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How to Study Criminal Law in the UK: A Step-by-Step 2 minute Guide

Are you passionate about the legal field and interested in pursuing a career in criminal law in the UK? Studying criminal law can be an exciting and intellectually stimulating journey that opens up opportunities. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps to study criminal law in the UK, providing valuable insights, resources, and advice to help you embark on this rewarding educational path. Whether you are a prospective law student or someone looking to transition into the field of criminal law, this article is here to guide you every step of the way.

Study Criminal Law in the UK
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Set Your Goals

Before diving into criminal law, it’s important to establish clear goals and objectives. Ask yourself what you hope to achieve by studying criminal law. Do you aspire to become a solicitor, barrister, or legal advisor or pursue an academic career? Clarifying your goals will help shape your study plan and motivate you to succeed.

Research Universities and Courses

Once you’ve identified your goals, it’s time to research universities and courses that offer criminal law programs in the UK. Look for reputable institutions known for their strong law faculties and consider rankings, faculty expertise, course structure, and available resources. Remember to check entry requirements and ensure you meet the criteria for admission.

Choose the Right Degree

In the UK, you can pursue a law degree in an undergraduate LLB program or a postgraduate program known as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). The LLB is a three-year program for students who have completed their A-levels or equivalent qualifications. The GDL is a conversion course for non-law graduates looking to qualify as solicitors or barristers. Consider your educational background and career goals when deciding between these options.

Prepare for Law School Admission Tests

Many universities require prospective law students to take admission tests, such as the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT) or the Cambridge Law Test. These tests assess your critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills. Be sure to familiarise yourself with the test format, practice sample questions, and consider taking preparatory courses or workshops to enhance your performance.

Develop Strong Study Habits

Studying criminal law requires discipline and effective study habits. Develop a study schedule that allows for regular and consistent study sessions. Find a quiet and comfortable study environment, eliminate distractions, and use techniques such as active reading, note-taking, and self-quizzing to enhance your understanding and retention of the material.

Attend Lectures and Participate Actively

Attending lectures is an essential part of studying criminal law. Lecturers provide valuable insights, expand on course materials, and offer guidance on key concepts. Actively participate in class discussions, ask questions, and seek clarification. Engaging with your professors and peers will deepen your understanding of the subject matter and enrich your learning experience.

Utilise Online Resources

The digital age has made it easier to access a wealth of resources online. Use reputable legal websites, academic journals, online libraries, and databases to supplement your studies. Websites like LexisNexis, Westlaw, and HeinOnline provide comprehensive legal resources, case law, statutes, and legal commentary that can greatly enhance your understanding of criminal law in the UK.

Join Law Societies and Organizations

Immersing yourself in the legal community is a great way to expand your network and gain practical insights into the field. Join law societies and organisations at your university or in your local area. These associations often organise events, seminars, and workshops that provide opportunities to interact with legal professionals, attend guest lectures, and participate in moot court competitions.

Take Advantage of Work Placement Opportunities

Seek work placement opportunities to gain practical experience and apply your knowledge in real-world settings. Law firms, legal clinics, and organisations specialising in criminal law often offer internships or shadowing programs. These experiences will expose you to the practical aspects of the legal profession and allow you to develop essential skills while building professional connections.

Engage in Mooting and Advocacy

Mooting is a simulated court proceeding where law students argue fictional cases before a judge. Participating in mooting competitions allows you to develop advocacy and public speaking skills, improve your legal research abilities, and gain confidence in presenting arguments. Many universities organise internal and external mooting competitions, providing you with opportunities to hone your courtroom skills.

Choose Specialization Areas

Criminal law encompasses many subfields, including white-collar crime, international criminal law, human rights law, and more. Consider exploring specialised areas within criminal law that align with your interests and career goals. Taking elective courses or pursuing a master’s degree in a specific area can give you a competitive edge and open doors to exciting opportunities in your chosen field.

Seek Mentoring and Guidance

Connecting with mentors with expertise in criminal law can provide invaluable guidance and support throughout your educational journey. Reach out to professors, legal practitioners, or alumni who can offer insights, career advice, and mentorship. Their experience and expertise can help you navigate the complexities of the legal profession and make informed decisions about your future.

Develop Research and Writing Skills

Effective legal research and writing skills are essential for success in criminal law. Practice researching legal precedents, case law, statutes, and legal commentary. Hone your writing skills by drafting legal memos, case briefs, and essays. Seek feedback from professors and take advantage of writing workshops or clinics offered by your university to improve your ability to articulate legal arguments convincingly.

Stay Updated with Legal Developments

Criminal law is a dynamic field that undergoes frequent changes and developments. Stay informed of current legal news, landmark cases, and legislative amendments to stay informed and demonstrate your passion for the subject. Follow reputable legal publications, subscribe to legal newsletters, and join online forums or discussion groups to engage with the legal community and contribute to ongoing debates.

Attend Legal Events and Conferences

Attending legal events and conferences provides opportunities to network with legal professionals, learn about the latest trends and advancements in criminal law, and gain exposure to different perspectives. Look for conferences, seminars, and workshops related to criminal law, such as those organised by law societies, professional associations, or legal research institutes.

Consider International Experiences

If you have a global outlook, consider exploring international experiences to broaden your horizons and gain a comparative understanding of criminal law. Study abroad programs, internships with international organisations, or attending summer schools in other countries can expose you to diverse legal systems, cultures, and approaches to criminal justice.

Prepare for Qualifying Examinations

After completing your law degree, you must pass the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) to qualify as a solicitor or barrister, respectively. Prepare for these examinations by attending preparatory courses, participating in mock exams, and seeking guidance from qualified professionals to maximise your chances of success.

Build a Professional Network

Networking plays a crucial role in the legal profession. Attend legal networking events, join professional organisations, and connect with legal professionals through platforms like LinkedIn. Building a strong professional network can lead to mentorship opportunities, job prospects, and valuable insights into criminal law practice in the UK.

Seek Practical Experience

To gain practical experience and demonstrate your commitment to the field, consider working as a paralegal or legal assistant in a law firm specialising in criminal law. Practical experience will provide firsthand exposure to the day-to-day responsibilities of legal professionals, courtroom procedures, and client interactions.

Stay Committed and Motivated

Studying criminal law in the UK can be challenging, but maintaining commitment and motivation is key to success. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals, join study groups, and create a support system to stay motivated throughout your journey. Remind yourself of the rewarding career opportunities and the positive impact you can make in criminal law.


Q1. Can I study criminal law in the UK without a law degree?

A1. Yes, you can pursue a career in criminal law in the UK without a law degree. Non-law graduates can take the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) to convert their existing qualifications into a law degree equivalent, allowing them to qualify as solicitors or barristers.

Q2. What skills are important to succeed in studying criminal law?

A2. Strong analytical skills, critical thinking, attention to detail, research abilities, excellent written and oral communication skills, and the ability to work under pressure are crucial for success in studying criminal law.

Q3. Are there any scholarships available for studying criminal law in the UK?

A3. Many universities and organisations offer scholarships and funding opportunities for students pursuing criminal law degrees. Research and explore scholarships specific to law students within the UK and internationally.

Q4. How can I improve my legal research skills?

A4. To improve your legal research skills, familiarise yourself with legal databases, such as LexisNexis and Westlaw. Attend research skills workshops, utilise online legal research guides, and seek guidance from your university’s librarians and legal research experts.

Q5. What career options are available in criminal law in the UK?

A5. Studying criminal law opens up various career options, including becoming a solicitor, barrister, legal advisor, legal researcher, legal consultant, or working in law enforcement agencies, government bodies, or international organisations.

Q6. What is the average salary of criminal lawyers in the UK?

A6. The salary of criminal lawyers in the UK varies depending on factors such as experience, specialisation, and location. As a rough estimate, the starting salary for a criminal lawyer can range from £25,000 to £40,000 per year, with the potential to earn significantly more as experience grows.


Studying criminal law in the UK offers aspiring legal professionals a rewarding and intellectually stimulating journey. By setting clear goals, conducting thorough research, choosing the right degree, developing strong study habits, and seeking practical experience, you can pave the way for a successful career in criminal law. Stay motivated, build a strong professional network, and continuously update your knowledge to stay at the forefront of this dynamic field. Embrace the challenges, seize the opportunities, and embark on a journey to shape your professional future and the pursuit of justice.


The ultimate scholarship sleuth and job-hunting Jedi. When I'm not scouring the internet for the next big opportunity, you can find me lost in a book or out exploring the world. Don't ask for a recommendation on what to read next unless you want to be buried under a mountain of books.

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