What I wish I knew before my First Year of Law School
Theodore Ka Fai Fung is a first-year law student (Bachelor of Laws LLB) at King’s College London. The main purpose of the following article is to help students who wish to read law at university to gain insight into what studying law at King’s is like. In the article below, Theodore will try to give three examples of what he wishes he knew in his first year of law school.
1. A little bit of extra reading before the first year of law school can help.
Most universities in the UK, including King’s, do not have prerequisites for the undergraduate law degree on what applicants need to study in secondary school, though they might recommend doing at least one subject with essay-writing requirements. In fact, I took Physics, Chemistry, and Biology in secondary school. While I successfully completed the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT) and was admitted to King’s, I feel like a bit of extra reading before I began my first year would have helped.
As part of the compulsory curriculum, first-year law students at King’s are required to take five modules: Contract Law, Criminal Law, European Law
, Public Law, and Legal Reasoning. In the Public Law module, I came across concepts like Parliamentary Sovereignty, or historical events like the Magna Carta being signed, all of which have already been covered in the curriculum of A-level Politics and History. As such, it is understandable that students who did these subjects have an easier time reading these topics. A book that I would highly recommend for students who took science subjects only at secondary schools is “The Rule of Law” by Tom Bingham, where you can familiarise yourselves with how the common law system was developed in the UK.
As for the European Law module, it will be a mistake to assume that the EU is no longer relevant to your legal studies at university after Brexit. As part of the course, first-year students will learn about treaties related to the formation of the EU and the relationship between courts of the EU and its member states. Therefore, I suggest any students wishing to pursue law at King’s, especially international students from outside Europe, to familiarise themselves with the main institutions of the EU. There are plenty of ways to learn about the EU online. My professor for EU law did suggest a few YouTube videos for us to watch. They are quite easy to understand, educational, but entertaining at the same time. The links to these videos can be found at the reference section at the end of this article.
I would like to emphasize that I am not encouraging any secondary school students to take history and politics at A-level purely for sake of law school. In fact, I still recommend doing subjects that you are passionate about, and those that you excel at. It is just that a little bit of extra reading and learning before law school might help.
2. Opportunities for first-year law students in the UK are plentiful, but opportunities are only for those who are prepared.
There are more opportunities than I can possibly take as a first-year law students. It would be impossible to try to join every single event.
There are a lot of insight schemes from law firms tailored for first-year law students. It is, however, very important to do research on the websites of these law firms, as the deadlines can be as early as November, barely 2 months into law school. Each law firm requires applicants to create an account on their website, so I personally create a completely new Google profile after I start university to make sure my inbox and passwords stays clean and tidy for all of these applications. It takes some time to complete each application form so the earlier you start preparing, the better. I wish I had completed applications earlier in the academic year because there was less work to do at the beginning of law school.
Student societies also recruit representatives or volunteers. If you are interested in contributing to student societies, gain some experience and meet more friends this way, I suggest following their social media page. Some committee positions can be quite competitive and the deadline can be as early as less than a week into law school. Societies at King’s might ask students to upload CV and cover letter, or alternatively, fill in an application form answering lengthy questions. I am glad I managed to become a blog writer for Lawyers without Borders, but it did take quite a lot of time and effort to fill in their applications. The King’s IT and IP Society for example, held a Crash Course with an EU start-up called ClauseBase where I had the opportunity to create an automated template of a consultancy agreement. I am beyond relieved that I did not miss out on these fascinating events.
There is absolutely no need to abandon any hobbies or extracurricular activities after joining law school. There are so many student societies to choose from at King’s. Here is a picture of me performing with the Sinfonietta Orchestra of the Modern Music Society at King’s College Chapel despite being a law student.
Apart from law firms and student societies, there are also external organisations that helps law students familiarise themselves with the industry. I highly recommend Legal Cheek, where I joined their Commercial Awareness Academy to learn about the basics of law firm economics. I will also be joining their Winter Virtual Vacation Scheme to gain some experience regarding life in law firms. This is why it is of utmost importance for first-year law students to not just focus on what the university provides. There are so many opportunities outside university that will enrich your life.
3. The student body of the law school is actually very diverse.
London has always been well-known for being an international hub. This is why I fully expect to see students from all around the world here at King’s. What I failed to anticipate is the sheer diversity of the student body at the law school specifically.
A qualifying law degree is usually strictly regulated in many countries. My expectation before coming here was that most of my fellow law students would be from common law jurisdictions, like Malaysia and Singapore. This is not far from the truth, as I have encountered students from Honduras to Hong Kong, Canada to Ghana, many of which are former British territories which have inherited its legal system. It is no surprise that the UK, being the origin of common law, attracts many students from these countries.
King’s however does not seem to lack students from other jurisdictions. I have talked with students from Egypt to Cyprus, from UAE to Lebanon. Despite the UK having left the EU, European students from Germany, France and Spain are still a common sight, thanks to the dual-degree programme where students will gain legal qualifications in two countries at the same time. King’s seems to be able to attract students even when the dual-degree option may not be available, like those from Italy and Belgium.
Geographical diversity is important because it allows students to gain insight into other legal systems. I have had discussions in Public Law tutorials about the difference between the UK and the Irish Constitution; in Criminal Law, what could have happened if the George Floyd case happened in the UK rather than the US; in European Law, the similarity between the ruling in a German and a Polish constitutional court.
King’s is not only diverse in geographical terms, but in educational background as well. In my undergraduate law course, many have already completed a degree and are doing law as a second degree. I have seen students who used to read History in India, or English in New York. All of these serve to enrich the discussions we have in classes. The pressure is quite intense when you are against over-achieving students who have already done a degree, but this will also broaden your horizon. It is great that King’s do not segregate students in classes based on their degree, so I actually have to chance to learn with students from a wide range of background.
For students who wish to pursue law at King’s, taking part in programmes with international exposure in mind will ensure you are prepared to study here.
 Tom Bingham, The Rule of Law (Penguin Books Ltd, 2011)
 TLDR News, European Single Market – Explaining Brexit https://youtu.be/sHjPJPKX07o
 Legal Cheek https://www.legalcheek.com/