Studying Law in the UK - the facts

Students studying

The UK’s renowned educational institutions are a major draw for international students, as are the post-graduation career prospects here. Four of the world’s ten largest law firms are headquartered in the UK, and choosing to study law in the UK affords you enhanced opportunities for work experience, internships and career progression within the law world.

If you’re thinking about studying law in the UK then you’re in good company. Here are some facts that will inform you what studying law in the UK really entails.

A legal system with global reach

  • The UK holds a special place on the legal world stage. Britain’s common-law system was developed over 900 years ago and forms the basis of law systems in many countries around the world. As a result, English commercial law is often the governing law in international contracts.
  • Choose to study law in the UK and you’ll gain qualifications that are recognised and applicable around the globe.
  • Because the UK is part of the European Union, the UK operates a consolidation of UK and EU law. This means that UK universities like the University of Sheffield offer world-class courses in European law. It’s why a great many international students choose to study European law here, or European law alongside other subjects.
  • Hundreds of international law firms have offices in the UK, and more international and more commercial arbitrations take place in London than in any other city in the world.

Which legal system for you?

The UK is actually home to three legal systems, categorized as:

  • England and Wales
  • Northern Ireland
  • Scotland

Elements such as tax law and commercial law are similar across these three legal systems, however you will find that the content and structure of law courses differs slightly depending on where you study. Do some research, get in touch with the universities and colleges that interest you and they’ll help you to decide which is right for you.

Courses and qualifications

  • Qualifications are available in a range of legal subjects such as law, legal services, commercial or trade law.
  • The majority of undergraduate degree courses start with a general introduction to the law, which helps you to decide your field of interest. You are then free to specialise and take your legal career wherever you want it to go.

Core qualifications

  • To qualify as a lawyer in the UK, you need to complete seven modules covering seven key areas of UK law. These are known as the Foundations of Legal Knowledge and include subjects like property, public and criminal law.
  • Once you have completed these seven modules, you will be awarded an LLB or BA (Hons) in Law.
  • In order to qualify as a solicitor or barrister you then need to progress straight to the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).
  • You don’t have to practise as a lawyer following your completion of the seven key modules. You may choose to broaden your focus and concentrate on economics, business or human rights legislation, for example.

Postgraduate opportunities

  • At postgraduate level, taught law masters’ programmes are usually studied full-time over one year and lead to a Master of Laws (LLM) or Master of Arts (MA) qualification.
  • There are other postgraduate programmes in law, both taught and research. Many MPhil and PhD programmes are based purely on research, but some incorporate taught elements.


The UK ranks second in the world for collaboration between universities and businesses. Studying law in the UK gives you the opportunity to make the most of these strong links, allowing you to learn from professionals and make industry connections.

Study law in the UK and you can open doors to a whole range of fascinating careers besides that of a barrister, such as:

  • Court reporter
  • Company secretary
  • Tax adviser
  • Patent agent

You can also specialise in a wide variety of legal sectors, including:

  • Commercial law
  • Financial law
  • Corporate law
  • Taxation law
  • Environmental law
  • Property law

Other information

You can find out more information about UK work visas, and whether your student visa allows you to do a work placement at the UK Government website. If you plan to practise law in another country, you should check what qualifications are required there before enrolling on a course in the UK.