English Law Schools vs. American Law Schools

By: Ashley Waring (JD, ’15) 

Inside View of the Temple Church

Going to law school in England is 100% different than going to law school in the United States.  Unlike the U.S., English law school graduates are required to choose whether they want to become a solicitor – lawyer performs all of the typical American lawyer duties, but litigates in court– or a barrister – a lawyer who is solicited by the solicitor (see what they did there?) to litigate in court.  Those students who wish to be solicitors must take several full time courses that can last several years depending on the course.  Those who want to become barristers must apply to be a member of one of the four temples in England to become trained in litigation.

Rounded part of the Temple Church

Also, unlike the U.S., English students who desire to go to law school are not required to attend an undergraduate college before attending law school.  English students may attend law school once they graduate from high school.  In my opinion, England’s pathway to law school has both its advantages and disadvantages.  One advantage is that students save time because they do not have to spend four years in college. Not only do students save time, but they save money as well.  Instead of spending thousands of dollars to attend an undergraduate university for four or more years and to attend law school for another three years, English students only need to pay for law school.  Average tuition to attend law school in England is very inexpensive. It rounds out to be about ¼ of what the average law student pays annually!

London Students outside of the Inner Temple

One major disadvantage is that maturity may be lacking in a good amount of English students.  I came to this conclusion during our tour at the Inner Temple, one of the four temples that potential barristers may attend. Our tour guide informed us that he believed the maturity level of American law students is most likely higher than English law students because we are required to attend an undergraduate university prior to being admitted into law school.  Also, another disadvantage would be the fact that American law students are more exposed, well-rounded and, in some cases, more intellectual because we had to attend an undergraduate university. Instead of focusing our studies on law throughout our post-high school studies, we were exposed to things that many English law students may not have been exposed to.

Door handle to Inner Temple

As you see, both the English and American systems that govern the process of legal education have their advantages and disadvantages.  On a more interesting note, during our visit to the Inner Temple, we were able to visit the Temple Church.  This is the church mentioned in the Da Vinci Code, both the book and the movie. Additionally, we met the Master of the Temple, Robin Griffith-Jones and he told us that he was the mean and stern Master of the Temple referred to in the movie the Da Vinci Code.  Needless to say, my opinion of Mr. Griffith-Jones is that he is actually a humorous, fun-loving Christian.

Room in the Inner Temple

Panorama of the Church

Ashley Waring is a WFU Law J.D. Candidate and will graduate in 2015. She participated in the summer London program.