A career in law appeals to a lot of people, partly because of its prestige in Asian societies and partly because of its portrayal in the media as the privilege of the hat-wearing, tea-drinking bourgeoisie (the class of people who own most of society’s wealth).
Now that I’m in my second year of law school, I thought it would be opportune to dispel some myths about law and prove that non-tea drinkers can fit in, too.
It is perhaps ironic that a lot of law students, myself included, wrote university applications about wanting to be “intellectually challenged”, but ended up discovering that it is not as fun as the TVB dramas make it out to be. Rather than learning how to complete billion-dollar transactions while jetting across continents, I am currently trying to answer abstract theoretical questions about what law is, and what makes a law a law as part of my course in jurisprudence.
For example. they say that “Brexit means Brexit”, but I’m still obliged to learn about European Union Law with its lovely treaties, regulations, directives, and decisions – the headache that comes from reading all of that can turn the staunchest supporter of free movement into a rampaging Brexiteer overnight. Even though all of this will be valuable in the future, it is important to note that not every aspect of law will be fun.
While there might be some hand-holding in other degree courses, the study of law is very much an independent pursuit, especially in British universities. Though, fortunately, the Hong Kong government is paying my school fees (long live the chief executive!), it will cost at least GB£20,000 (HK$199,330) per year to pursue an English law degree that only offers around 10 hours of teaching per week. You are expected to read and understand most of the content through independent study, so self-discipline is probably more important than your natural aptitude for the subject. Be prepared to teach yourself most of the content.
It is perhaps also my responsibility to “sell” the benefits of a degree in law, as I’ve already chosen this path. Apart from acquiring bragging rights at family gatherings, the versatility of a law degree is an important factor that should be considered. Although I am committed to becoming a solicitor, the transferable skills that the degree gives you in terms of critical thinking, research, and language are useful for careers in government or business. In a similar vein, the fact that you can choose electives relevant to your interests means you won’t be stuck doing things that are not your cup of tea for too long. Independent study, especially in a field that you have a genuine passion for, can be very rewarding.
Though it was probably a source of motivation for me, the desire to become one of those glamorous TVB lawyers or to receive family praise shouldn’t be the main reason for studying law at university. Instead, you should make your decision based on the types of skills that you possess, and whether you are interested in the subject. Societal pressure to become a lawyer or doctor shouldn’t play a role in your decision to do something that you could end up doing for the rest of your life.