Studying Law at Cambridge is the ideal preparation for a career in Law. In addition, the Law course at Cambridge provides students with the opportunity to learn how to make cogent and forceful arguments, as well to study the forces that shape the society they live in and its major institutions.
The Cambridge Law course is split into three parts: Part IA of the Law Tripos, Part IB, and Part II. Students taking Part IA study four subjects (Civil Law I, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Tort Law). Students taking Part IB study five subjects, which usually consist of Contract Law and Land Law and three optional subjects. Students taking Part II are able to do a dissertation on one of a range of different law-related subjects, as well as studying four other subjects (usually Equity and EU Law, and either two other subjects or one other subject and two half-subjects). Students who do not wish to do a dissertation for Part II are allowed to study five subjects, or four subjects and two half-subjects. Please see the Law Faculty website for the full range of legal subjects that can be studied at Cambridge.
Students studying any part of the Law Tripos attend lectures at the Law Faculty from October until May in the subjects they are studying. The students then take exams in those in May and June.
Students studying Law at Cambridge may, if the Faculty agrees, take a year between doing Parts IB and II of the Law Tripos to study abroad on the Erasmus + exchange scheme. Details of this scheme are available here.
Students who have already obtained a degree from another university may study Law as an affiliated student, skipping Part IA of the Law Tripos, and studying Parts IB and II. *PLEASE NOTE*, however, that Pembroke does NOT accept applications from students wishing to study Law as an affiliated student.
Law at Pembroke
As well as attending lectures, Law students also receive fortnightly supervisions in the subjects they are studying. These supervisions are administered by the student’s College, though a student may well be supervised in a particular subject by a Fellow of another College. Pembroke has four Law Fellows:
Nick McBride is the Director of Studies in Law, which means he is principally in charge of administering the education of the Law students at Pembroke. He supervises students in Tort Law, Criminal Law, Contract Law, Equity and Jurisprudence. He is the author of many books on law, including the best-selling introductory guide to studying Law, Letters to a Law Student (now in its 4th edition); a comprehensive textbook on Tort Law (now in its 6th edition); introductions to Contract Law and Jurisprudence; and the Humanity of Private Law, Part I, on the philosophical foundations of private law. He is also the creator of the website, www.mcbridesguides.com, which is intended both to help current Law students with their studies, and to help prospective Law students get a better idea of what studying Law involves and how to prepare to study Law. Whether or not you apply to Pembroke, it is recommended that you take the time to look at this website’s resources, particularly the section on reading before university.
Professor Trevor Allan supervises in Constitutional Law. He is the author of numerous books and articles on public law (the law relating to the regulation of government power), including Law, Liberty, and Justice, and Constitutional Justice.
Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe supervises in Criminology, Sentencing and the Penal Student. She is a leading figure in the world of criminology, and is the author, co-author, or co-editor of numerous books on that subject, including (most recently) Women, Crime, and Criminal Justice; Exercising Discretion; A Restorative Approach to Family Violence; and Handbook of Probation.
Dr Sarah Nouwen supervises in International Law. She has worked as a consultant for various NGOs and government departments on rule-of-law building and transitional justice, addressing past human rights abuses that have taken place in a state. From 2010-11 she was seconded to work for the African Union, advising on legal issues relating to the creation of South Sudan. She is the author of Complementarity in the Line of Fire: The Catalysing Effect of the International Criminal Court in Uganda and Sudan.
At Pembroke, we understand that studying Law as a student at Cambridge can be challenging:
- You will be studying a subject unlike any subject that you might have studied at school (including Law A-Level).
- Studying Law at Cambridge requires students to make use of, and develop, a very wide range of skills. Subjects such as Politics, Philosophy, Economics, and History are all highly relevant to the study of Law. The kinds of interpretative and analytical abilities required to make sense of the law and legal texts are not unlike those needed by students studying English or the Natural Sciences. The mental rigour needed to apply the law correctly to a problem scenario can be almost mathematical in nature. Writing essays on what the law should say on a range of controversial issues involves the development of rhetorical skills that will be familiar to students of Classics.
- The content of the law is constantly changing, and a given area of law will probably change even as you are studying it. Coping with and accounting for those changes requires Law students to possess a great deal of mental flexibility so as to allow them to adapt quickly to new developments in the law.
Consequently, we make every effort to ensure that students studying Law at Pembroke get the help and attention they require to make the most of their abilities as a Law student, including providing Pembroke Law students with a first class Law Library, which occupies an extension to the Pembroke Library. Many of the resources mentioned above, including the Letters to a Law Student book, and www.mcbridesguides.com, have their origins in these efforts.
For more information on what it is like to study Law at Pembroke, read this introductory guide for First Year Pembroke Law students that was composed by Tom Fletcher, a Pembroke Law student.
Pembroke aims to admit nine undergraduates a year to read Law, though numbers vary to reflect the quality of the field. In recent years we have had about 50 applicants.
The standard entry requirement for studying Law at Pembroke is obtaining A*AA at A-Level, and 40-42 points in the IB, with 7,7,6 at Higher Level.
There are no subject specific requirements for doing Law at Pembroke. The comments above about how different skills are important for the Law course show that challenging yourself academically with your subject choices at A Level can be good preparation for applying.
If invited for interview, students applying to do Law at Pembroke will be required, when they come for interview, to do the Cambridge Law Test. No familiarity with, or knowledge of, the law will be required to do well on the Cambridge Law Test. Instead, the purpose of the test is to assess the candidates’ abilities to think and argue logically and clearly. Recommended preparation for doing the Cambridge Law Test would include reading the guidance on writing essays (and doing the Cambridge Law Test) in Nick McBride’s Letters to a Law Student book, as well as the guidance on pre-university reading on www.mcbridesguides.com.
Students who are interviewed for a place to study Law at Pembroke will be given two interviews. One interview (which will last up to 25 minutes) will be a Law-related interview, almost certainly with Nick McBride and one other interviewer. As with the Cambridge Law Test, no previous knowledge, or familiarity with, the law will be required for this interview. Instead, the interview will focus on discussing your Cambridge Law Test answer (which you will have done the previous evening) and testing your general abilities to think and reason like a lawyer. The other interview (which will last about 15-20 minutes) will be a general admissions interview. This interview may well not be conducted by a Law Fellow, and will not focus on Law. Instead, the focus will be on your general academic interests and life experiences.
Pembroke welcomes applications from students wishing to study Law who are currently taking, or planning to take, a gap year. However, our invariable experience over the last 20 years or so is that students who have taken a gap year find it harder to adjust to the demands of studying Law than students who have carried straight on from school into university. In order to minimise this problem of adjustment, we strongly recommend that students taking, or planning to take, a gap year before studying Law at Pembroke maintain some kind of academic study or activity during their gap year.