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Has an Oxbridge law degree lost its value?

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Final year Cambridge law students Zahra Mashhood and Loviisa Langdon consider the impact of recent moves by the legal profession to draw graduates from a wider pool.

Most firms and chambers have, for now, decided not to follow the ‘CV Blind’ schemes being pioneered by Clifford Chance and Outer Temple. But the very existence of such initiatives is illustrative of a huge shift in the philosophy of trainee lawyer recruitment.

On one hand, Cambridge University duo Loviisa Langdon and Zahra Mashhood reckon that this change is a good thing. Certainly, they agree that anything that counters the often inaccurate “gentlemen’s club” perception of the Oxbridge-City law firm relationship is desirable.

But on the other hand, they’re concerned about the practical realities of hiring on a “blind”, or semi-blind, basis. Could certain parts of candidates’ CVs — such as grades — end up being considered, while other bits — like the university someone studied at — be hidden from decision-makers? And might such a scenario place graduates of top unis at a disadvantage?

“A 2:1 at one university is not necessarily the same as a 2:1 at the other: that needs to be taken into account,” says Langdon.

Being at a top uni like Cambridge is demanding, she continues, with the high work levels leaving less time to devote to the extra-curricular activities which so impress law firms and barristers’ chambers.

Plus, contrary to popular belief, “it’s not the case that everyone at Cambridge walks into a vac scheme or training contract”, explains Mashhood, with Oxbridge students dogged by a perhaps unfair stereotype that they lack commercial awareness in comparison to their counterparts at universities in larger cities.

Looking ahead, Mashhood and Langdon wonder if students from ordinary backgrounds will be discouraged from applying to Oxbridge by a growing perception that it doesn’t count particularly favourably with potential employers — and could even count against you.

Listen to Mashhood and Langdon’s discussion in full in the podcast below.