Why study law at University? A brief answer might emphasise that it is an intellectually challenging subject, that will require you to think in depth about a broad range of theoretical and practical issues, some of which are highly controversial and of immediate importance to policy-makers and citizens. Whilst a law degree will provide you with a good foundation for a career in the legal profession, it will also help you to develop knowledge and skills that can be put to good use in a wide variety of other ways.
Oxford’s law degrees (most students take the three-year BA in Jurisprudence, but the four-year BA in Jurisprudence (Law with Law Studies in Europe) is also extremely popular) encourage a critical approach to the subject. What does this mean? In the words of the Law Faculty’s website: “[Oxford law students] are expected to read a good deal, mostly from primary sources (such as cases and statutes), rather than to take other people’s word for things [and] are expected to think hard about what they have read, so as to develop views not simply about what the law is, but also about why it is so, whether it should be so, how it might be different, and so on, drawing on moral, philosophical, social, historical, economic and other ideas.” A distinctive feature of the Oxford law degrees is the central role that tutorials play in teaching and learning. Each week (and often more frequently) you will be expected to synthesize your reading into an essay and to discuss the topics that you have read and written about with your tutor.
The College normally has some thirty or more undergraduates in residence reading law. In addition, the College has a strong contingent of postgraduate law students, many from abroad. Magdalen has long had a reputation for a large and successful law school. Many of our graduates – men and women – have gone on to achieve high judicial office, both in the UK and in countries such as Australia and the United States. Whilst the majority of our graduates pursue a career in the legal profession, many others choose to work in different fields and achieve distinction in other walks of life. Most Magdalen law students take advantage of the many opportunities to explore different careers, and undertake placements, during the vacations.
Magdalen is one of the very few Colleges with four law tutors (not shared with other Colleges). The result is that we are able to teach most subjects taken by our students and many tutorials are on a one-to-one basis. We also offer a dedicated law library (the Denning), undergoing a full modernisation and refurbishment in 2016. The Denning provides on-site access to key journals, law reports, and text books, and serves as a focal point for undergraduates’ and graduates’ daily work, discussions, and college seminars.
The Atkin Society, the College’s law society, of which all law students are members, organises regular social events. Mooting (arguing mock appeal cases on points of law) is included in the teaching of some subjects and participation in mooting competitions is encouraged by the College. The Society’s annual dinner is coupled with a moot at which an eminent judge presides.