been essay-based humanities such as English Literature or History. There is also something to be said for other subjects, however, such as those in the STEM fields. Many have historically looked to the list of ‘facilitating subjects’ preferred by Russell Group universities – although useful in the past, continued criticism has now led to these universities abandoning the official list in favour of a more gentle ‘Informed Choices’ page.
English Literature is one of the archetypal examples of a solid A-Level subject for an aspiring law student. The main reason for this is not its content, but rather the skills that it develops. Your ability to think critically, read and dissect large bodies of text, consider different viewpoints and form arguments will all be tested here – just as they will further down the line at university/in a legal career.
“English teaches you to analyse language closely – vital for examining contracts further down the line, for example.” – Joshua (Current Oxford Law Student)
For this reason, English Literature is a common choice for aspiring law students. Some sixth forms/colleges may also offer English Language (or a combined course sometimes known as English Lit & Lang). These are all great options too, but generally English Literature is seen as the most academically rigorous (and therefore applicable to law) of this group.
History, much like English Literature, is a very common choice for aspiring law students. The two are similar in a number of ways – those all-important skills outlined above being broadly similar between the two. Source analysis, synthesising arguments/perspectives, extended writing, etc – it all applies here too.
“History teaches you analytical skills. It really develops your sense of cause and effect.” – Joshua (Current Oxford Law Student)
The content of A-Level History is also worth noting, though, since some of it may be applicable to the more historical (non-practical) side of studying law at university (e.g. Oxford’s emphasis on Roman law as context).
The same humanities skills above broadly apply in a similar way to an A-Level in Politics. The added benefit here, however, is the knowledge gained from the actual content – studying law at university will require you to understand aspects of governance (e.g. parliament, the courts, etc) which are foundationally outlined during A-Level Politics, putting you ahead of the game here.
Additionally, if you develop an interest further down the line in specialised areas of practice like Public Law, then knowledge of political process is incredibly useful.
While the obvious humanities subjects have always been (and remain) solid choices for your A-Levels, more and more attention has recently been given to the beneficial aspects of studying STEM subjects at A-Level. These more technical subjects develop especially sharp powers of analysis and logic, which are incredibly useful for a legal career.
They are also very well respected by universities on the whole, and the technical nature of these subjects allows for entry to more specialised areas of the law further down the line (firms working with patents, a form of intellectual property, for example, sometimes requires their lawyers to have this kind of background).
This A-Level option might seem less obvious at first, but if you’re particularly interested in commercial/corporate law, then studying economics will give you an excellent foundational knowledge in aspects of the economy and finance. This knowledge will be invaluable when developing your commercial awareness later on for, say, a corporate law firm training contract application.
On the other hand, if your heart is already set on less financial-based areas of law (for example criminal law), then this option might be less appealing to you.
This option is often absent on comparable lists of the best A-Levels for aspiring lawyers, but we believe that it should be included. Not only does studying a language build your academic capabilities, but it crucially also means that you’ll be in particularly high demand if you want to get involved in international work (as virtually all of the top law firms and chambers do) in the future.
In fact, even during your university education, this option could be useful – Oxford offers BA degrees in Law with German Law, Law with Spanish Law, etc (incorporating a year abroad).
Law A-Level has been the subject of some debate. There is no doubt that it can build similarly important skills to other humanities subjects, but ironically many law professors have suggested for many years now that the content transfers across poorly once you start the subject at university level (in fact, some will even say they dislike the option and would simply prefer other subjects like History and English which build the same skills without the content).
For this reason, many sixth forms/colleges will not even offer A-Level Law. If you’re genuinely passionate about starting legal education earlier, then it could be worth considering, but it’s not something which we can reasonably say is one of the best A-Level options to take (even if this list wouldn’t be complete without it).
Want to know if you’d make a good lawyer? Take our quick quiz!
This subject develops your sense of logic and ability to approach problems critically. Thinking Skills acts as excellent preparation for the LNAT (a law admissions test at some universities), as well as the kind of critical thinking tests that you’re likely to encounter later on your journey. For example, the Watson Glaser critical thinking test, which is used by a number of law firms during the training contract application process. If you’re curious you can try some free Watson Glaser tests here.
This option would be taken in addition to the other A-Levels on this list, as it counts only as an AS-Level. The balancing act should not be overly difficult, however, since this subject’s focus on testing acquired skills rather than any memory-based content knowledge means that revision quantities tend to be a little lighter here. Not all sixth forms/colleges will offer this option, but it is certainly worth considering if yours does.
Much like Critical Thinking/Thinking Skills, this is a qualification that would be taken alongside other A-Levels (rather than instead of). It’s also often described as equivalent to an AS-Level, and is a good opportunity to increase your UCAS points. Some universities have even been known to slightly lower entry requirements if you achieve well in the EPQ (for example Southampton, a well-respected Russell Group institution, have been known to do this in the past).
EPQs are prized so highly because they demonstrate your ability to work in a manner similar to university students – they are often run as relatively independent courses at college/sixth form (demonstrating your independence and personal discipline), require you to focus on a specific area of choice and research it intensely (crucial to university dissertations), build your extended writing ability (this will be essential throughout a law degree), and may also be the first time you encounter academic referencing (preparing you well for starting a university degree).
Many applicants to law courses at top universities like Oxbridge note that their EPQs acted as a source of positive dialogue with their interviewers, or formed a useful part of their personal statement. The benefits are therefore numerous and obvious.
So you’ve decided on your subjects – now which grades do you need? The average grades required for law courses in the UK are around ABB (with the lowest being around BBC). This increases, though, for universities like Oxbridge, who are usually looking for AAA. Academic ability is particularly important for pursuing an education/career in law, so it’s important to do the best you can in your A-Level exams.
There is also some debate to be had over whether 3 A-Levels are ‘enough’ for the top law university courses – while not the focus of this article, it’s worth remembering that even the top institutions like Oxford and Cambridge only ask for 3 A-Levels – you don’t need to study 4 (or more!) to achieve a place (but equally if you’re genuinely passionate about all 4 and think you can handle the workload, then it’s possibly worth considering).
It’s not always easy deciding which subjects to take for A-Level if you’re an aspiring to a legal education (or even onwards to a legal career). In short, though, you need to weigh up the following key aspects of each subject:
If you’re specifically interested in Oxbridge Law, then most of the advice still broadly applies. The only real difference is the slightly higher grade requirements and the need for your subjects to present themselves as particularly ‘academic’ (and therefore respected by both institutions). You’ll also need to have a particularly strong personal statement and perform well in the admissions tests and interviews – but those are topics for another article.
We hope this article has provided you with a solid starting point from which to consider your options for the best A-Levels to prepare for law at university.
By Declan Peters
Get ahead with law work experience during sixth form.
Find out about year 12 law work experience
Loading More Content