Nearly two thousand years ago, much of the UK was enjoying the fruits of the Pax Romana. In 43 AD, the conquering coalition of legionary soldiers (under the auspices of the Roman Emperor Claudius) brought wine, Latin, and codified law in their marching satchels, subduing and taming the feral Celts until they became educated and civilized. Soon, they became very educated and civilized: “Today”, Juvenal wrote a century later, “smart Gallic professors are teaching the lawyers of Britain”. In this regard, not a lot has changed in 2014: would-be lawyers with diverse backgrounds hailing from around Europe—and beyond—arrive at the UK’s ports to study a legal system that still has the remnants of Roman law enshrined within the British; the Latin terms remain unaltered and of course, the scarlet wine that once lubricated the grey matter of sandal-wearing soldiers continues to be a welcome distraction for students across the whole of the UK in dozens of fine, internationally welcoming, globally respected universities with slick Unions bars. While MIT may hold the top spot in the QS World University Rankings for 2014/15, the University of Cambridge (no.2), Imperial College London (3rd), and University of Oxford (5th), triumphantly fly not only the Union Jack, but also the metaphorical banner that testifies to the continuing pedigree of the country’s prestigious institutions — the jewel in the Crown. Name drop any of those universities—or a dozen others in the top 100—and your audience (whatever their nationality) will be impressed; tell them you studied law, and they will be dazzled.
Several UK universities stand out in an ocean of quality and need no introduction. But others, for those not so familiar with Blighty, should also be considered. The University of Law—located in London, Manchester, and Birmingham, has only recently received its official status, but has been educating prospective lawyers for over a century. An innovative approach to law and a production line of highly employable graduates enshrine its priorities, taught by lawyers, barristers, and judges, who are connected not just to the people whom they serve, but also to the firms that grow the careers of talented students in some of the UK’s most exciting locales. If the South’s too warm, head to the Edinburgh Law School; not only is the institution older than the United States of America, it offers flexible part-time LLB courses—perfect for students juggling other commitments. The University also maintains links to high profile, international law firms that are stronger than leg-irons and situated in a one of the most charming cities in Europe: you won't want to leave—case closed! When considering your options, however, don’t limit yourself to England and Scotland. Instead, think of George Best, rugged coastal vistas popularized by Game of Thrones, and the Titanic: think Northern Ireland. The University of Belfast offers self-professed ‘liberal’ courses of study, a warm attitude towards international students (with various exchange programs), and boasts a titanic 170 active clubs, including Student Law. Northern Ireland also gives a different perspective to the UK’s legal system from one of Europe youngest and most vibrant nations. Finishing with Wales, Cardiff Law School is recognized as a leading legal research institute that dually focuses on practice and theory. Set in the heart of the principality’s capital, there are an enormous number of pastimes that offer comfort and respite away from the book-choked library.
The UK has a long tradition for producing lawyers of the highest calibre, but has several other attractions that draw in the best of tomorrow’s legal minds. They may seem obvious, but are worth stating. Modern Britain is a rich tapestry of diversity: you hear it around streets of Bristol, you see it in the beautifully ornate mosques of Birmingham, and you taste it in the bustling, saffron-infused restaurants in London. While the UK has been adding to its cosmopolitanism for centuries, English remains the language of instruction, which endows priceless advantages. For the native speaker it offers ease, familiarity, and the realization of the power English commands; for the international student, it affords the chance to improve and perfect linguistic skills belonging to a language that remains the lingua franca of the world. Secondly, the UK’s proximity to Europe not only makes the nation a beacon for Erasmus students, but is equally ideal for students going the other way: The Hague, for example, is only a few hours from London by Eurostar, while Brussels and Geneva are easily accessible by rail. From the White Cliffs, the legal arteries and pathways of Europe are just a whistle away. Whether we like to admit it or not, there are so many degrees offered around the world from a constellation of universities that range from stellar to cellar. A degree in law, however, is like gold: it retains its value wherever it is. It will be desired, talked about, and fought over—just like you.
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