Core, compulsory modules you may encounter in law degrees include: introduction to legal techniques, introduction to the legal system, introduction to legal research, reasoning and literacy skills. Other law topics likely to be on offer include: constitutional law, criminal law, criminology, business law equity and trusts, human rights, international law (public or private), jurisprudence, labor law, land law, law and government, law and society, law and the individual, law of contract, law of Tort, legal methods, maritime law and tax law.
As you might expect, law degrees cover a diverse range of subjects with the aim of providing a generalized understanding of human society and its laws. Having gained a strong foundation in the main principles and concerns of law, you can then tailor your degree to suit your particular interests. This could mean choosing to specialize in a particular field of law or in a particular culture or society, or indeed branch outwards into a related field of interest such as business or politics. Some popular law topics chosen for specialization include:
Sometimes available as an entire degree in its own right, criminal law looks at different aspects of law relating to crime. You’ll learn about the theory of criminal law, and examine issues such as crime and gender, restorative justice, criminal justice, global crime problems, human rights, and socio-legal methods and theory. You’ll also study more specific aspects of criminal law such as homicide, mentally disordered offenders, European criminal law, the death penalty in law, legal responses to terrorism, sentencing, and victimization and victim policy.
Also known as land law, property law is the area of law concerned with real property (land, distinct from personal or moveable possessions) and personal property (movable property). You’ll study the concept of ‘interest in land’ – the term used to describe various categories of rights held by one person to use land that is in possession of another. Depending on the module, you may learn how and when to create these interests (through a contract, agreement or order of a court) and when these interests are valid in law. You’ll also learn about issues such as mortgages, tenancy rights and obligations, commercial property law, ownership, stocks, site acquisition, property management and construction law.
Intellectual property law
Also dealing with property, but of a different kind, intellectual property law is popularly offered as a dedicated degree. This field deals with intangible assets such as creations of the mind (musical, literary and artistic works), discoveries and inventions, words and phrases, and symbols and designs. You’ll learn about the economic, social and theoretical issues surrounding intellectual property (IP) and technology law. You’ll address issues such as policies affecting IP laws, trademark protection, patents and patent law and copyright. You’ll also look at IP in global and regional contexts, for example concentrating on European integration of IP laws, as well as undertaking in-depth exploration of what intellectual property constitutes.
Also known as business law, commercial law is the body of law that relates to the rights, contracts and conduct of people and businesses engaged in commerce and industry. Often considered to be a branch of civil law (non-criminal law), commercial law is again a large enough section of law to merit full dedicated degree programs. Incorporating elements of economics, business, management and finance, commercial law involves learning about all the legal issues involved in operating a business. This covers law topics such as small business law, regulation of corporate contracts, tax classifications, personnel hiring and firing, zoning and licensing issues and wider-ranging business issues such as securities law, intellectual property, secured transactions, pensions and benefits, trusts and estates, immigration and labor laws, and bankruptcy. A related field is corporate law, which deals with the financial and structural situation(s) encountered by an established company, and the legal advice surrounding the day-to-day dealings of such a company.
The body of law concerning the protection, maintenance, regulation and enhancement of the environment, environmental law regulates the interaction of humanity and the natural environment. As agencies, businesses and corporations seek to reduce the environmental impact of their practices, environmental law has become an increasingly popular specialization. Environmental law is an interdisciplinary field merging law, politics and human rights to cover a huge variety of issues pertaining to the environment. You’ll learn about global environmental laws in areas such as climate control, resource conservation, environmental protection, natural resources and climate change policies, along with gaining an understanding of local or national environmental laws such as noise control, remediation and energy regulation and policy.
As you might deduce, family law is an area of law pertaining to family-related matters. You’ll learn about a range of family law issues regarding parents, children and child protection, marriage, civil partnership, cohabitation, divorce, human rights, adoption and surrogacy among others. You’ll learn how to use the law to resolve disputes within families, including the termination of relationships and subsequent matters, child abuse and child abduction, paternity testing and juvenile adjudication. You may also learn about international family law, including transnational and interstate issues, along with specific subjects such as international child law which examines how children are protected through both public and private international law. You may also explore contemporary issues such as commercial surrogacy, paternity laws, corporal punishment, press reporting of the family courts and child soldiers.
Other possible law topics you might choose to specialize in include: chancery law (estates and trusts), civil law, corporate law, entertainment law, immigration law, maritime law, media law, mental health law, social law, sports law, tax law and many others.
If those above don’t appeal, how about:
- Employment law – addressing contracts, employment claims such as unfair dismissal, redundancy and discrimination;
- Healthcare law – concerning laws and regulations in regards to public health;
- Insurance law – concerning the regulation of insurance, insurance policies and claims;
- Patent law – focusing on patent grants for inventions and new technologies;
- International law – regarding the sets of rules accepted as binding in relations between states and nations rather than between individual citizens.
You may also specialize in legal studies within particular cultures or regions; possible law topics of this kind include:
Addressing the moral code and religious law of Islam called Sharia, Islamic law encompasses many topics both addressed in secular law and present in contemporary society, including crime, politics, economics, property, family matters, marriage and children. You’ll learn about the history and development of Islamic law, its application to contemporary jurisdiction and the various applications of Islamic law in different regions, such as the Middle East and South Asia. You’ll also look at the relationship between sacred texts and human reason in developing Islamic law, and explore criticisms and dissents surrounding Islamic law.
European Union law
The study of European Union law concerns the treaties and legislation that have a direct or indirect effect on the laws of European Union (EU) member states. The EU is entirely based on the rule of law – assuming every action taken by the group as a whole is founded on treaties that have been approved voluntarily and democratically by all member states – and EU law has equal force with national law within each member state. In this specialization you’ll learn about the founding and development of the EU, its structure and institutional functioning and the processes underlying the creation of EU law. You will examine how EU law impacts on the lives of EU citizens, companies and service providers, and investigate and analyze relevant contemporary crises and conflicts.
Focusing on the United States Constitution, which sets out the boundaries of federal law, treaties, regulations and case law (precedents) in the US, US law explores the US legal system and its foundations, the importance of the US constitution (regarded as the supreme law of the land) and the role of the constitution in modern US society. You’ll gain an insight into all aspects of US law, including intellectual property, international business transactions, mergers and acquisitions, alternative dispute resolution and so forth. You’ll also learn about how the US constitution affects the role of practicing lawyers in the US, and analyze and address contemporary legal questions in the US.
Studying at graduate level? See our guide to continuing your legal studies >