The Cambridge Law Tripos
Every Law student in Cambridge, whatever their college, attends the same lectures, organised by the Faculty of Law in its striking modern building (designed by Lord Foster in 1995) on the university’s Sidgwick Site (10 minutes’ walk from Corpus). Supervisions on each topic are arranged, usually in groups of two to four students, by the Colleges, with each College sending its Law students to teachers who are specialists in the particular branch of Law concerned. Corpus lawyers, in common with all Cambridge Law students, receive some supervisions in their own College and some in other Colleges. At least three of the four first-year papers (Constitutional Law, Tort Law and Civil Law I in 2016-17) are taught ‘in-house’ at Corpus. A considerable choice of papers is permitted in the second and third years of study. For additional information about the Tripos syllabus, please consult the Faculty website.
Why study Law at Corpus?
Law at Corpus has a long and proud history, and an enthusiastic present! Old Members include many senior judges and leading practitioners, such as Lord Hodge (UK Supreme Court), Sir Terence Etherton (the new Master of the Rolls, 2016), Judge Christopher Vajda (European Court of Justice), Mr Justice Stuart-Smith and Mr Justice Lavender of the High Court (Queen’s Bench Division). Other Honorary Fellows include retired judges Sir Martin Nourse, Sir Murray Stuart-Smith and Baroness Butler-Sloss, who was the first female Court of Appeal judge in English legal history. Practising old members maintain active links with the College through the Nicholas Bacon Law Society, named after the Elizabethan Lord Keeper of the Great Seal – another Old Member of the College in the sixteenth century.
At any one time there are about 15-20 Law undergraduates at Corpus, although the number varies on a yearly basis. Most of them study Law across all three years. Law students work hard, but are enthusiastic about the subject. Corpus students in particular take an active interest in mooting (competitions that involve the argument of hypothetical cases before mock courts). Each year a College mooting contest is held for first-year law students with the final judged by one of the College’s judicial Old Members. We also have an annual moot against Corpus Christi College, Oxford, sponsored by the barristers’ chambers 7 KBW.
The College’s undergraduate library has a dedicated Law reading room. This contains much of the material that an undergraduate will need. The university’s Squire Law library is only a short distance away in the Law Faculty building. It maintains one of the largest legal collections, both printed and electronic, in the UK.
Our Fellows in Law
Corpus offers excellent teaching across a range of subjects in Law, with three Fellows and two Preceptors (experts who teach for the College).
|The Director of Studies in Law is Dr Jonathan Morgan, who undertook his doctoral research at the College after undergraduate study at Oxford. He teaches and researches in public law as well as the law of obligations. He supervises students in the core papers of Tort (first year) and Contract (second year). His recent publications include Contract Law Minimalism: A Formalist Restatement of Commercial Contract Law (2013), Hepple and Matthews’ Cases and Materials on Tort Law (seventh edition, 2015) and Great Debates in Contract Law (second edition, 2015).|
|Prof Nigel Simmonds specialises in jurisprudence (the philosophy of law). He supervises Corpus students in this (popular) optional paper. Prof Simmonds is the author of numerous papers in legal and philosophical journals, and of four books, The Decline of Juridical Reason (1984), A Debate over Rights (1998), Central Issues in Jurisprudence (third edition, 2008) and Law as a Moral Idea (2007; paperback, 2008).|
|Prof David Ibbetson FBA is the Regius Professor of Civil Law and President of Clare Hall, Cambridge. Himself a former undergraduate and doctoral student at Corpus, and a Fellow of the College for 14 years, Prof Ibbetson is now a Preceptor in Law. He teaches the core first year paper Civil Law I (i.e. Roman law) and the optional paper in Legal History. Prof Ibbetson’s research concerns English and European legal history, and in particular the historical relationship between English Common Law and the legal systems and legal thought of the rest of Europe. He has published works on a wide range of subjects and is the author of A Historical Introduction to the Law of Obligations (1999), also having edited The Roman Law Tradition (1994) and the Cambridge University Press series, Comparative Studies in the Development of the Law of Torts in Europe (2010-2012), the latter with Prof John Bell.|
|Dr Thomas Adams is the Hong Kong Link Research Fellow in Law. His research interests include jurisprudence as well as theoretical aspects of public law. Dr Adams supervises Corpus students for the core first-year paper in Constitutional Law and the popular optional paper in Administrative Law.|
|Dr Andreas Televantos is a Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and a Praeceptor in Law at Corpus. He supervises the core second year paper of Land Law. His research encompasses the history of property law, focusing on Chancery litigation about trusts, commerce and insolvency in the eighteenth century.|
What does Corpus look for in Law applicants?
Law students may come from either an Arts or a Science background: no particular A-Level subjects (or equivalent) are preferred. As at most other Colleges, candidates now sit the Cambridge Law Test at the interview in December. The test is common to all the Colleges and is set by the Faculty of Law: more information (including sample questions) is available here
Nicholas Bacon Society and Fund
For many years the Nicholas Bacon Law Society has maintained links between Law students and alumni through its annual dinner and other events. It has a flourishing social programme organized by and for the current students.
One very important aspect of links between current and former members of the College has been the establishment of the Corpus Christi Nicholas Bacon Fund as a separate registered charity (no. 1115923) by a group of old Corpus lawyers, led by Sir Terence Etherton. This fund aims to support undergraduate and postgraduate Law students at Corpus who might otherwise have encountered financial difficulties. Current students are invited to apply for awards from the Fund, and many receive funding each year. The Fund also provides textbooks for all undergraduates.
Giuseppe Jafari (second year law undergraduate)
Life as a law student at Corpus is a truly wonderful experience. You are lectured and supervised by leading academics in their field in the inspiring surroundings of an 800-year-old university. The law degree course is undoubtedly intense, given that you are learning a new and challenging discipline from scratch and are expected to understand thoroughly and apply a variety of legal rules and principles. Yet if you are committed to your studies, reading law at Corpus will likely be a far more enjoyable and rewarding journey than studying the subject in any other institution given the frequent and close individual attention you are given by your teachers, allowing you to have any doubts about a topic resolved and, more fundamentally, offering scope to see law from a deeper perspective.
Corpus’s central location should not be underestimated. It only takes a 10-minute leisurely and aesthetically pleasing stroll from College in the centre of town to get to the centrally run Law Faculty lectures. All of my first year supervisions (small group teaching sessions) were either in the college itself or within a 15-minute walking distance (5 minutes if you cycle). A clear advantage of life at Corpus for me is that, given our small and very tight-knit community, when I arrived here I soon got to know students from all subjects in all years. I became friends with the postgraduate students just as much as with the undergraduates; the size of the college fosters this dynamic, especially if you play for one of the college sport teams.
There are roughly six lawyers at Corpus in each year. Very quickly in our first weeks at Cambridge, our group of six formed a very supportive group of friends and colleagues. Unlike some other colleges, there is no sense of competitiveness among the Corpus law students: we help each other day in day out. In the exam term, we regularly met up to revise as a group the four papers that everyone studies in the first year. I found this an invaluable aid in the build up to exams.
Another aspect of life as a Corpus lawyer is the Nicholas Bacon Law Society which allows a fruitful interaction to take place between students, fellows and alumni. For me the highlights of the NBLS calendar were the curry night at the start of Michaelmas Term, the Christmas Dinner at its end, and the annual dinner in March where old members of Corpus who are now working as lawyers come back to the college. Corpus alumni are keen to meet and encourage the current generation of students. I was offered the chance to act as a judge’s marshal by one of many Corpuscles now serving in the senior judiciary.
I thoroughly recommend you applying for Law at Corpus!
Francesca Skakel (third year law undergraduate)
As someone who did not study Law at A-level, I understand how daunting starting a degree in law can be. You could not be in better hands than at Corpus. With its mentoring system of older law students who show you the ropes, and the encouraging academic staff always fighting your corner, you are supported all the way through. This has really helped me enjoy what can be at times a difficult and challenging course—indeed I enthuse over it! You realise just how lucky you are when you notice that many of those responsible for supervisions (small-group teaching) at Corpus are also those giving the lectures in the faculty to students from all the colleges.
While Corpus is wonderfully situated right in the centre of town, and only a 10-minute walk away from the law faculty, the amazing and fully stocked Corpus “lawbrary” (law library) has saved me a lot of travelling! The Corpus library is also (in my opinion) a calmer and friendlier environment to work in than faculty (Squire Law) library. Also, for those of you who are night owls, it is open 24/7, while the law faculty’s library is only open during daylight hours.
It’s not all work though for Corpus lawyers! The student-run Nicholas Bacon Law Society provides some truly excellent events, with lavish meals and garden parties galore. Law students also benefit from a dedicated charity (the Nicholas Bacon Law Fund) that provides for free the main textbook for your core subjects, and if you are eligible hardship funding.
Such advantages offered at Corpus really make it stand out as top choice for prospective law students. I will miss it when I graduate next year!
Irina Tuca (second year law undergraduate)
When I first visited Corpus, I instantly felt welcome. What I liked most about the college were its central location and its small community. When I returned as a student, these proved to be the things that helped me adapt to university life the most. At Corpus, you get to know everybody (other students, college staff, supervisors) within the first few weeks, which creates a real sense of community. By the end of my first term, I genuinely felt at home.
Studying law at Cambridge is difficult, without a doubt. Especially because it is a subject you don’t typically study at school, so it is quite challenging getting to grips with the basics, such as where to find cases, how to read a judgment, how to approach academic commentaries etc. However, one of the best things about being a lawyer at Corpus is that the supervisors are more than willing to help. Because of the small community here, as well as the social events organised by the Nicholas Bacon Law Society, you get to know your supervisors and lecturers really well, which means you get to feel at ease approaching them with any issues or questions you might have.
Furthermore, I think that having only five other lawyers in my year works perfectly. The atmosphere is very much one of support rather than competition: we often meet up to discuss cases or simply revise together. Essentially, we bond over both the struggle of coping with the workload and the joy of seeing it pay off. And it really does pay off—I genuinely found that the more I worked the more I started to enjoy it, since I came to understand law better.
If I were to apply all over again, I would still choose Corpus in a heartbeat.
Emily Bodger (third year law undergraduate)
The first thing I discovered on starting my law degree at Corpus was the college’s very inclusive and friendly environment. Given Corpus’s small size, I quickly got to know a number of students across all the year groups, which was hugely valuable in the first term when I was still finding my feet and studying law for the first time.
In terms of contact hours, a typical week will include a number of lectures and around three supervisions. The rest of my study time is therefore spent in the library working through reading lists to develop my understanding in particular areas. Whilst studying law at Cambridge is undoubtedly challenging and the workload can be tough, I have still found time to enjoy the other things the university has to offer and there is a huge amount of pastoral support at Corpus, at both an academic and personal level. The sense of achievement that you get after pushing yourself academically is also thoroughly rewarding.