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#1 LSE with Jessica Ma

"Your social life is 100% of what you make of it."

Table of Content

Applying to LSE

Interest

Application

Studying at LSE

Student

Courses

Professor

LLB/JD Program

Life at LSE

Extracurriculars

Stress

Networking

Career

Closing


I'm really happy to invite Jessica to come and tell us about her experience at LSE. So let's start off. Jessica, can you please briefly introduce yourself? Like, where you are graduated from and your IB score?


Oh, yeah, sure. Hi, everyone. I'm Jess. I graduated from Dulwich Shanghai Pudong in June 2019. And I'm going to be graduating from the London School of Economics in June 2022. I'm studying law at LSE. And I've just finished my second year. I'll be starting my last year in September. In terms of my IB score, I got a 43 overall, with a 7-6-6 at Higher Level. At the Higher level, I did English Lit, which is what I got my 7 in, and Maths and History.



 

Applying to LSE



I'll start with a really general question. What inspired you to enter law school? Or, Why did you suddenly realize that you want to study law?


Yeah, that's a good question. I think part of it was the influence of the IB. Because the IB subjects are so wide-ranging, unlike A-levels where you can kind of specialize more in certain subjects. The IB makes you do all different kinds of subjects. I found that I enjoyed a lot of them. As you can tell from my higher levels — I did both Maths and English — I kind of enjoyed a variety of subjects. So I thought that law was a pretty good intersection between the maybe like traditional sciences of like biology and maths and the more humanities, humanities side of history and English. And it was probably also influenced by my extracurriculars as well. So in high school, I did a lot of debate and MUN and I feel like a career in law and a degree in law kind of skills complement each other very well. So I knew that law was probably the right subject for me.



Great, I think you were also a founder of Law Society in Dulwich. So can you tell us more about that?

So I figured that once I realized that I wanted to go into law for university, I really wanted to kind of learn more about it and gain some more experience whilst in high school to kind of prepare myself for what university would bring. But at the time, Dulwich didn't have anything that was specifically law-based. So a friend of mine and I came together to start this Law Society. We had weekly meetings where we would discuss current affairs and legal news. I think it really helps me now because of the same skills that we applied back then, when thinking about things to do with the law happening in the news, I'm still using those skills now in my day-to-day life in my course. So it was a really helpful opportunity.

 

LSE, as we know, it's part of the Russell Group. So it has the third-lowest acceptance rate out of all the Russell groups. So what do you think are the aspects that LSE admission officers are looking for in a personal statement or just an application in general?


Hmm. Well, I think the first and foremost, I guess it goes without saying that the grades need to be there. But I think since most of the applicants will most likely have the grades, what's going to set you apart will be your personal statement. And for law, your LNAT score. For your personal statement, I would say that they're looking for you to demonstrate a genuine interest in the subject that you're applying for. And the way you can kind of work that it is by maybe talking about something that you're learning currently at school, and how studying piqued your interest for the subject that you're applying to. Maybe it's the skills that you developed, maybe the content that you're studying, and anything that links what you're doing currently academically to what you want to be doing academically in the future, I'm pretty sure is what they want to see. Also, it helps if you have the relevant extracurriculars to support that. So as I said, I knew I wanted to study law. So I did a lot of debating and MUN in high school and that kind of advocacy and research skills, I'm sure helps me in the application stage. And they're not looking for this species, I would say, but if you do have work experience that would be really helpful in showing a long-term, I guess, interest in the subject that you're applying for.



So apart from the personal statement, I believe that we also have to prepare for our LNAT. So how did you prepare for LNAT? Can you give us any tips on the whole preparation?


The LNAT... so there are two sections, if I remember correctly, the first is a multiple-choice critical thinking section. And the second is a short essay. LSE actually only looks at the first half. So they only look at the score that you get in the multiple-choice questions. And that part, I would say is easier to prepare for than the latter section. So that's good. What I personally did, and what I think most of my peers did was get these books, there are these LNAT books that essentially are just composed of a series of different practice questions for the multiple-choice ones. And I'm pretty sure you can find practice tests online as well. Since it's not content-based, it's nothing that you have to memorize. It's more skills-based. These I think, practice, practice, practice, is the best way to do well, for critical thinking tests.



Then do you think reading current affairs will help you to write the LNAT for the short essay section?


The essay part I would say... maybe yeah. Although I think they're just trying to see how clearly and accurately you can write in a short period of time, and how quickly you can synthesize information to produce an argument, rather than necessarily how much you know, about a very specific topic in current affairs. But of course, it wouldn't hurt to, you know, read the news in the UK or, you know, recent business news on the Financial Times, etc.


 

Studying at LSE



Let's move on from applying to LSE to actually study law at LSE. So what do you think is your most memorable moment, while studying at LSE?


The most memorable moment, um, it has to just be a welcome week. So my first week at LSE. It was, I guess, the most exciting week because it's the week where you first meet all of your professors of your peers, where you're making new friends, I'm getting used to being in the university classrooms, that kind of thing. And just the difference from high school was so stark that I think it'll always just stand out in my mind.



How many students were there in a year?


This year, there are more because of the whole fact that there weren't IB and A-level final exams for a lot of people. The incoming cohort was a lot bigger. But usually, for my cohort, there are 150 of us in my year.


It's a pretty decent number.


Yeah, I would say though, because LSE is a pretty small university, compared to like, UCL and Kings, because, first of all, we only do social sciences. So that kind of cuts half of the subjects off. Yeah, but as well, I think our intake is smaller than those subjects than those universities as well. So 154 law is pretty solid. I think economics has the most I think they have around 300.

 

Besides the compulsory courses that you have to take like criminal law and other areas of laws, I think you also have to take optional courses, right. Can you please tell us what sort of courses that you have taken and what is like your favorite course out of all of them?


Sure. So in the first year, all of the courses are mandatory. And there's You know, criminal law, like you said, there's contract law, tort law. This year, my two mandatory courses were EU law and property. And the ones that I chose outside of that were medical law and commercial contracts. So I picked those because, well, I want to go into the commercial law industry in the commercial law field after I graduate. That's why I took commercial contracts because I felt that it would help me develop the skills I would need for my career. Medical law, I took a pretty different reason. I'm very interested in the philosophical and moral side of the law. And medical law consists of a lot of that. So it's less black letter law, kind of like memorizing what the law is, and more discussing what the law should be, in terms of contentious subjects like abortion, assisted dying, that kind of thing. So that's what I found the most interesting.


I was surprised that LSE has only "Commercial Contract" as one of its courses which has the name "Contract" in it. Why is that?


Yeah, so LSE is different in the contract is technically still a compulsory subject. So it's something that you have to take in the first year, except the title of the course is called the Law of Obligations. We're into contract law for Term 1. And tort law for Term 2. So it's like a civil case. So yeah, so it's like the contract course of other units, except it's condensed into one term.

 

How easily can you contact the professors at LSE?


Um, professors definitely are easy to contact. They also have office hours. So you can book to meet your professor one-on-one for a period of time, I think they're 30 minutes at a time. But professors are also different from, like, from your teachers. So professors will deliver the lectures. And sometimes your professor will be your teacher. But more often than not, it'll just be an assistant professor, maybe like someone who didn't deliver the lecture. And sometimes it will even be a Ph.D. student who's writing a thesis on the area of law that you're studying or something like that. But everyone's really easy to reach. If you have any questions about course content, there are loads of different avenues that you can contact.

 

Great. I also heard that LSE has also had a Double Degree with Columbia Law School. So after four years, you get an LLB from LSE and JD from Columbia. I read from the website that it's really competitive, as the chances of getting in are slim. So how exactly competitive is that? And what kind of abilities or strengths do you think a candidate should have in order to apply for this Double Degree program?


It is competitive, I think. I'm not too sure how many people apply every year, but they usually only accept one or two. And the reason for that is, if you're going to do what would normally take you seven years in four years, that's going to be very academically challenging. And they want to make sure that you have the ability, essentially to do that. So what they're going to be looking for is a really strong performance in the first year. So you would apply for the degree program in Term 1 of the second year. So they're going to be looking for really strong first-year performances. They also ask you to submit all of the essay feedback that you've ever gotten. So any grades that you've ever received, and I think you must be not only above average, but one of the best inconsistently throughout all of them in order to have a chance of getting onto the program. They also interview you, after shortlisting based on grades, they'll interview you, I guess they're looking to see your motivations for studying in New York specifically, and whether, you know, and it's also very expensive, so I think they're looking to see whether you'll be able to afford it. And you know, whether you'll be able to afford living in New York as well, that kind of thing.


 

Life at LSE



Let's move on to Life at LSE. What extracurriculars do you participate in LSE? What are the major achievements during your time at LSE?


Okay, um, the main society. So there are two kinds of extracurriculars, I guess you could call them. The first are societies, which includes sports teams and stuff as well, and academic societies. And the second is volunteering. So I definitely was more involved in societies in my first year, but that's just because of COVID. And people were allowed to meet and do events and stuff in the first year. But I've been quite involved with the Law Society. I gained a position on the subcommittee in my first year as a junior mooting officer. In my second year, which is this year, I was a Careers officer, and I was recently elected to be president of the Law Society in my final year at uni. Aside from that, in my first year, I was part of some social societies as well, there's one called ABCUS, which stands for Association of British and Chinese University students. And it's a society that's run between all the intercollegiate University of London universities. So it includes Queen Mary, Kings, UCL, and the really great to feel like a sense of community, you know, whilst that LSE, like a sense of community, with students from other universities. The other societies I was in were Amnesty International and United Nations.


Besides academics, does LSE focus a lot of their energy and time on extracurriculars?


I definitely think so. Although that's not necessarily I wouldn't say that they're run by LSE. These societies are actually run by the Student Union, which is independent of the university itself. But the university does host a lot of public lectures, and talks, they invite a lot of really well-known speakers to come in and talk, they organize volunteering events, as well. So there is a lot to do.

 

How stressful do you think are studying law at LSE is? How do you normally balance work and life?


stressful? Um, it is stressful. Don't get me wrong. But I think stress is definitely subjective, you know what I mean? It all depends on how much time you need to personally put in to achieve what you want to achieve. So, just explain that a bit better, I guess everyone's goals are different. And the amount of time that you need to spend studying or doing work to achieve those goals will therefore also be different. For me, in my first year, I definitely put more of a focus on participating in social events, making new friends at University, and exploring London, that kind of thing. Not just because your first-year grades don't count towards your final degree, but also because I feel like that's a really important part of enjoying University, you know, you can be working 24-7 and do really well on your exams. But I don't know if you'll have as many good memories when you look back on your time at university. So I think it's definitely worth putting some emphasis on self-care, putting some emphasis on taking time for yourself outside of your studies to minimize how stressful the degree can get. If that makes sense.

 

You're absolutely right about that. University is not just about study. So because you said that you spent more energy on networking making friends. So what do you normally do during your first year apart from attending societies? What are other ways that you would make friends with our students from other colleges? And can you give us any tips on that or advice?


I was pretty lucky because the dorms that I was staying at were intercollegiate dorms, which meant that they didn't just have LSE students, but they also had students from UCL and Kings. So as Queen Mary. For me, it was pretty natural to befriend people from other universities. And I had more of an opportunity, I guess, to meet and socialize with them. If you stay in an LSE-only dorm, for example, as I said before, there are some intercollegiate societies like ABCUS sports events, you know, like sports teams from different universities play against each other. I think if you're more interested in like music and drama, I think the universities do like joint concerts and stuff outside of COVID times. To be honest, because half of my unique experience has been during COVID, I haven't had a lot of first-hand experience when it comes to those kinds of in-person events. But I do know that they have how into the past. So I'm sure when COVID passes, they'll come back and you'll have more opportunities to meet students from other universities than we do now.


Then how many people share one dorm?


Um, so there are two kinds of dorms, the ones that I stayed at are like corridor base if that makes sense. They look more like an American dorm, or it's just like a really long corridor. And then like, yeah, those have rooms along with them. But what's more common are dorms with flats, which means, you take the elevator to your floor, scan your keycard, and open the door. And this is a very short corridor with about like, five bedrooms and a shared kitchen. And you know, like people usually, it's easier to befriend your flatmates just because you're sharing the same kitchen, you're talking to each other all the time, but it's also harder to meet other people who live in the same building, I guess is you because you can't access other people's flats. Okay, so when it comes to, picking your accommodation, and stuff like that, maybe that's something that you would want to take into account.


Then did you have any difficulty at the very start, like the first week of school to find friends? Or just feel a bit lonely?


Sure, I mean, I, I was definitely, I definitely got homesick, I think that's a universal experience that a lot of university students can, can relate to, um, in terms of being in terms of making friends, I think, well, the dorm that I was at organized these like, speed dating kind of things where people would meet each other for the first time and talk to other people in the halls. There are also common rooms and all the dorms were generally, especially during freshers week or as the first couple weeks of term, everyone will be there in the evenings after their classes to just socialize and make new friends. LSE sometimes has a pretty bad reputation for, I guess, like, social life and student satisfaction. From my personal experience, I think your social life is 100% of what you make of it, you know, I guess you're always going to be in your room and isolating yourself. And then you complain about, you know, like, people being anti-social, I feel like you need to step out of your own shell and meet others who are, you know, going to your university and are also looking to meet you.

 

You said previously that you chose a commercial contract because you're interested in getting into that area. So, in terms of your future career, are you planning to get into, like commercial law fields?


That's right. So um, um, there's two, if you want to go into a career in law, there's like two kinds of main tracks. The first is a solicitor. The second is a barrister. And I think the commercial solicitor track is the one for me. So this summer, I'm doing a couple of internships at commercial law firms. They're called vacation schemes. And hopefully, I'll be able to convert them into a training contract, which is a graduate job that you go straight into after graduating from uni. So you go straight to work as a trainee for the law firm. If you want to become a barrister, it's a different process. You do instead of vacation schemes you would do mini pupilage is and then a pupilage and hope to be recruited by chambers. But yeah, it's two very different processes.


Okay, so how competitive do you think becoming a solicitor is like in London?


it's really competitive. Um, as I said, you can become a commercial solicitor, you want to first go into a training contract with a commercial law firm. You can apply for those directly, but the acceptance rates are so low. I'm not going to give you a number because I'm not too sure, but I think it's definitely lower than University recruitment rates, especially for the top firms. Yeah, so you're better off doing a vacation scheme whilst you're in uni. In the summer of your second or third year, and hopefully converting those into a training contract at the end of the scheme, there are also a bunch of first-year schemes. In my first year, I spent a lot of time going to career events at law firms. And you can apply for first-year insight schemes, you know, sometimes they'll be like an open day with the law firm where they explain the firm's work and their values. And you can decide whether you want to apply. And other times there'll be week-long schemes where you'll be tasked with things to do for the firm. And those will put you in really good stead for vacation scheme and training contract applications come second and third year.


So do you foresee that the path for a solicitor or barrister is going to be narrower as time goes by like; it's going to be more even more competitive than right now?


I think the job market has gone kind of haywire since COVID. And there have been a lot more applicants this year and last year than there were before. So in that sense, yes. It'll it is a lot more competitive. And also, there's been a lot more legal technology that's being rolled out recently, which is unfortunate, I guess. I mean, it's good for the legal industry. But in terms of the number of roles and the number of trainees that they'll take in every year, I feel like the intakes will reduce.

 

Closing

That's really good to hear that. And so thank you so much for spending this time to share your experience at LSE. So I'm sure that we all have learned a lot from your interview. So what just one last question. How can we contact you if we have any more questions to ask about LSE?


Sure. Um, my LSE email is j.w.ma@lse.ac.uk. My Instagram account is j.essma.

Great, then. Thank you so much, Jessica.


No worries at all. I'd be happy to answer any questions that anyone may have about LSE.


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