Teaching of Law at St John's
St John’s College currently admits about 10 to 12 undergraduates each year to read Law.
We have four teaching Fellows who are scholars in their own particular fields, and whose expertise covers many of the subjects taught in the Law Tripos. We take a special interest in our students’ progress and support them closely. [Moved from below] We expect our students to develop a curious, independent, and disciplined mind-set. We value the ability to analyse and think inventively about primary legal sources, and we encourage students to read widely and to think about legal problems from multiple angles.
Each of the Law Fellows serves from time to time as a Director of Studies (DoS) for our law students. In that capacity, we provide guidance on how they can study effectively as well as advice about vacation placements, careers, or postgraduate study after graduation. The DoS meets undergraduates at the end of each term to review the reports received from their supervisors and to plan their work over the vacation. There is a strong emphasis on developing a sense of responsibility in undergraduates for the quality and success of their work.
Although studying Law at St John’s involves plenty of hard work, the course is rich and rewarding. As soon as our students arrive in College they are given a thorough grounding in the skills of legal reading, writing, argumentation and textual analysis that are essential to succeeding as legal scholars. We aim to produce graduates who see law in its broader social or historical context, who can interpret and criticise complex sources, and who can write well about sophisticated legal concepts. Our students are well equipped to succeed in their careers (whether in the legal profession or otherwise) and to contribute to their communities.
As in other subjects, law lectures are arranged by the University Law Faculty but supervisions are taught or arranged by the College’s Law Fellows. A supervision is a fortnightly meeting between a supervisor and two or three students in which they discuss a particular topic with reference to an extensive reading list which the students are assigned in advance. Typically, for every second supervision, the students submit either a long-form essay defending a controversial argument about that topic or an answer to a ‘problem question’ in which they advise clients in relation to a hypothetical scenario.
First-year undergraduates take four papers in Part IA of the Law Tripos (Civil Law I, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law and the Law of Torts) and have a fortnightly supervision in each of them. Part IA students also take a half-paper on legal methods and skills, which is taught exclusively through lectures. A first-year Law undergraduate has about ten hours of lectures and two hours of supervisions a week, although about thirty to forty hours private study is generally needed in addition to this. The range of optional subjects available expands as undergraduates progress through their course.
St John’s provides generous financial support for its Law students. In addition to the learning and book grants available to all undergraduates, those Law students who distinguish themselves by academic performance are eligible for academic prizes and also for McMahon Studentships. These provide substantial funding assistance to graduates of the College who undertake the necessary courses (approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority or the Bar Standards Board) to prepare themselves for legal practice. We are also able to offer some support to our former students who want to undertake postgraduate study in Law. For more information about the financial support offered by St John’s College, please see here.
The Winfield Society
The Winfield Society - the St John's Law Society - is one of the largest College law societies in Cambridge. All undergraduates and postgraduates are automatic members. The Winfield Society organises events throughout the year, including the Winfield Annual Mooting Competition (among other mooting opportunities) and the Annual Winfield Dinner (to which a prominent guest speaker and all former St John’s Law students are invited).
After St John’s
After completing their Law degree, most of our students qualify as barristers or solicitors, although a number of them first undertake postgraduate study in this country or abroad. The College has seen a steady stream of its Law graduates entering barristers’ chambers and major London and international solicitors’ firms. St John’s students are fortunate in having many alumni contacts available to them who are happy to provide advice about the early stages of professional practice. The Directors of Studies in Law sometimes arrange these contacts.
UCAS Code: M100
Typical Minimum Entry Requirements
A Level: A*AA (Law is not a required A-Level subject; in any event, we typically require the A* in a subject other than Law)
International Baccalaureate: 42 points, with 776 at Higher Level
Essential Subjects: None
Desirable Subjects: There are no absolute requirements in terms of essential subjects or subject combinations for a successful application. However, it is advantageous for an applicant to be studying at least two of the following subjects, and to be predicted A* (or equivalent) in at least one of these: English Literature, History, Mathematics, Ancient History, Classical Civilisation, Economics, Further Mathematics, Geography, Philosophy, Religious Studies, sciences (Biology, Chemistry or Physics), or languages.
Students taking other possible subjects (including Archaeology, English Language, Environmental Science, Government and Politics, History of Art, Law, Music, Psychology or Sociology) should not be put off from applying; we have made offers to many students in the past who have applied with a subject from this list.
Please note that whilst Law A Level is a helpful social science, it is quite different from the Law course at Cambridge.
More information on entry requirements is available from the University website.
Submitted Work: None
Admissions Assessment (pre-registration required): All applicants for Law are required to take the National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT). Full details on how to register for the LNAT can be found on the LNAT website.
Please note that for the 2023-24 admissions round, you must register for the LNAT by 15 September 2023. The test may be taken from 1 September and no later than 16 October 2023. You must register for pre-interview assessments so please do review this information carefully.
What we look for in prospective students
We look for prospective students who are enthusiastic and self-motivated; students who can think creatively and pay attention to detail and have a genuine intellectual interest in the academic study of law. We take an open view about the kinds of school subjects which are a suitable preparation for reading Law at Cambridge. Current students who have studied both arts and science subjects at school have proved to be equally capable of arguing logically, analysing written texts closely, making sound policy arguments, and articulating abstract concepts in a clear and understandable way.
We do not expect you to have undertaken any legal work-experience before you apply, but you should be able to demonstrate some understanding about the role of law and the legal system in society and a real interest in legal issues. In this regard, it may be helpful to make an effort to stay informed of current legal and political developments in the UK and elsewhere. This is not because we require you to have an established knowledge base on such matters, nor that we will seek to test for this in the admissions process. The value of doing so, rather, lies in you helping to understand whether Law, and the kind of issues we discuss within it, are where your intellectual interests lie and in helping you to find ways to demonstrate this. We are interested in your extra-curricular activities (whether music, sport, debating or any other interest) as evidence for your general potential for organisation, commitment and enthusiasm, but our primary concern is your intellectual ability and personal motivation for reading Law.
Non-standard examination systems are no barrier
A Cambridge education in Law is internationally respected, which is reflected in the range of educational backgrounds from which we choose our students. Many of our applicants come with examination results outside the standard GCSE and A-level system of England and Wales. The College has offer levels based on Scottish Advanced Highers and the International Baccalaureate. In recent years we have received particularly strong applications from students from the Hong Kong and Singaporean examination systems.
If you are applying from outside the United Kingdom, you should ask your referees to provide some information about the comparative quality of your examination results. It is best if they give a percentile ranking against the whole national cohort. More information on entry requirements is available from the University website.
The number of law candidates interviewed at St John’s Colleges changes each year depending on the number of applicants.
There are generally two interviews. One is shorter (15-20 minutes long) and is focused on the assessment of general legal skills and of the candidates’ motivation and aptitude for the study of Law as an intellectual discipline. The second, longer interview (25-30 minutes) is designed to test specific skills that you will need as a law student. Candidates will be given an unseen legal text to read before the interview and will be asked questions focused on exploring their comprehension of this information and their aptitude for the Law Tripos at Cambridge. An example interview, prepared by the Cambridge Law Faculty, can be found here. Some student reflections on their interviews, also prepared by the Law Faculty, can be found here. Your interview performance is just one factor to be taken into account along with your school reference, personal statement, achieved GCSE grades and prospective A-level grades (or their foreign equivalents) and the LNAT.
In addition to the Open Days run by the College, the Faculty of Law runs its own Open Day early in July each year. The Faculty also runs the Sixth Form Law Conference over two days in about the third week of March each year. It aims to provide a view of how Law is studied in Cambridge and of some of the career options that can follow after it. Attendance at the Faculty Open Day and the Conference requires special booking, for further details please see the links provided.
Honorary Fellows in Law
Sir Richard Aikens (Lord Justice of Appeal)
Sir Jack Beatson (Justice of the High Court)
The Rt Hon. Lord Hope (Deputy President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom)
The Hon. Mr Justice Frank Iacobucci (former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada)
Ambassador Andrew Jacovides (former member of the International Law Commission and Cyprus ’ ambassador to the United States and the United Nations)