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 like the LLB law degree.
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.
On the Russell Group Universities list of ‘Informed Choices’, the following subjects have been listed as particularly useful for studying law:
|English Language & Literature|
|Government & Politics|
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!
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 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)
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.
If you become interested in specialised areas like Public Law later on, knowing about the political process is also very helpful.
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. For example, firms working with patents, very often seek lawyers with a STEM background.
This A-Level option might seem less obvious at first, but if you’re particularly interested in 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 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.
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.
For this reason, many sixth forms and 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).
This subject develops your sense of logic and ability to approach problems critically. Thinking Skills acts as excellent preparation for the LNAT (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 huge number of law firms during the training contract application process).
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 colleges will offer this option, but it is certainly worth considering if yours does.
This qualification is taken with other A-Levels, not instead of them, similar to Critical Thinking. It is often considered as equivalent to an AS-Level, and it can be used 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).
Universities highly value EPQs because they demonstrate your ability to work like university students. They require you to focus on a specific topic and do a lot of research, which is important for university dissertations. They also help you develop your writing skills and use of academic referencing, which is important for a law degree. EPQs can also be discussed in your personal statement and as an interesting point of discussion in interviews.
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 a 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. 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. Equally, if you’re genuinely passionate about all 4 and think you can handle the workload, then it might be worth considering.
If you’re specifically interested in Oxbridge Law, then most of the advice still broadly applies. Your subject choices should be seen as academic and respected by both institutions.
The main difference is that you’ll require higher grades. Entry requirements for Oxford law are AAA and typical offers for Cambridge are A*AA. You must also have a strong personal statement and do well in your LNAT, admissions tests and interviews.
Choosing A-Level subjects for a career in law can be challenging, whether you’re set on pursuing a career in law or still considering other career options. In short, though, you need to weigh up the following key aspects of each subject:
Loading More Content