Debunking Misconceptions and Stereotypes About Studying Law

Debunking Misconceptions and Stereotypes About Studying Law

By Gladys Ooi Jia Ying


Do you want to study law but you are worried that you do not have what it takes? 


It is widely perceived by the public that studying law requires strong memory power, a high proficiency in speaking and writing in English, and an understanding of History. However, these are fortunately only misconceptions and stereotypes that may have been derived from movies and dramas, or even from people around you who have not personally studied law. Most of the time, these misconceptions and stereotype “requirements” become a deterrence to students who wish to take up law 


Let us now look at some misconceptions: 


Strong memory power vs Comprehension and analytical skills 

The law of a country comes from hundreds of statutes and a daunting amount of case laws. Hence, it is no wonder that people may think that having strong memory power is a prerequisite for studying law. To be honest, strong memory power does lend some assistance to a law student. But as a law graduate myself, I would say that it is not only about memory power. 


It is quintessential for a law student to possess good comprehension and analytical skills in order to grasp the essence of all these legal principles. The ability to recite the provisions of a particular statute may sound cool but it is much more important to understand the purpose and reason behind every legal principle. The ability to thoroughly understand a legal principle would allow a law student to know when these legal principles are applicable under different factual situations. Being able to analyse, identify and distinguish between different factual circumstances is what truly makes a law student exceptional. 


If you fail to apply the correct legal principles in a given factual situation in an examination, the fact that you have put down the name of the statutes would not score you marks, because at the end of the day, you are unable to advise the fictional parties in the question about their legal rights and liabilities.  


To a limited extent, having good memory power is helpful to render you the ability to quote the legal principles and relevant case laws but it is certainly not a “requirement” or even a key quality to make you a successful law student. Comprehension and analytical skills would triumph over memory power.  


If you wish to test your analytical skills, you may click here. 


Proficiency in English vs Ability to express your thoughts and simplify complicated concepts 

It is great if you can speak and write well in English. Equipped with proper grammatical understanding and a vast vocabulary of words should no doubt, help you to express your thinking into words. However, the ability to express your thoughts does not necessarily require a high level of proficiency in English and as long as you can put your point across, you would not be penalised for grammatical errors. After all, this is a law programme, not an English class. 


In addition, what is truly important is the ability to simplify complicated legal concepts and communicate them effectively to the examiners. This ability does not rest upon one’s proficiency of the language. It focuses more on your ability to understand, deconstruct, and simplify complex legal principles and then convey that understanding in a simple and understandable manner to your readers and examiner. This ability would be especially helpful to disentangle the lengthy and complex wordings of an Act of Parliament and present them in simpler terms to the examiner.  


If you are interested in knowing your proficiency of the English language, click here to take this simple test available on the Cambridge University’s website. 


Mastery in History vs Interest in law 

Knowing history to a certain extent will be helpful when you study in law. A good lawyer will need to know what the law is, where it came from and why it does exist. However, throughout a law degree programme, there will be minimal connection to history itself. Most times, studying “history” would be about knowing the development of the law in order to keep up with the contemporary socio-economic circumstances. Lawyers who understand the historical context of development in the legal system will have better advantage. 


Hence, the crucial quality for a law student to possess is a genuine interest in law. This would allow you to actively learn, not only the different areas of law but to also study and appreciate the developments that these laws have gone through.  


Although the syllabus may be bulky and dry, your interest will keep you going. It will help you persist and persevere in your journey to proficiency in these legal subjects.  


Try taking the Interest Assessment Test to find out what your interests are. However, the results of the assessment are for your reference, and it does not necessary define your actual interest. 


In conclusion, these misconceived and stereotype “requirements’ are actually not key or important criterias for studying law. If these so-called requirements have intimidated you or held you back from taking up a law degree in the past, now it is time to shed your fear and cast them aside.  


If you dream of becoming a lawyer, take a step forward and take that leap of faith.