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Student Blog: Studying Law at Northampton

Date 10.06.2020

Third year student, Chloe Moller, shares her thoughts as she nears the end of her undergraduate law degree at the University of Northampton.

It has come to the end of my degree, and after three years of studying at, and living In, Northampton there is an abundance to reflect upon. I have chosen four elements of my academic life that I wish I had known more about.

Dissertations

To those of you who are going into your final year in September, you will have recently been asked to start thinking about your dissertation. There is a great deal of stigma surrounding dissertations; many of us establish a presumption that our dissertation will be stressful and time consuming. Rest assured this is not the case, while at times you may feel stressed, it passes! Whether you choose the five-thousand-word dissertation or the ten-thousand-word dissertation, it is likely to be the greatest number of words you have written as an assessment piece while at university. But it is important to remember that you usually have from September until March to complete it; this allows you to break down the time you spend on your dissertation to fit it in with your other modules. It really is not as daunting and stressful as it might seem.

As you will know by now, subject to availability you can pick which supervisor is best suited to what you want to explore; in fact, you are quite spoilt for choice in that respect. It can seem daunting when it comes to making the decision as to what legal element, you wish to write about it.

When making my decision, I knew from the get-go that I wanted to focus on European Union Law (much to everybody’s disgust) but I was not fully set on this decision, as I thought I may like to write about Contempt of Court (Human Rights). My advice, if you’re in a similar situation, is to choose a supervisor who covers both of the areas you’re interested in-see if you can discuss your ideas with them but you must remember your chosen supervisor cannot make the decision for you.  Like any assessment, it is a good starting point to have a plan; at this stage you do not need an in-depth plan of what you want your dissertation to cover, but you could make a mind map etc to establish what you might wish to write about if you’re lost. It is also a good idea to see what sources are available, this will enable you to explore specific elements of your desired area but will also add to you research.

I think a lot of people forget that your dissertation allows you to evaluate and explore any element of the law that you are interested in. Your dissertation is something for you to enjoy and be fascinated with. Embrace it! This is the best way to write it.

Postgraduate Pathway

Some of you may be aware of what comes next after your law degree, but it is okay not to know. There are three main routes you can follow if you want to go specifically down a legal pathway, obviously you can do anything after your degree and you shouldn’t feel pressured to go into a legal career just because you’ve studied the degree.

There are two key aspects to remember with any legal postgraduate course: funding and time. You do not have to go straight from your undergraduate degree into a postgraduate, you can take however much time out you feel necessary before moving onto the next stage. If you use student finance, you can apply for a postgraduate fund. Unlike your undergraduate finance, it is not spilt into maintenance and course fees; you will receive one loan only, and it goes directly to your bank account. The loan available currently is £11,222. Although funding should not be the determining factor as to which postgraduate degree you want to study, it is something you really need to consider when establishing how you are to cover the fees of living and studying.

The courses available:

LLM: An LLM is short for a Legal Masters. Upon your research, you will find there is a wide range of choice in university providers offering the LLM. One of which is Northampton, where you can pick between one of two LLM courses and this would be offered to you at a discounted fee (20% discount) as you have studied your undergraduate at Northampton. LLM’s are notably cheaper than any of the other postgraduate courses, but do not let this influence your decision.

LPC: The LPC is short for the Legal Practice Course. If you aspire to qualify as a solicitor, you will need to eventually enrol onto this course. You can do this course in three different time periods: you can complete the course in six months, nine months, or two years. If you apply for a training contract prior to applying to a university for you LPC, and you are successful your firm may dictate what university you go to and the length of your course. Albeit, this usually occurs when the firm have agreed to pay for your LPC. Unlike the LLM, the LPC is considerably more expensive, the price differs depending where you choose to study, but it generally ranges from £10,000-£16,765. Like choosing your undergraduate university, it is a good idea to visit and research some of the providers. Although Coronavirus is currently preventing physical visits, many of the universities offer virtual tours and information sessions online. The other element to consider is combing two components of postgraduate study. I will be starting a combined course of the LLM and LPC at BPP University Holborn campus, come September. By combining the two you can qualify for student finance and obviously gain an additional qualification to your name.

BPTC/BPC: This previously stood for the Bar Professional Training Course but has recently changed to the Bar Practice Course. You will need to enrol on this course if you wish to proceed down the Barrister pathway. Out of the three postgraduate legal pathways, the BPC is the most expensive-once again the price differs from where in the country you choose to study. To study the BPC in London on average will cost between £16,000-£19,500, outside of London the fees are less. Like the LPC you can choose to study the course with LLM which will allow you to apply for postgraduate funding through student finance. There are many scholarships available for the BPC and I would advise visiting any of the Inns for further information and to find out how they might be able to support your journey as a barrister.

Legal and non-legal opportunities

Which ever route you decide to go down, you will often be asked about what legal experiences you have encountered or participated in. Throughout the year the university holds many opportunities for you to enhance you legal experiences, you should try to go to as many of these as you possibly can as they will be great talking points in applications and interviews to come. Obviously, the events might not stay the same year on year but examples of what the university has previously offered include law fairs, guest speakers and formal dinners at one of the Inns. From personal experience, I would advise that you try and go to each one at least once; also, keep an eye out for vacation schemes and insight days as these too are great in enhancing your legal experience.

It is important to not purely focus your time at university on just law related aspects; the Students’ Union at the university offers many free sports and societies to join. It is a great way of boosting your confidence, meeting new people or just for taking a break away from the academic side of university. During my time at Northampton I joined the Women’s first team for Lacrosse. Playing games for your university is an amazing experience and you will unleash a whole new passion and love for the university you did not realise you had. But if sports is not your thing, then I would definitely recommend trying out any of the other societies.

Good luck in your studies and goodbye to Northampton, I will miss you dearly.