Is It Better to Study Law in the US or UK as an International Student?
A quick guide to the main differences between studying law in the US and the UK to help you make the best decision for how to start your career as a lawyer.
How do I go about applying for law school?
There are a few key differences in what to expect if you apply for law school in the UK vs. the US. In the UK, it is possible, but not necessary, to go to law school right out of secondary school. On the other hand, in the US, you must first do an undergraduate degree in another subject before moving on to the Juris Doctor (JD).
The application process for law school also differs. In the UK, UCAS limits you to applying for five universities, and results in conditional offers. In the US, applications are more focused on the personal statement and each law school typically has its own unique application process.
In terms of exam qualifications, some UK law schools require The Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT) to prove you have the required skills and are well-suited to study law. However, this is not the case for all UK law schools. To learn more about the LNAT, be sure to check out Millie’s 101 Guide webinar.
Meanwhile, in the US, all law schools require candidates to pass the The Law School Admission Council (LSAT) exam in order to be admitted to a JD program. Overwhelming? We got you! Simply refer to the chart below f
or a comparison of the two different paths to a law qualification, made by lawyer and Millie mentor Amira Nassar. Amira has qualified in both the US and the UK, and you can view her webinar on this topic here:
What does studying law actually look like?
Once you get into law school, you can also expect a difference in the teaching methodology. In the UK, lectures, seminars and tutorials are the primary modes of teaching. Lectures involve a more passive learning style, whereas the seminars and tutorials allow students to ask questions and discuss the content in smaller groups. Lectures are common in some UK law schools, such as those based in London, while other universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Nottingham, place more emphasis on smaller group seminars and tutorials.
“In the UK, lectures are conducted in a more passive learning style. In the US, there’s a higher level of intensity.”
In the US, Amira notes that the socratic method is used. This means students are expected to answer questions and actively engage in lectures — which requires you to be well prepared for each class! This teaching style is more intense and necessitates a higher level of engagement, which makes sense because in the US, law school students study at the postgraduate level. In contrast, law schools in the UK offer both undergraduate and postgraduate law degrees.
How does my choice of law school factor into my path to becoming a lawyer?
After graduating law school, the path to becoming a lawyer differs in the UK vs. the US, in terms of the exams and training period needed before being able to practice law. There are many factors to consider especially as an international student including visa restrictions, state-specific requirements in the US, and obtaining a training contract in the UK, which is fiercely competitive. To hear about these considerations in more detail, check out our webinar.
“When choosing which law school to attend, it’s difficult to predict how all the different variables post-graduation will turn out.”
When choosing which law school to attend, it’s difficult to predict how all of these different variables post-graduation will turn out. However, something you should consider is whether you are more interested in becoming a solicitor (practicing commercial law, mostly in law firms) or a barrister (arguing cases in the courtroom). These are two different types of lawyer in the UK, each with their own qualifications and post-graduate training. Most foreign students in the UK qualify via the solicitor route, as there are visa restrictions when taking the barrister route. This distinction between a solicitor and a barrister is only present in the UK legal system; in the US you can pursue the more general role of an attorney. Confused? Here’s another of Amira’s charts to the rescue:
Something else to keep in mind is how flexible you are about where you want to eventually practice law. Some, but not all, states in the US, such as New York and California, allow you to qualify as an attorney even if you did not study law in the US. This route is possible if you studied common law
What’s the best fit for me?
At the end of the day, only you can decide which law school is right for you. It is a hard choice to make, and requires some careful thinking about your current circumstances, the kind of law you want to practice, and where you see yourself building your career as a lawyer.
“Only you can decide which law school is right for you.”
We know it can be overwhelming to take all the variables into consideration, and to plan so far in advance for your future. Hearing about the paths others took to study law, especially other international students, can help set your expectations and inform how you forge your own path in the world of law.