Information, advice and guidance
Applying to Law courses in Scotland
Are you supporting students who may be interested in studying law in Scotland? I’ve summarised some of the things to consider when applying to courses at Scottish universities, including some of the differences compared to applying to courses in the rest of the UK.
Lots of choice, lots of research!
There are 10 universities in Scotland that offer the LLB (see map above), which of course means that students can use all 5 choices and still have only applied to half the options. On the other hand, this does mean that they need to research their options carefully.
Encourage students to start by checking if they meet the entry requirements. The standard entry requirements at the various LLB providers range from ABBB to AAAAAA for Scottish Highers and BCC to A*AA for A Levels for 2022 entry, so there is scope for making both aspirational and safer choices. Some students may be eligible for adjusted offers or offers at the minimum entry requirements depending on whether they meet certain widening access criteria. These criteria will vary too, so ensure students do not assume that they only need to check with one university. A good example is being a young carer: some universities use this in their top-level contextual admissions policy, while others do not consider it at all.
Students will also need to check if there are any other specific entry requirements. Most LLB courses ask for English or a ‘literary subject’ at Higher/A-level but some require National 5/GCSE Maths or a science subject too. Currently, the University of Glasgow is the only Scottish university that requires students to take the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT) before applying and uses students’ scores to help filter the applications. For students who are keen on Glasgow and need to take the LNAT, we always recommend that they use the free resources and practice tests available on the LNAT website, rather than paying for other resources or tutoring.
If students are struggling to work out if they are eligible for a course or not, remind them that the admissions staff will be very happy to clear things up. Most university websites will have an enquiry form or contact email address and this is typically the best way for students to make sure that their question is directed to the right place. If the enquiry is specifically about widening access criteria, it may be better for them to contact the university’s widening access/widening participation team directly and again, the contact details should be available through the website.
Alongside the entry requirements, students should also consider the variety of courses available, which leads on to my next point.
Scots Law, English Law, Common Law, Dual Qualification?
There are significant differences between Scots and English Law and this has implications for studying and qualification further down the line. All Scots Law courses listed as an LLB are accredited by the Law Society of Scotland and will equip students to progress on to the Diploma in Legal Practice and later qualify and work as a solicitor in Scotland if they so wish. If students want to practise in England or Wales (or further afield) and have studied Scots Law, they would need to convert to the relevant legal system via further study and exams. Many graduates do this and it is relatively straightforward, but there are other options. The University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee and University of Strathclyde all offer ‘dual qualification’ courses where students study Scots and English Law together. Alternatively, students could consider applying to the ‘Common Law’ course at the University of Glasgow or the ‘Law (Eng/NI)’ course at the University of Dundee (as an aside, I remember hearing from the University of Strathclyde a while ago that in the US State of Louisiana having a Scots Law LLB would be an advantage due to the similarity of the two legal systems!).
Joint degrees and other options
There are many possibilities for students interested in studying another subject alongside Law, from Law with Modern Languages to the popular Law with Politics and a few more specialist options including Law with Energy Law or Law with Computing Science. If considering a joint degree, students should remember that, if they want to qualify afterwards, they should check that the course is an LLB and that Law is the first listed subject (and therefore the focus). They should also be aware that due to the structure of the Law degree, it may be quite a heavy workload and in some cases they may have to complete more than the regular number of modules or credits. Their university tutor or advisor should help keep them on track while on the course, but if they’re unsure about how this might work for a particular joint degree, then it is always worth checking with the relevant Law school before applying.
The University of Strathclyde has an interesting extension to their standard LLB courses: Clinical Law. Here students get practical experience working at the University’s Law clinic alongside their studies. This course is highly selective: there is an additional application form and students have to attend an interview. However, if they are not successful at interview, they will be offered a place on the standard LLB instead (provided they meet the entry requirements).
There are also plenty of BA or MA* Law courses. Although these will not lead on to a vocational qualification, they may suit some students who are more interested in the ‘academic’ study of law.
In general, the advice for making an effective application to Law courses in Scotland is the same as applying for Law elsewhere in the UK: it’s mostly about the grades! Only the Strathclyde Clinical Law course mentioned above requires an interview, so for all other courses a good personal statement is still the only place where students will be able to get across their passion and suitability for the course.
Students should consider which qualities good law students possess and link their skills and interests to these, showing that they have the potential to succeed at university. If they intend to qualify they should also demonstrate the same for a legal career (more on this below). Because of the requirement for ‘literary subjects’, students often focus on skills gained from these, but it is worth remembering that the logical thinking and problem-solving skills gained through the sciences and maths can be just as useful for studying Law, so these should not be excluded.
Students also need to bear in mind which courses they are applying to in terms of jurisdiction areas (i.e. Scots Law, English Law, dual qualification etc.). They should ensure that their personal statement demonstrates their awareness of the options and any reasons behind choosing a certain route, whether that is due to future career plans, or an interest in a particular area.
Work experience or career exploration?
As the LLB can be considered a vocational degree, admissions staff like to see that students have an appreciation of various legal careers and what it might be like to work as a solicitor. Students certainly don’t have decide at this point if they would like to specialise in one particular area, or even if they definitely want to become a solicitor, but it helps to show an awareness of the options. If students have been able to gain work experience then this is a perfect chance to reflect on what they have learned, but students should not worry if they have not been able to get work experience. Having legal work experience is not a requirement and they can show just as much awareness through ‘career exploration’ instead. This involves research into legal careers, current affairs related to law and the justice system plus reflection (again!) on this research. Websites such as The Lawyer Portal and Prospects are a good place to start.
Overall, Scotland is a great place to study Law, with a variety of locations and courses on offer, plus several universities that are consistently ranked highly in global and national league tables. And of course, Donoghue v Stevenson  or the ‘snail in the bottle’ landmark case originated in Scotland and is still a popular discussion point today!
*MA degrees are awarded by some of Scotland’s older universities and they are equivalent to a BA undergraduate degree. They are not the same as a postgraduate Masters degree.
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