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Opening doors with a Joint Honours degree?

Written by Liam Evans (LLB Law with German),

Liam Evans has been reading Law during a year studying abroad in Germany. Here he discusses the positive impact this has had on his life and career prospects.

For as long as I can remember, reading law was something I wanted to do, with the career goal of becoming a lawyer. So it was only natural to choose to read law at degree level. However, I did not opt to study a Single Honours Law degree; instead choosing to combine Law with German, a subject that I had excelled at during my school years. Now German is something of a passion of mine, and once I learned that I could take a year abroad, studying in Germany as part of the course offered at Bangor University, my mind was made up. It was an easy choice to make and not once did I regret it.

Erasmus scheme - studying law abroad

Liam discusses his choice to study joint honours with a year abroad

If someone provided me with the chance to go back and talk with my 17 year old self about choosing a Joint Honours degree, I would tell myself to do the exact same thing as I did back then. This was (and still is) a fantastic opportunity to broaden one’s horizons; study abroad; meet new and interesting people; experience the law in a different country and to add that extra sparkle to ones CV. All of this adds up to an experience you will remember forever; one that will never happen if you just decide to study Single Honours.

Of course there are going to be advantages and disadvantages to studying abroad, but in truth, the pros far outweigh the cons. There is one thing that gave me pause for consideration, food for thought if you will and it is a disadvantage; I have friends who are studying Single Honours, and their law experience has been much more refined in terms of modules. As a Joint Honours student, it is not until the final year that you can choose modules.

So what does this mean?

Basically you are left with a narrower spectrum of subjects, as opposed to those who have studied something like Evidence law, or Intellectual Property Law. After speaking with friends who chose these, I became envious, and wished that I had been given the chance to also study those modules. However, once you embark upon your year abroad, then you can choose any law module that you want to study. Take my experience for example. Whilst in Germany this year I have studied Criminal Law; Legal Philosophy and History of Roman Law as well as Essentials of German and European Legal History; European Law; Constitutional History of Modern Times. All of which were taught in German of course.

The comparisons and differences you learn about in the modules you study abroad is something that is completely transferable. When marking a law exam, the marker does not want to see something regurgitated out of a text book or something that you learnt by heart from a lecture. There has to be some kind of variety and that’s where your experiences from a year abroad can come in handy. Do not be afraid to point out something that you learned about abroad, as long as it is relevant. Do make comparisons between different legal systems, and the way the law operates in different countries. Examiners will be impressed when you mention these things; it shows that you are a candidate who can think outside the box whilst still understanding the principles of what you’re being asked to do.

Top Tips to Choosing your Degree

There are several top tips that I would like to give you about choosing your course and modules and the first is this, you’re going to be reading law for three or four years, so make sure that it is something that you really wish to study. It can get very difficult at times, especially if you decide to choose a course where you end up studying law in a foreign language, so please give it much thought before you make a decision. I previously mentioned that up until this year I had no choice in the modules I picked. Again my advice is simple, pick the modules that you are most interested in, the ones that appeal to you, and you shall have a far better time learning. I have now chosen my modules for fourth year, which include Commercial Law, a dissertation module (based on something that I studied in Germany), Land Law and Public International Law, all of which are areas of the law which interest me.

Another piece of advice I can give you is to check availability. Rarely, there will be times when you are unable to study a module because of limited availability. Popularity for law in Germany is very high, but I was fortunate enough to be able to study every module I chose. Sometimes that isn’t the case, and you may have to settle for a different option. If this happens speak to someone; your tutor, lecturer, Head of the Law School, etc. It is worth asking what can be done first, before making any rash decisions. Finally, do keep up to date with current legal news, cases, blogs, social media and anything else that catches your eye about the world we have entered.

Keeping an eye out for law updates and such led me to read a very interesting article in The Guardian entitled ‘Could you cope in Copenhagen?’, describing one law student’s time spent in Copenhagen reading law. This article held one key quote for me and it’s as follows:

“At present there is so much competition facing law graduates. Students who are not getting training contracts or pupillages need something to do in the one or even two years they are increasingly having to wait to secure positions post-graduation.” (Jill Marshall, senior lecturer in the law department at Queen Mary).

By combining a language with law at degree level, you are participating in ‘a wider scheme that could be an invaluable door opener’. (Tim Macklem, head of King’s College law school).

I also recently happened to stumble upon this quote by Supreme Court Justice Lord Sumption which I find applicable to my situation. The point he was making concerned the shameful insularity of many British graduates – in particular, highlighting their lack of wherewithal in the foreign language department:

“It is very unfortunate, for example, that many of them cannot speak or read a single language other than their own”.

It seems to me that studying a language at degree level is something that can catch the eye of even the highest powers in the land.

Do I regret choosing a Joint Honours degree? No. Would I do the same thing all over again if I had the chance? Yes. Has it been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made concerning my career path? I certainly believe so.

Studying a Joint Honours degree, especially with a language, gives you a wider sense of cultural awareness, the ability to speak another tongue and makes you an invaluable candidate when it comes to dealing with multi-national firms and clients from around the world.

DG Academy – Have Your Say

If you have had a similar experience to Liam or want to get across your story regarding studying Law abroad we are always looking for contributors for the DG Academy.

To register an interest email Beth Nunnington at and we will get back to you shortly.

To keep up to date with all the latest legal news, career advice and a centre for law student experiences you can follow us on Twitter @DG_Academy and you can also like our Facebook page.

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