James Macfarlane

James is a current student on the Graduate LLB programme. He is currently in his second year.

Why did you choose to study law and why at Edinburgh?
I’d studied a bit of law before as part of my business course and was really drawn in to it. Everyone’s different, but I find law more relatable and realistic than a lot of other subjects, and the law has an impact on almost everything in everyday life so it can be an extremely useful thing to understand.

In what ways does it differ from your expectations going in?
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I’ve really enjoyed it. Edinburgh law students certainly aren’t ‘dusty and pretentious’ and I’ve made lots of new friends quickly!

"Edinburgh law students certainly aren’t ‘dusty and pretentious’ and I’ve made lots of new friends quickly!"

Did the Law School help you to settle in? What support did they provide in the early weeks?
We had some welcome talks, and are given a ‘personal tutor’ who is a member of staff that can discuss any problems with you and help you choose your optional courses. In the first few months you go to a LawPALS group an hour a week with older students who give you lots of helpful information. There are lots of social events as well, so you can make law friends quickly. The law school handbook and website are also really helpful in helping you find out what you need to know.

Tell us about a standard day in first year on the LLB.
We have a few hours of lectures or tutorials every weekday, and on top of that you have to find time to do the reading for your course and prepare for tutorials. Sometimes I do this by myself at home or in the library, and sometimes with others. There’s a lot of social or society events as well, and we often go out in the evenings.

What are the staff like? Who teaches you?
Most of the lecturers are really enthusiastic and engaging, although some of the lectures can get a bit dull. They all know their subject really well, and will be happy to help you with anything. All our tutors were really good - some of them are lecturers, but most are either postgraduate students or practising lawyers (solicitors and advocates). It’s much easier to ask questions in tutorials then lectures.

"[The lecturers] all know their subject really well, and will be happy to help you with anything."

How many courses do you take in first year? Do you have any choice in what subjects to take?
I did seven courses in first year, split over two semesters. Most of the LLB is core law courses, but you can choose a third of your courses (40 out of 120 credits).

What is the workload like? Is it very different from school? How many contact hours a week do you get?
About nine hours of lectures and three hours of tutorials a week. Then you should spend a few hours a day doing your own studying. There’s much more independence than you have at school. You need to be motivated, but it’s perfectly possible to do okay academically, have a good time and get enough sleep!

Is there a lot of public speaking involved?
We do something called ‘mooting’, where we take on the role of lawyers and research a case, then debate the points of law in front of a judge. We did a moot in our contract class in first year, where our tutor was the judge. About half of our year have joined the university’s mooting society, and took part in a mooting competition (just for fun), so don’t be daunted! I love mooting, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their legal research and public speaking skills.

"We do something called ‘mooting’, where we take on the role of lawyers and research a case, then debate the points of law in front of a judge... I love mooting, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their legal research and public speaking skills."

Do you have to write lots of essays?
We usually have to do one for each course, but there’s not too much. It’s a good way to test your knowledge and prepare for exams, so not wasted time.

What was exam season like? What are the exam papers like?
It’s not the best time, but if you prepare early enough you get through it okay! The exams are all different: some have lots of multiple choice questions and short answers, and others are just essay questions.

Are you a member of any Law School societies?
Yes! The law school has a fantastic community and there are lots of societies and social events. I am part of the Law School Music Society, and the Mooting Society.

"The law school has a fantastic community and there are lots of societies and social events."

Do you know what you want to do when you finish the LLB?
I’m not sure, but am thinking of either working in the legal profession or teaching. The LLB doesn’t limit you to one career path; there are so many things you can do!