Before beginning your undergraduate Law degree course here at Birmingham you may be wondering if there is anything you could be doing to prepare.
You will be given a reading list when you arrive and the first year modules will provide a thorough introduction to Law, but if you do find that you have some spare time beforehand, here are some recommendations from some of our lecturers and current Law students to really get you thinking and to further add to the excited anticipation of your future studies:
Eli and Chloe recommend:
A good little book for prospective law students is What About Law?. There are also some good short books on legal topics in the Oxford University Press series of Very Short Introductions. There is even one called ‘Law: A very Short Introduction’ by Raymond Wacks. The others are mostly about particular fields of law, but if a student is interested in one of those fields they are well worth reading.
Law in Action on Radio 4 is very informative too. A passing interest in politics is also helpful.
10 books by women to read before starting Law School, including:
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice: although many readers may not realise it, Pride and Prejudice is essentially a book about law, or more specifically about how law imposes itself on the intimate lives of people (often women) who must find ways to negotiate the limitations it places on them.
In this case, Mr Bennet holds property for life as part of a (now obscure) type of estate called a fee tail, meaning that it will then pass on to the male issue leaving all of his daughters, including Elizabeth around whom the plot primarily rotates, without home or income. Marriage, then, was the only way to secure their futures, and so while Pride and Prejudice is in some ways a commentary on marriage and manners, on love and on etiquette, it is also a commentary on how forms and structures of landholding and inheritance structure (and restrict) choices about how one arranges one’s intimate life.
While this form of landholding is almost obsolete in the UK today, similar property-related laws impact on women’s choices all over the world on a daily basis.
I recommend reading Richard Susskind's Tomorrow's Lawyers: An Introduction To Your Future (2013) - a most engaging book on the ways in which technology and artificial intelligence will disrupt the legal profession, and the delivery of justice. The book, one of Susskind's best sellers, makes us appreciate changes and the impact of these changes on the law and on legal practice. In so doing, Susskind’s work lays the groundwork for unpacking the role of a digital lawyer in a virtual world.
Several ideas for prospective Law with French Law students:
If you want to know a bit more about the French law making process and about a very influential French female politician, I would recommend the film La loi, which takes place in France in 1974. Simone Veil is in the position of Minister of health and the film is about the three days during which she would passionately defend a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion in front of the Assemblée Nationale, mostly made up of conservative catholic men.
If you are more into tv-series, two of my favourite French series in recent years :
- Spiral, which is a truly compelling French police/judicial drama series set in Paris and its suburbs, which depicts the French justice system quite accurately through the life of a prosecutor, a lawyer, investigating judges and a team of police officers (especially in the first season). The series shed an interesting light on the relations between the judiciary and the executive. You might need English subtitles to watch it as there is quite a lot of French slang.
- The Bureau: a brilliant French foreign espionage thriller series.
For a bit of fun, if you want to read something light and absurd with some historical references, I would recommend the comic book De Gaulle à la plage.
To develop your reading skills in French, I would read an article from a French newspaper such as Le Monde, Libération, Le Figaro, Le Monde diplomatique, Les Echos or Le Canard Enchaîné, every day.
As it might be difficult to go to France this summer, I would recommend listening regularly to French podcasts of your choice from the RadioFrance app to improve your listening skills.
Finally, TV5Monde offers a free and interactive website for practising your French through videos, programs and news reports with more than 2000 free online exercises to improve your oral comprehension, enrich your vocabulary and test your grammatical knowledge.
Abbie Bauckham recommends
Having returned from her year abroad studying at Trent University in Canada, Abbie - one of our fantastic student ambassadors - will be taking up the role of Chairperson of the Birmingham Pro Bono Group next. You can catch up on how she keeping busy in isolation, and her journey to hopefully securing a training contract via her blog.
Below she has shared a few podcasts she is current enjoying:
- Think Commercial by Ludovico Lugnani. Could Renewable Energy save the Global Economy? (released every Monday).
- More From Law by Harry Clark. Useful podcasts for those who are seeking training contract advice are Ep. 10 and 11.
- Baker McKenzie Panel Webinar has now been released on YouTube. Focused on the culture of the firm, your unique selling point and application advice in general.
- FT News Briefing Podcast. I find it hard to listen to these everyday but I like to listen to those which I find most interesting. The Episode on Alphabet's sign of discovery, Trump's meat plant and measuring inflation was a recent choice. The discussion regarding the federal laws and wartime powers was especially informative.
- Non law related: Deliciously Ella podcast on Easy ways to stay healthy at home. Mental and physical health are really important, especially in these current times. Listen for things for pleasure too.
For those interested in advocacy the Supreme Court stream all cases before them. This is an opportunity to see the best advocates in the country before the highest domestic court in the UK. Do not worry too much about some of the legal jargon, you will learn about this during your studies!
For those interested in Media/Tech Law, the Media Law Podcast is brilliant and so relevant to on-going issues within society; I would recommend listening to the episode 13 which discusses press regulation following the death of Caroline Flack.
I began my summer before law school by getting some work experience lined up. Obviously and sadly, I understand that this is not an option during this mad time, and students shouldn’t worry about this - everyone understands the situation!
Read some introductory texts
I specifically recall reading Using a Law Library: A Student’s Guide to Legal Research Skills by Peter Clinch, given that he worked at Cardiff Law School’s Law Library at the time. This deals with legal research skills, which will assist you with your transition to law school.
There’s also cool books on cases, i.e. Allan Hutchinson’s, Is Eating People Wrong?: Great Legal Cases and How they Shaped the World. I remember reading a book like this before law school and that led me to gain a foundation knowledge of some of the big cases in law, like Donoghue v Stevenson and Carlill v The Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. It boosted my confidence when I saw these cases mentioned by the lecturer in my first couple of weeks - felt like the summer was worthwhile.
There are also more profession-specific books, e.g. The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken or Arthur Schopenhauer’s The Art of Always Being Right: The 38 Subtle Ways of Persuasion.
Read some academic works
You don’t need to have library access to read some academic works. You can do some research and look for online articles (etc.) on Google Scholar.
Also, I think it would be a good idea to set up a Linkedin account and refine the information on that before law school.
Most importantly, it’s important not to work yourself into a state of confusion - there’ll be plenty to learn when you matriculate.