You’re inevitably going to meet some people who have wanted to be lawyers since they were 5.
At age 5, I wanted to be a rickshaw driver, but eventually made the turn-around to doing the LLB. Having always loved subjects like literature and politics, I thought law would be a great amalgamation of the two, facilitating detailed analysis and nuanced understandings of texts as well as letting me pursue an active role in making a difference to people’s lives and world affairs.
Cambridge’s LLB or Law Tripos seemed extremely exciting because of the amount of potential options I could take in part IB and II of the degree, which many other universities don’t offer, especially courses like ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Criminal Sentencing and the Penal System’, as well as the sheer amount of resources that the university and Law Faculty provides.
The application process is intense but not unmanageable as long as you remember to stay calm and have faith in yourself. The Law Tripos, like any other course at Cambridge requires you to be interviewed, generally by a law professor within the college you have applied to or once an open application has been made.
As well as the interview, Cambridge also has a written assessment that is taken that assesses your general analysis and case reading skills. It doesn’t require prior knowledge, generally doing the practice tests they have available online should be sufficient.
Some colleges may also require individual essays or exemplary written work to be sent in but this depends completely on the college you decide to apply to!
I think one of the best ways to stand out is actually having a firm idea of why you want to do a law degree at Cambridge as opposed to another fantastic university. Your interviewer will probably venture along the lines of asking ‘why law’, which can be a great time to slip in specifics of what particularly excites you about the Law Tripos, and opportunities that may only be possible as a Cambridge student that you want to take advantage of.
The reason this makes you stand out is because if you are genuine about it, it’s likely your answer isn’t going to be the average “I think it’s a great research centre and has great opportunities”, as you’ll be able to point out things that maybe the average student wouldn’t.
Going beyond law is also important; ultimately you’re going to be part of the university as a whole, so show off your other interests and how you could actually pursue them or perhaps expand on them once you come to Cambridge!
One of the best parts of the Law Tripos are lectures; from watched kangaroo fighting to understand occupier’s liability to finding out the exact value of a dead gladiator in Roman law, professors will definitely find the most interesting ways to teach you.
It is incredibly amazing to be taught by the very people who have written your textbook, and often are the source of the leading legal theories you’re learning about.
The annual law ball and the countless number of events and extracurriculars that are available through CULS (Cambridge University Law Society) and the law faculty in general are astounding; there are so many speakers coming every week on every possible subject that you can never get bored (or have the time to be)!
Cambridge can be tough for a whole variety of reasons but in particular studying law can often take a huge toll on your mental well being if you don’t balance out work and fun properly.
It’s very easy to slip into always working and never giving yourself a break, which can leave you exhausted and unmotivated, so being organised and planning your time is really important! It’s the best way to keep on top of all the essays and reading lists that your supervisions require while also finding time to do other things, because the work isn’t ever going to end so you need to find a way to being happy while you’re doing it!
For me, study time is mainly split between attending lectures and preparing for supervisions. All your work is derived from supervision preparation and essays for those supervisions, which matches the content you’re being taught in lectures.
Even though you aren’t always going to be on top of work, it’s really important to prioritise your tasks. When you look at a reading list, it’s good to check which parts of it are more or less relevant to the work you need to hand it and the questions the supervision will be centred around.
Obviously this doesn’t mean you take short-cuts, but doing 4-5 hours of quality work can often be a lot more meaningful than spending 7-8 hours in the library panicking your way through your reading list.
Although there are tons of activities you can get involved in, CULS is broadly divided up into activities based on mooting, pro bono work and writing for their legal magazine ‘Per Incuriam’.
Mooting is a fantastic way to meet new people, develop your case knowledge and practice what it’s like being a barrister, whether it be university-wide mooting or mooting within your college law society.
Pro bono work is great for any kind of lawyer who wants to take their skills and contribute to other people’s live. CULS gives you the opportunity to do, quite literally, life-changing work with advising inmates on death row, being part of the Panama Human Rights Brigade and several research projects. For example, last term I helped in research for the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which not only is an important cause but is really facilitating you to make real change.
‘Per Incuriam’ is also a great way to do some legal reporting through publishing legal articles as well as legal updates written by students over a wide range of topics.
Overall, there are so many different choices and means of building up legal work experience, going beyond extracurriculars to the events and dinners hosted by barrister inns as well as open days for different firms, that you’ll definitely find something that appeals to you!
I think making your personal statement good is the most important aspect of the application process. It’s quite literally your first point of contact with the university, and the only part of the process where you can take the time to be completely happy with what you’re submitting before they see it.
Personally, I think it’s a great way to show how and why you would be an amazing law student and fit in some things about yourself that may either get lost in interviews or you may not have time for.
Secondly, being confident in yourself is very important – this does not mean you tell your interviewer Cambridge needs you – but it just helps calm your nerves and steady yourself before stepping into what can be quite a daunting process.
Also, the most important thing to remember is that they’re looking for students; this may sound very silly but this advice really helped me when I was applying because it showed that they weren’t expecting me to have all the answers or know how to solve all the problems given perfectly, but rather looking for someone who wouldn’t give up, make mistakes but try and find solutions, and above all someone they would enjoy having as a student!
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