You’ve been accepted onto a law degree course, but you still don’t know which options to choose or what future in law suits you best. Below Emma Jones, lecturer in law and member of the Open Justice team at the Open University, offers invaluable tips on pinpointing the right options for you.
Many law degree programmes offer a range of options for students to choose from. These may, in part, reflect the type of subjects which are particularly relevant to practising lawyers and also the interests of the academics teaching them. Deciding which options to take can be tricky, but here are three questions to bear in mind.
What are your future career plans?
Depending which stage of your degree you are at, you may already have pretty firm career plans, even perhaps a training contract offer. If so, you need to think carefully about which options fit with your chosen route. If you are planning working as a corporate lawyer in a large City firm, it may be that an option like family law isn’t really going to help you along your way. Similarly, if you want to work in a high street environment, then a focus on corporate finance may not be the most relevant choice.
If you aren’t planning on a legal career, it may still be that some options are more likely to be of use than others. For example, if you would like to work in academia, you may find a dissertation module helps develop your academic writing skills. If you want a job in the charity sector, you may find an option around human rights will provide helpful background information.
What do you enjoy studying?
Hopefully, your answer to this question will reflect your future career plans. If not, perhaps it’s time to pause and consider where the difference lies. It is important that you enjoy your studies (and your career!). If it’s a subject you find interesting then you are more likely to stay motivated and enthusiastic, even when you reach a topic you find challenging or there are important deadlines looming.
Of course, that’s not to suggest you need to find every aspect of every topic fun and enjoyable. Instead, you need to ensure that the parts you do enjoy outweigh the bits you find dull or difficult. If there are some options that you haven’t encountered before, it can be tricky to decide whether you are likely to enjoy them or not. If this is the case, it is worth spending a little time reading around the subject to see if it does appeal to you.
What are my strengths and weaknesses as a student?
Do you love coursework and hate examinations? Find problem questions difficult? Enjoy writing longer essays? Do you prefer working individually or in a group? Listening to lectures or participating in seminars? All these are relevant questions when it comes to choosing options. Make sure you know how each potential option is being taught and assessed so that you can find the right match for your study skills.
Sometimes, it can be a good thing to challenge yourself and try new things. At the same time, it is important to be realistic about what you can achieve given the time and resources you have available. Working to your strengths can put you in a great position to tackle the content involved in the option without leaving you struggling to develop the right study skills.
You might find it easy to answer each of the above questions, but challenging to decide which should be the most important consideration. If that is the case, try and speak to students who have already taken the options you are interested in to get some first-hand feedback on the experience. You could also speak to the relevant course leaders and find out what they are looking for from students on their option.
Choosing options can be tricky, but they also offer great opportunities to gain valuable knowledge and experience and an insight into different areas of law. Thinking carefully about what you are choosing and why is a great first step to achieving the best marks you possibly can in your chosen subjects.