Key facts

Average number of students offered a place per year


Average number of applicants per year


Our standard conditional offer for this subject is usually A*AA at A level or 41 - 43 points overall and 7, 7, 6 at Higher Level in IB.  All Colleges may modify offers to take account of individual circumstances.  Further information can be found here.

Law has always been one of the principal subjects taught at Downing, and Downing has one of the largest law college communities in the University. The Law Fellows and Bye-Fellows are available to answer any inquiries as to the study of Law at Downing, and welcome invitations to visit schools.

A significant number of students who read law at university have no intention of becoming practising lawyers. The nature of the law course is such that they have acquired skills which are relevant to a wide variety of careers.

However, most students who study law do intend to become practising lawyers. It’s true that a law degree is not the only route to becoming a practising lawyer. But studying law enables students to develop their ability to think and write like lawyers, to use and understand technical vocabulary, to apply the law to resolve difficult problems and to analyse and engage with a wide variety of legal arguments. These are skills which take time to develop.

Further, in studying law as an academic discipline, students develop an understanding of the economic, political, social and international context in which the law applies, and an appreciation of its ethical and philosophical consequences. This often requires students to engage with other academic disciplines. The study of law means that students have a broader and deeper understanding of the law, rather than simply knowledge of rules. They are able to engage with the policies underpinning the law. They can assess evidence and they have the reasoning skills to become highly effective lawyers. In short, the study of law at university enables them to be better lawyers.

Professor Graham Virgo, Fellow in Law at Downing, has recorded a short video discussing the benefits of studying a law degree for those wishing to progress into the legal professions. That can be viewed here. In February 2013 Graham Virgo debated with Lord Sumption, a Justice of the Supreme Court, in the Law Faculty. The motion was: 'Those who wish to practise Law should not study Law at University'. Graham Virgo spoke against the motion and won the debate. You can watch that debate here.

Law lectures are organised by the Faculty of Law. Small group teaching sessions (called “supervisions”) are organised by College, and are led by the College’s Fellows and Bye-Fellows in Law wherever possible.

Professor Graham Virgo (Professor of English Private Law and Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)) who teaches Criminal Law and Equity.

Dr Brendan Plant (Hopkins Parry Fellow in Law and Director of Studies) who teaches Contract Law and International Law.

Mr William Day (Fellow in Law and Director of Studies) who teaches Tort and Commerical Law.

Other members of the law community at Downing include Professor David Feldman (Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of English Law and Emeritus Fellow of Downing College), Dr Charles Harpum (Emeritus Fellow of Downing College and former Law Commissioner for England and Wales) and Dr Kathy Liddell (University Senior Lecturer in IP Law).

Where there is not a subject specialist in college, arrangements are made for Downing students to be taught by academics at other colleges.

In addition to university resources, the college itself probably has the most comprehensive college law collection in Cambridge. The college library holdings include, in addition to copies of textbooks and specialist works for each subject, a complete set of the official law reports, two complete sets of UK statutes and over 40 other series of reports and leading law journals.

A number of substantial scholarships are available to students who perform exceptionally well in Tripos examinations.

The Harris, Jarvis, Saunders, and Seton Scholarships are among the most valuable law scholarships offered by any Cambridge college, being each of up to £3,000 in value.

There are also various funds available for law students to assist with the purchase of textbooks and to provide financial support.

All students who read law at Downing are members of the Cranworth Law Society, which is a vibrant and active community which organises a wide variety of events throughout the academic year.

The Society organizes a wide variety of events for Downing Law students throughout the year. Recent events have included:

talks and dinners organised by firms of solicitors and barristers’ chambers;

an annual trip to London, with a tour and lunch in one of the Inns of Court, a visit to the Supreme Court and dinner with a firm of solicitors in the City;

an internal College mooting competition for first year students and an inter–College mooting competition against Magdalene College;

social events, such as a Christmas Dinner, an end-of-term fancy dress dinner in March, and a Garden Party in May Week;

the Annual Dinner in June, to which a prominent guest speaker is invited each year. Previous speakers include Lady Black (Justice of the Supreme Court), Sir Richard McCombe (Lord Justice of Appeal), and Lady Shami Chakrabarti (Shadow Attorney General).

The Law Fellows attach the greatest importance to helping their students proceed to the next stage of their careers, whether in Law or otherwise.

One of the greatest benefits of the Cranworth Law Society is the links that it maintains with Downing alumni in the legal profession, who are on hand to offer advice and an insight into working in the law. The Society arranges recruitment events and talks throughout the year, so that Downing Law students are well prepared for a career in the law after University.

Many Downing law students go on to qualify as solicitors and barristers, and achieve conspicuous success in practice. Downing law alumni can be found at most leading law firms and chambers, as well as at all levels of the judiciary including the Supreme Court (Lord Lloyd-Jones) and the Court of Appeal (Sir Richard McCombe and Sir Kim Lewison). Alumni often return to Downing for Cranworth Law Society events to advise current students about future careers.

A significant number of students who have read Law at Downing also go on to pursue postgraduate study. Some pursue a one-year postgraduate degree, either the LLM at Cambridge, or a similar postgraduate degree at another UK university or in the United States. Some other students stay on at Cambridge to undertake research and obtain a PhD in Law.

Our standard conditional offer for law is usually A*AA at A level or 41 - 43 points overall and 7, 7, 6 at Higher Level in IB.  The college may modify offers to take account of individual circumstances. 

All combinations of subjects are acceptable for law at Downing, although there is a preference for academic rather than vocational subjects. The study of law at GCSE or A-Level is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage.

Subject to individual circumstances, if an applicant’s record indicates a realistic prospect of achieving the college’s standard conditional offer, they may be invited for interview. The college conducts four days of interviews in late November or early December of each year. The interview process is designed to ascertain aptitude for the study of law but does not require any prior knowledge of the law.

Applicants to Downing for law who are called for interview take the Cambridge Law Test in College on the same day as being interviewed. Again, no prior knowledge of the law is required.

No written work is requested prior to interviews.

Roughly 1 in 6 applicants is offered a place at Downing and a number of applicants are put into the Winter Pool and may be offered a place by another college.

Further advice about entry requirements and interviews for all subjects can be found in the Applying to Downing section of this site.

If you wish to find out more about studying Law at Downing College, please contact the Admissions Officer:

To explore law further, and for additional resources, visit