My A levels are BDE and I have a couple of low percentages in my second year of a law degree. Should I give up now?
in Careers Advice, Training Contracts, Pupillage and Work Experience

My A levels are BDE and I have a couple of low percentages in my second year of a law degree. Should I give up now?

This question (which is actually two questions in one) has been sent in to us by a law student who sounds most concerned about their potential future legal career. They want to know whether or not they should even bother trying to establish themselves in the legal profession or whether they have scuppered their chances with their A level grades and need to look elsewhere. The second question is the low percentages for subjects on their law degree.

After all, there are a number of law firms out there who look right back through to GCSEs to make a decision on whether to recruit.

Simple Advice – A Level Grades

Our advice is very simple – you just need to be clever in the way that you establish yourself in the legal profession, be prepared for lots of rejection and finally accept that there are going to be certain doors that are now closed to you because your A level results are not sufficient to open them. One does wonder whether some law schools ought to be a bit more selective when allowing students onto law courses, but that’s a topic for another day. With the new apprentice route it may well remove the need for some potential lawyers to actually go through with the academic route into law and instead start working at the coal face early on in a career.

Simple Advice – Degree Grades

Work harder in your third year. Give everything you’ve got to get a 2.1 or 1st class. This is your future career – don’t mess it up by working part time in a bar for a few pounds so you can go out clubbing midweek.

Rejection

A few simple truths. It is unlikely that large London law firms are going to look at you.

Neither are Legal 500 practices.

These firms go back all the way through your academic career to look for consistency, so if you have C’s at GCSE and low grades at A level then even if you were to get a first class degree from a good university, a good number of them will hold your A level and GCSE results against you.

We see this in recruitment because we get requests sometimes for solicitors and firms reject them because they look back through their academic career and decide it has not been consistent enough to demonstrate a particular level of ability and intelligence for them. Rightly or wrongly, this is just the way it is and I make no comment on it other than at times it can seem manifestly unfair and utterly ridiculous!

Low Degree Grades

It does not necessarily follow that the low percentage you perceive you have in one of your subjects in your degree is going to hold you back in any way. It will not hold you back provided you get a decent 2:1 degree and do not fall into the trap of leaving with a 2:2.

In most cases a 2:2 degree will make your life considerably harder at sourcing work in the legal profession, but not necessarily completely impossible.

One of the problems you will have throughout your time looking around for training contracts and long term legal jobs is that the vast majority of people you will be up against will have good quality A levels and a good degree. What you can do to improve your chances is the advice we give in just about every one of these articles, which is to get good quality legal work experience under your belt.

Legal Work Experience

Believe it or not the vast majority of people who leave university even with good A level results and good degree classifications are absolutely useless when it comes to making applications. This is because they have not bothered getting any legal experience and make no effort to even when they’ve finished their degree, and are going to have to have a bit of luck and fall into a job rather than actually be able to go and find one based on their CV.

Be Clever – Get Experience – and yes it is bloody hard to find

This is where you can make the odds much shorter for you. Go and get legal work experience as quickly as possible and get plenty of it.

Legal work experience will change your horizons as well as your expectations from a legal career, because the knowledge and skills you gain from a degree are nothing compared with the knowledge and skills you gain from actually working in law.

Working in law gives you a much better realistic idea as to where you want to be with your career, and not some sort of idealistic aim to be a human rights lawyer for work in media law because you perceive it to be exciting and interesting.

Actually working in law firms will make you realise that quite a lot of legal work is fairly humdrum and tedious and it is not for everyone. You may get to the end of a piece of work experience and decide in fact that the legal profession is not for you at all, and want to go off and do something completely different. But without that knowledge of exactly what a lawyer does you will never be able to go ahead and get a legal career going.

Summary

So our advice in summary is to get legal work experience, do not worry about the percentage at your degree but work much harder in your third year and forget about the A levels. But don’t waste your time applying for jobs where you don’t stand a chance due to minimum A level specs. Life is too short.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 17 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at www.legalcareercoaching.co.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk