This is a question that plagues a lot of law students in the run up to their final year. I certainly made some choices that I regret because I thought they would look good on my CV (see below!). My top tips for choosing your electives are: -
What Interests You?
First and foremost, which of the electives interests you the most personally? This is so important and I really can’t emphasis this one enough! If the subject doesn’t interest you, you are going to find it harder to study and will ultimately get lower grades as a result. This will be counterproductive – whilst you will have the more “professional” subject on your CV, it may be marred with a 2:2 or 3rd, which won’t look very good at all.
In the long term, it is much better to go for a topic that really interests you and gets your blood pumping. This means that you will be much more likely to get a 1st or a distinction, which will look great to future employers.
In my third year, I chose commercial law as an elective and almost immediately regretted it. I was never a commercial lawyer at heart, so found it really hard to pay attention in lessons and to feel personally interested in what the lecturer was talking about. I ended up with a 2:2 for that module, which was actually better than I thought I’d do!
What Do You Want to Specialise In?
If more than one subject interests you, what do you want to specialise in when you qualify? Do any of the electives on offer assist or compliment this specialism? For example, if you want to specialise in family law, a module in Care Proceedings may assist. Or if you want to be a litigant, choosing modules based on Negotiation or Advocacy may help you.
What Kind of Firm Do You Want to Work For?
If you aren’t sure on your specialism just yet (and don’t worry if you’re not yet – lots of law students aren’t!), do you have an idea of what type of firm you would like to work for? If you want to work in the City, subjects like Mergers & Acquisitions may be better options. If you want to work locally in a small to medium sized firm, you would be better off aiming for more private client subjects like Wills & Probate or Trusts. Look at the websites of the firms that you are interested in working for and research what specialisms they have. This may guide you somewhat in making your decision.
This consideration is not quite as important as the points above, but is still worth thinking about. If you know that a particular subject is taught by a lecturer that you’ve always found it hard to listen to in the past, this may make it harder to get the grades that will ultimately impress your future employer.
Exam to Coursework Ratio
Have a look at the syllabus of each elective to see what proportion of the grades is attributed to coursework and exam performance. If you know that you personally excel at coursework, but tend to fold under exam pressure, it might be another vote for the coursework based electives. It is always worth playing to your strengths!
It is definitely worth taking some time reading the syllabus for each of the electives before making your final decision to ensure that the subject teaches what you think it does. For example, when I was in my final year, I chose to study Internet Law. This was partly because I thought it was a good choice for my CV, but also partly because I had images of case law about social media websites and privacy laws. In reality, we ended up doing a term of website terms & conditions. Very dull in comparison!
I hope that this has given you some idea of the sort of things that you should be considering when choosing your electives. If you are still unsure and having difficulty making a decision, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will see if I can help.