Engaging with what law is, should be and will be in the future more than interesting and challenging enough for a lifetime, let alone three years of a degree, but we’d be delighted to at least start that journey with you.
For most people considering a law degree, this would be the first opportunity to study law. Some of you will have found opportunities to find out more, such as by attending open days, speaking to practitioners, reading books and blogs, attending court hearings in the public gallery or just thinking about some legal issues that you hear about. Not everyone has the same time or opportunities, but we certainly think finding out as much as you are able in advance is useful. The university website has some useful material here. As you can tell already, our view is not that law is just what you can read in a book: it is lived, laboured over, debated, conceived of, honed and challenged. Engaging with legal arguments brings precision of thought, skill in separating the relevant wheat from the discardable chaff and a structured and practical way of responding to real world problems. Exactly how that development takes place will vary, with the philosopher of law exploring lofty concepts while the practitioner of tax law constructs a clause designed to be impregnable, knowing that equally dedicated minds on the other side will be attempted to crack it open. Most applicants do not know what kind of lawyer they would like to be when they start, but finding out what you will become is one of the joys of working in the community that Corpus provides.
Should you apply to read law only if you know you want to be lawyer?
Not at all! Applying to read law at Corpus is a brilliant route to a legal career but that is by no means the only reason for studying law. We regard it as a first rate education in the political, ethical, social and economic problems of modern society. We have numerous Corpus alumni in senior positions in the legal profession including in the judiciary, in academia, as partners in law firms, and at the Bar. Many students go on to qualify and practice as lawyers whether at the Bar or as solicitors in law firms, government service, international bodies like the UN, or with a wide range of non-governmental organisations. But not all - some interesting career paths taken by past Corpus law students include training as an opera singer, working in a monkey sanctuary in Guatemala, and becoming a priest. Other students go on to take graduate law degrees at Oxford, elsewhere in the UK, US and Europe, and several have gone on to successful careers in legal academia.
Should you study law at university or a different subject and then convert?
That’s not an easy question. Perhaps the obvious starting point is to say that it is your life and your decision, and everyone might have their own perspective. One of your teachers might think you would do well in her subject with you, and recommend that in place of law; and she might be right. A careers advisor might tell you that many leading solicitors’ firms accept those who have done the one year conversion course for law; that is certainly true. And we who teach undergraduate law are certainly interested in working closely with those who are dedicated, intelligent and able to discuss the law with us (it makes for a more interesting tutorial, certainly). What we can say is that a law degree is a hugely rewarding experience. If you have really looked into what it would mean, the opportunities and the trials, and feel how much you might enjoy it, then you have glimpsed what the degree can be like. It may be that you’d enjoy a different subject first, and then become a practitioner, but the conversion process is only a pale imitation of what we think the law degree can offer. If we did not think Law was worth dedicating our lives to teaching and researching, we would have made other life choices!
We encourage you to continue the effort shown by reading this website, and get in touch with those who can tell you more about your options based on real evidence and experience. There are many great degrees (and many great non-degree options), and many different ways to study it. Oxford has its own way of teaching, honed over more than eight centuries, five of them with Corpus Christi as a constituent College and if you’re interested in us, we’re interested in you.
What is studying law at Corpus like?
It will be challenging, better to tell you that now rather than have you be surprised later on. It will involve hard work, but not because you are set hard work by your tutors, but because the law is hard and complex so to understand and manipulate it, you have to put the work in. The funny thing is, after you try work at it for a brief while, you will likely find yourself wanting to do it more and more. That is what most students find. And you’re be doing it in great company. Corpus has a lively, enthusiastic, and hard-working community of law students. We support each other, lifting out of the lows and sharing the highs together. We are in a “Great Little College”, in the centre of Oxford but still looking out over meadows from the medieval walls of the city of Oxford. Great lawyers over the centuries have called Corpus home and started journeys through the legal world here. Our College Library is well stocked with law materials including law reports, journals, textbooks and monographs. We have a vibrant body of law students, with moots, speaker meetings and social occasions generously funded by the College and others.
The core of the teaching is small group sessions called tutorials, where between 1 and 3 students and one academic discuss and debate the law every week or fortnight during the term for each of the papers you are studying. It’s a chance to hone your understanding of the law, and a chance for the tutor to understand how you are thinking and offer guidance to help you develop as a lawyer. It is also a chance for producing essays and receiving feedback on how to write and reason even better.
In addition, lectures are provided for all law undergraduates by the Law Faculty by leading, internationally renowned experts. The Faculty sets the examinations and provides a wider community of peers and scholars to engage with during the course and beyond. All students have use of the superb facilities of the Bodleian Law Library and its very helpful staff. The Bodleian law library has one of the three largest law collections in the UK, with a recently refurbished building next to lectures. It’s an amazing place, to find cases, textbooks and statutes drawn from thousands of years and hundreds of legal systems.
We have events each term for lawyers to get together, talk about law and everything but law. Our Christmas party is rather special, but so is our "Make Your Case Night" and our afternoon tea in the summer.
Who would teach you at Corpus?
The Law Fellows of the College are Professor Liz Fisher and Professor Matt Dyson, together they have decades of experience of teaching law, along with more than a little excitement about the years of teaching to come. Professor Fisher Administrative Law and European Union Law, as well as Environmental Law as an advanced subject. Professor Fisher has a distinguished research grant for 2022-2025 but is still closely involved, and in the meantime her teaching is covered by a dedicated Departmental Lecturer in the Faculty, Sonam Gordhan, also an environmental lawyer. Professor Dyson teaches Criminal law, Tort law, Roman law and Advanced Criminal law. They are ably assisted by a Graduate Teaching Assistant, Mitchell Cleaver, who teaches Trusts and Land Law. We also have a Junior Research Fellow, Dr Lisa Hsin, who teaches Contract Law. Together they form a superb teaching team able to provide Corpus undergraduates with just the right amount of challenge and support throughout their time at Oxford. The result is that almost all the core undergraduate subjects are taught in College. For those subjects we do not cover in college we have excellent reciprocal arrangements with fellows in other colleges who provide first rate teaching in their areas of expertise.