The LLB Year 1: what I learned last month

In the first in a new series about the LLB, our blogger gets to grips with the first weeks of her law degree 

Independence. If there is one thing that’s struck me about the first two weeks of an LLB Law degree at Bristol University, it’s the realisation that – unlike the structured nature of A Levels – you are very much on your own.

This heady rush of unadulterated freedom is not something to be feared, however, but embraced. Waving goodbye to spoon-feeding and taking the first tentative steps into the world of contract, criminal and tort law have already seen my mind take a different approach towards assimilating information and manipulating the answer.

Yet answers in law are never literal, never black and white, are never presented to you in a way which is distinctly obvious: there is always a point of contention over which members of class, tutors and even judges disagree. To say that there is even an ‘answer’ to begin with has been repeatedly stressed as wholly subjective.

Certainly, in the case of Smith v Hughes, much of the dispute centred around the idea of defining boundaries – a technical matter. In this case set in the 1960s, the crux of the issue lay with whether a set of prostitutes in question solicited males ‘in the street’ or whether their very specific position behind a window could be stretched to fall outside the boundary of these words.

Word placement has suddenly transfigured into being of the utmost importance, making or breaking a case from being successful and, in this respect, attention to detail is imperative.

Arguments with classmates are frequent, confusion is rife and yet somehow strangely exhilarating. In fact, the English legal system could not prove more fascinating. Unlike the set, codified constitution of the USA, the UK’s loose and flexible constitution provides a framework within which cases can be treated as unique and groundbreaking. From the dry to the borderline ridiculous, the cases that pepper our black letter statutes – those real people whose stories have been documented – create an intricate tessellation of rules.

The case of Donaghue vs Stevenson, which saw a woman suffer sickness upon finding the decomposed remains of a snail in her ginger beer saw the first real recognition of ‘the neighbour principle.’ This concept, that manufacturers owe their consumers a duty of care regardless of whether a formal contract has been entered and are in fact liable for their wellbeing, saw a kind of mania strike the legal world.

From online raps and operas to plaques and documentaries, students and teachers alike are constantly striving to make the law refreshing and enjoyable. This Unidentified Foreign Subject, so alien to begin with, is somehow starting to feel a lot like home. 

Sophie Landau has just begun her law degree at Bristol University.