You can have rubbish A-levels and still succeed in legal profession

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Legal Cheek Twitter hash tag generates rush of proud responses from those who pissed about at school but still became lawyers


Newbie law students may be cracking the cider bottles to celebrate their exam results, but do A-levels really mean that much in the modern legal profession recruitment game?

Graduate recruitment specialists tell Legal Cheek that even the top law firms are increasingly moving away from a forensic distillation of A-level results. They are far more interested in breaking down specific law degree module performance.

Indeed, university results are what matters — at least on the solicitor side of the profession. Top-flight Square Mile recruitment specialists indicate that a first-class degree from even a mediocre university will trump a “Desmond” (or for those born in the 1990s, a 2.2) from Oxbridge and an upper second from a Russell Group law faculty.

While that approach is not as prevalent at chambers — most pupillage committees still cast an eye over A-level results — it is gradually seeping into bar recruitment policies as well.

And as Legal Cheek’s Twitter hashtag (#LawyersWithRubbishAlevels) today showed, even lawyers from past generations have managed to overcome “rubbish” A-level results and achieve success in the legal profession.

Top marks (as it were) went to Stefan Cross QC. The solicitor silk informed us that he bagged an A-level “Auntie” (er … that’s BBC).

Another well known criminal law specialist — barrister turned solicitor-advocate Nicholas Diable — put his hands up to kipping through A-levels, ending up with a BED.

And bollicks A-levels also don’t seem to be an automatic block to nailing down a judicial appointment, as @BrummyBar points out.

Here’s a selection of other lawyers who battled into the profession despite spending a fair bit of time puffing on the fags round the bike sheds.


Tax Lawyer

Meant well, I’m sure, but I suspect it is rather harder to overcome a poor set of ‘A’ levels in this more brutal age…

I know senior lawyers in MC firms with 2:2s, but I imagine it’d be nigh-on impossible for someone with that degree to get in nowadays, at least not without years of building up a name at less judging firms. And I expect that’s the case with ‘A’ levels too.



I thought my ABB was rubbish. I’ve been outdone again.



These are the exception rather than the norm.

I think it’s cruel to ignore A Level grades in favour of university module grades. Some of us worked hard to get good grades at A Level then deservedly ‘took our feet off the gas’ at university. Provided you get a good 2.1, and have the A Levels to demonstrate the intellectual ability to have done better, why should that matter?

N.b. I am a qualified solicitor at a Magic Circle firm so no sour grapes for me.



Most law firms do not ignore A-level grades; in fact, they usually chuck applications in the bin if they don’t meet a required minimum. Even if they did, it’s probably because university modules are much harder and more reflective of practice (if you do the LLB) than A-levels. A-levels require hard graft, whereas a degree requires hard graft AND independent thought and the ability to construct a well-reasoned argument.

Turning your argument on its head: how would it be fair for someone 16/17 who did not have their foot on the gas during A-levels, but made a turnaround at university?



I am still recovering from the disappointing AAAAAB.
Oh well.



ABBB followed by a 2:2.

Went to night school at 69th ranked law school in the UK afterwards.

Now a solicitor in a top 20 firm.



BBC followed by a 2:2 from a top 10 law school. I qualified in April and have been offered NQ jobs at two national firms.

If you really want to get there you can.



BCC, 2:1 from a Met and a Commendation on the GDL – wish me luck!



ABC, 2:1 (69.5%) from a very average uni but several years banking experience. Starting TC at MC firm in Feb.



One of the reasons a-levels are looked at less now, is their unreliability. Depending on subject, exam board and assessment methods, candidates have been able to resit modules and resubmit coursework over the course of two years to improve their grades. That won’t happen at university or in the world of work.

Add in the issues regarding social mobility and it’s a surprise many firms still have a “you must have X UCAS” points rule. Law seems to be one of the few sectors still holding on to that requirement, especially at such a high threshold.


Not Amused

“That won’t happen at university”

I’m afraid that that is precisely what happens at some universities


Lord Harley

I am a Solicitor Advocate and Counsel at a leading charity.

What I don’t have in the way of qualifications I make up.



I have no qualifications at all and I am head of state with quite a few palaces thrown in.
Don’t give up.


Kuzka's Mother

Pretty crap A-levels (BCC) as I spent most of my last years of school messing about. After 2 years in the army for national service in my home country (which was a massive boost – I spent a surprising amount of time in my various interviews being asked about it) I went to a good uni for a music degree (something I’ve always been passionate about and had all the required certificates for) and got a first. A GDL and LPC later I bagged my training contract, probably due to the narrative of academically turning myself around – I didn’t put my A-level scores on my CV, which possibly cost me some interviews but most seemed impressed enough by my undergrad and my pretty good GDL and LPC grades. So while good A-levels are usually important for getting into a good university and all the benefits that brings, if you take a more unconventional route to the profession like I did, or have done a substantial amount of non-academic stuff that will benefit later, they certainly lose their importance as far as getting ahead within the profession is concerned.


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