Interested in applying to Oxford Law School? Current Oxford law student Samantha Phey has a lot of insight into both the application process and the degree course – find out how to improve your chances of getting an offer from one of the best universities in the world.

Why did you decide to study the LLB, and why at Oxford?

Law had always been something that I was interested in, and much of my previous work experience motivated me to pursue it as something I could do for the rest of my life.

Several personal encounters have also inspired me to pursue this path – one incident was during a criminal and family law internship where the lawyer bought his client in divorce proceedings a cup of tea before the hearing when he noticed she was feeling down, even offering to try and get the hearing postponed if she wasn’t feeling up for it. It made me realise that lawyers help guide their clients through various aspects of their lives, be it in a divorce, or when helping a business IPO and even negotiate a deal, like a confidant of sorts.

One of the reasons that is hard to deny when choosing to study law at Oxford is its academic acclaim. There is a certain allure to it that makes it a hard offer to turn down.

Moreover, it’s not often that we realise it in our everyday lives in Oxford, but going through Oxford traditions such as matriculation and getting into your sub fusc makes you feel like you’re inheriting a legacy, in some sense of the word. Perhaps mainly because you’re part of an institution that’s been around for so long.


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What was the application process like?

It was fairly straightforward, the most important thing to remember is that applying to Oxbridge requires you to submit your application by October rather than January, earlier than in other universities.

If you are selected for interview, you then arrive in Oxford for an interview. Some candidates have more than one interview but that doesn’t always reflect the ability of a candidate. Many had just one and still secured their place.

What is the best part about studying law at Oxford?

The best part is that it constantly challenges you and brings out the best in you. In tutorials, tutors are always challenging you to push a point further and develop your line of argument.

Another great part about studying law at Oxford is that many acclaimed academics lecture and tutor you, making for great conversation when you don’t really agree with their judgement…

The amount of resources also helps a lot through the degree, and colleges are usually very willing to help get a book you need for a course if they don’t already have it.

What is the worst part about studying law at Oxford?

To be honest, and rather ironically, sometimes the best and worst are the same thing! The course crams 1.5 subjects (12 tutorials, each with an essay) into a single 8-week term. Lectures and tutorials aren’t completely coordinated because different colleges do different subjects at the same point in time, meaning that there is a lot of independent work needed through the course.

At some points, the “challenge” Oxford poses makes me feel like I’m in a ‘sink or swim’ kind of environment, but when I look back and see how much I’ve grown since I was a fresher, it’s often very satisfying.

How can Oxford applicants make themselves stand out?

The first step through the door is the personal statement. This is where most applicants are cut from the process and the stage in which standing out is crucial. Besides demonstrating a keenness to pursue the LLB, your statement should also work towards displaying a long term trajectory towards the law.

For one, legal work experience and law-related accolades mentioned tactfully through the personal statement goes a long way to convince tutors that you are the right candidate to join the college come Michaelmas.

Ultimately, you want to tell a convincing story: how did you become interested in law, how did you pursue and further this interest, why do you suit law etc?


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How do you manage your time during your degree?

I split my time between work, sport and other societies. Typically, I try to split my time in a balanced manner through the term, which can be hectic.

While it’s important to focus on the LLB, its equally important not to get swallowed up in work. There’s a world of opportunity out there and much to experience – everything from picking up a new sport, to wine tastings to punting in Trinity term.

Many of my most cherished experiences in university have come both from law and from other pursuits and I would encourage undergraduates to be to embrace a balanced approach to managing their time.

Most importantly, do remember to get some rest as the short term can mean a very intense 8 weeks for many!

What extracurricular university activities can you get involved in to start building up legal work experience?

One of the most direct way to build legal experience during university is the Law Society. It directly displays your interest in becoming a commercial lawyer and also gives you a chance to meet people from the various firms.

There is also the Bar Society for people interested in the bar instead. There is also Lawyers without Borders for those interested in human rights law and the undergraduate law journal for those interested in academia or those who want to get published.

That being said, work experience need not always be so direct. When you consider what skills law firms/chambers want you to develop, that opens up a whole new realm of opportunities.

For example, being a sponsorship officer can show ability to manage professional relationships with sponsors, while being a treasurer can show ability to handle money and budget sensibly. Your extracurricular activities don’t always have to be law related as long as they allow you to develop skills that you would need to become a future solicitor/barrister.


What are you top 3 tips for getting an offer for law from Oxford?

Foremost, you should know clearly why you want to do the LLB and explain your motivations and aptitude for it clearly in your personal statement and, if asked, during your interview. The course is a tough one and professors will not want to make offers to someone not committed to studying law.

Next, practising aptitude tests can go a long way. The LNAT is something than can be practised and revised coming up to the big day. The lower end of scores typically start from 24 and tend to be from candidates who aced their interview and personal statement. Conversely, some applicants with average statements and interviews have secured a place with scores around 33 and upwards. You can take a practise test with TLP’s Free LNAT Question Bank.

Last but not least, having a great interview also contributes towards getting an offer. One of the tips is to be precise and clear with the arguments you make and to be receptive to responses from your interviewers. You can also read our 5 Top Tips for the Oxford Law Interview.


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