Chance Me! (American applying to top UK LLB courses)

I’m an American student looking to start a LLB in the UK and practice commercial law at a Magic Circle/City firm. Currently looking to apply to Oxford, LSE, UCL, Durham, Exeter (maybe drop one of those options for KCL). Here are my scores (I’ll include GPA’s too even though they aren’t really considered):

-Attempt 1: 1320 (710 English, 610 math)
-Attempt 2: 1360 (740 English, 620 math)

-Attempt 1: 32 (27 Math, 32 Science, 34 English, 33 Reading, 9 Writing)

SAT Subject Tests:
-World History: 800
-Literature: 720
-US History: 700
-Math I: 520

Sophomore Year:
-World History: 5

Junior Year:
-English Language and Composition: 5
-Environmental Science: 5
-US History: 4

Senior Year:
-Macroeconomics: 5
-Comparative Government and Politics: 5
-Microeconomics: 4
-Statistics: 4
-English Literature and Composition: 3


-High School: 3.856
-College: 3.8

I meet the entry requirements for all the programs I’m applying to, but I’m wondering if my low SATs/math scores will drag me down.

If you have any advice/program recs let me know! I really need some advice!

Good plan to add KCL, as that is your best bet for getting into an LLB program, but without an LNAT score there is really no way to tell. For Oxford it will be determinative in whether or not you are invited to interview. You meet the requirements for all the programs, but you really squeak in under the wire for some of them, and your 3 in Lit and 4 in US Hx won’t help.LSE does not have a great success rate for MC firms, and imo it is the one you are least likely to get into, so if you are dropping one that’s the one I would drop.

Of the unis on your list, Oxford, Durham, Exeter & KCL (in that order) have the best hiring record with MC firms. Bristol is consistently in the top 5 also.

Are you a UK citizen? Graduating from a UK uni gives you the right to work there for 2 years after graduation, but it takes more than that to qualify as a solicitor, and if you don’t have the right to live in the UK you are at a material disadvantage getting a training contract with a Magic Circle firm.


Thank you so much for the advice!

I’m an American citizen, but I read that many city/international firms in London sponsor trainees and solicitors on work visas. From my impression being a non-UK citizen makes it harder to secure a training contract but not unreasonably hard, especially if you go to a top school. Do you know if that’s true?

What is unreasonably hard?

It’s a multistep gamble: first getting into a “top” school, then doing very well in a different system (at least a high 2.1), then getting an internship at a top firm for the summer after 2nd year (the applications are predictably competitive), then impressing the firm enough to be offered a training contract, then making it through the SQEs, and then being offered a job at the end of it. I know 2 Oxford grads who just fell at that last post- no step along the way can be taken for granted.

I won’t even pretend to know enough about you to guess how likely it is that you will succeed, but will instead ask: what is Plan B? if you end up with an LLB from a UK uni, but no law job in the UK?

You’re right, it is a gamble. I don’t really have any options in the US so I thought I’d give the UK a shot. This idea is crazy lol. Thank you for bringing me back to reality.

Just curious. Why are you interested in studying/practicing law in the UK vs the US?

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A few reasons. One of them is how $$$ US law schools are. My parents will only pay for a few select law schools and I definitely won’t be able to get into them. I could also start (at least kind of) doing law in 4 years (I’m hoping for 2022 entry) instead of the 6-7 years I’d be looking at in the US. I’d also love to live in London and have more access to human rights work in Europe.

Additionally, I really like the UK education system. I don’t like all the math and science classes I have to take at my current school even though I’m majoring in political science and don’t care about STEM. I’d really prefer to go deep into my preferred subject, especially in a place like the UK which has had heavy legal influence on lots of different legal systems.

Kind of a convoluted answer, but I want to be able to really study a subject I’m interested in while saving money and obtaining a more global perspective.


So are you just about to start, or have you completed your first year of university in the US?

You know that you would have to start over as a first year in the UK, yes? they don’t really do the transfer thing.

What I am wondering is why you are so sure you can’t get into a top US law school, but see yourself as at that level in the UK? (I was also wondering why you chose a college with a lot of distribution requirements if you don’t like them, but that’s water under the bridge now!).

Living in London can be tested with a Study Abroad program.

Here’s a wild card option: this is a link to the courses that are still available for international students this autumn at Exeter: Clearing | University of Exeter

Go do a politics major there. Decide whether you really want to do law school at all. Fwiw, most students who get into the good US law schools have worked for a couple of years between college and law school. Do your 3 years at Exeter, use your 2 years in the UK to work for a human rights organization (or whatever), and decide if you want to go to law school or not.

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Hi, @collegemom3717.

I am not to sure about aspects of your advice regarding “LSE not having great success rate for Magic Circle firms”.

I would have thought the opposite was the case considering the “inferable” tables I have seen.

Here are the inferable tables that suggest LSE is a top university for getting into MC firms:

  1. King’s College London in the US - #31 by LutherVan

  2. Bristol or Durham - Page 2 - The Student Room

Or do you have a source for your opinion that is more direct and more reliable than these inferences?

As an example:

This one gives a year by year chart for the top 20 unis from 2010-2017, and comments “Note the success of LSE which makes it onto the table every year but one”- with LSE never higher than #14. Bristol, on the other hand, is in the top 5 every year.

Law firms' preferred universities 2019 - Chambers Student Guide.

Note that the TSR room was an individual who counted up schools based on LinkedIn profiles.

Where LSE does excel is in eventual salaries.

Oh, I see.

It seems the first one, Legal Cheek, seems to focus strictly on Partner analysis, not other staff.

I have actually seen a graph of it before; here:

The second, the Chambers Student one, I am afraid is less valid because the table used was for 130+ firms across the whole of the UK. Not focusing on the 5 MCs.

The OP appears to be seeking guidance on entry-level roles into MC firms. I think LSE would be really strong for that.

The Linkedin count does not focus on entry, but he highlights numbers working (hence, at all levels) in MC firms.

The high salaries one is more relevant because White Shoe and MC firms are the ones that pay the highest NQ salaries in the UK, so the entry graduates of the universities they mainly recruit from will be at the top of such salary charts.

Interesting analysis. I am not set on MC firms and would really take any City firm. I just read that MC firms are the most likely to help international students obtain work visas.

I think we disagree as to the relative success rate of LSE in getting students into MC law firms, but 1) the OP wants to get an offer, and there are other unis on the list where the odds are clearly better and 2) the OP’s odds of getting into LSE are (imo, obvs) lower than some of the other unis on the original list, making it still the one I would switch out first. But, as they say, difference of opinion is what makes a horse race!

More importantly, I think that it’s a very problematic plan for somebody who sees top tier US law schools as out of reach. The students who MC firms will work to get visas for are top-tier students, who will have top-tier backgrounds (usually, but not always top-tier unis).

OP, what do you think of Exeter in the autumn as an option?

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I think it’s an interesting option, it’s just not really for me. I am at a pretty good US school for undergrad where I could get a job in consulting or IB, I just really hate it there. I kind of got forced into going there based on the school’s reputation instead of how much I actually like it (hence all the distribution requirements). I would really only be interested in moving to a good law program or a non-law program with similar prospects to my current undergrad.

If you are succeeding in that level of uni, why don’t you think that you can get into a top-tier law school?!

Why cant you try and transfer to a similar level us college without distribution requirements (Grinnell, Amherst, Hamilton, come to mind)?

With my GPA I will need a very very very high LSAT and I’m currently not practice testing at those numbers.

I considered it, but I don’t think I would be able to get in. I would also like to get a jump start on my law career and not wait 6-8 years to actually practice.

I am amazed to be writing this, but you said your college GPA is a 3.8- any chance you are selling yourself short?

If you have finished 1st year of college, and are thinking of going to the UK in Sept 2022, that would mean finishing in spring 2025, finish SQE in spring 2026, start work in autumn 2026- 5 years from now. (on a side note, how do your parents feel about paying for an extra year of college + supporting you through SQEs? even with a training contract you will find it hard to support yourself in London w/o extra $$)

Or, finish college in the US in 2024, finish US law school* in 2027- 6 years from now. Not a massive difference.

*Or, finish college in the US in 2024, do what most students getting into the top tier schools do and go to work for one of the big law firms for 2 years (earning lots of $$), getting experience, getting good LoRs and studying for the LSAT and go to a top tier law school on your parent’s dime.

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Also, just going to say that in your original post law at Exeter was on the table- and law is in the list of options. You could start in Sept & not lose the year. IMO, not your best move- but it does align with the path you laid out in your original post!

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