Boutique law firm asks wannabe trainees to sell themselves NOT their grades

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Video killed the 3 As star


Eighteen months ago Adam Morallee founded the boutique intellectual property and sport firm Brandsmiths. He now employs nine people but is taking a less traditional approach to finding his tenth employee. He explains:

I was at Mishcon de Reya for quite a number of years and did a lot of graduate recruitment. And some of my colleagues would claim they were looking for someone who was commercially aware and got on with clients. But if you didn’t have three As and a first then you went straight in the bin.

According to Morallee this can create a challenging environment:

If everyone has three As and a first and everyone has been told by their mum they could be PM and if they are all brought into the same work-place then it can’t help but be dysfunctional.

It is a fair point. Former PM Gordon Brown famously always considered himself the cleverest person in the room. Any room. And a firm full of Gordon Browns might look good on paper but imagine the company team-building days. Softball hell.

The problem is particularly acute with paralegals:

There are some amazing paralegals who were really good and fit in really well but some firms say Freshfields don’t take on paralegals, Clifford Chance don’t take on paralegals. So they don’t do it because they think it makes them look like a second-class firm. Law firms are forever saying things like they want to find a diamond in the rough. But one: that’s a ridiculous project. And two: you have to be a bit of rough with 3 As and a first/2:1.

To shake things up a bit in his search for a new paralegal/trainee, Morallee is not asking candidates to trot out their familiar lists of academic qualifications and achievements but to go online and in a two or three minute video explain why they should be interviewed for the job. He explained:

The job is for 12 months as a paralegal and 18 months as a trainee. There is a space with their name on it waiting for them so long as they don’t mess up.

It is certainly a different approach and it is certain to appeal to different candidates. People can drop a grade for all kinds of reason and often that moment of failure can provide the spark that ensures they make the grade. Morallee agreed:

There are these artificial, stupid, outdated barriers in place. Of course, academic achievement is important — if two candidates are the same and one has As and one Cs I am going for the one with the As — but it is not the be all and end all. It is not even the most important thing.

Their videos should be more entertaining than an extremely dry interview Morallee was told about:

The partner asked the candidate what was his highest mark in an exam. The candidate replied 96%. And the partner replied: ‘I’m not happy with that because it implies 4% negligence.’

That’s really putting the human into human resources.

Check out the firm’s promotional video — which includes testimonials from TV chef Gordon Ramsay and professional boxer David Haye — below:



There’s hope for those not “top” yet



he still said… “i am going for the one with the As” so again its a load of Bol****s hype…



A bit chippy there are we not mate? Should have worked harder for your A-Levels.



True! Lol



He said “if two candidates are the same….you would go with the one with better grades”. Hardly “bollocks hype” – of course grades are a distinguishing factor, I think this bloke is just saying they only come into play at that stage, and not at the beginning. Personality first, then check the academics. It’s a big difference and I think reflects the real world. Still, judging by the fact you missed that I imagine you would be reticent for your two Es to be revealed at any stage.



Can we stop perpetuating the myth that you need a first to get a TC?

A mid/high 2:1 from a solid Red Brick University, along with extra-curricular activities is more than enough.



I agree, a 2:1 from Oxbridge / LSE / UCL would still get you through the door.



LSE and UCL are not even the most represented in the City after Oxbridge.



What about a 2:2 from Exeter…



In all honesty without mitigating circumstances, no. Think of it like this, what should a firm pick you over someone else who has a 2:1 or First, vac schemes and extra-curriculars. You may have something or experience that none of them have, although I doubt it.



As a trainee at a reputable city with with a 2:2 from Exeter, it’s possible but not easy. I had to self-fund and get top marks in the LPC, and piled on pro bono and extra curricular CV-fillers. You also need to network aggressively.



This is a really good idea! Of course a legal career is rigorous and hard but because someone didn’t get 3As doesnt mean they should be shut out! *Some* Law firms need to implement a different approach to applications because times have changed.

Grades shouldn’t be the be all and end all. Obviously HR are working all hours of the day and throughout the year going through applications (!) and need to filter it out but some low graded candidates have strengths in other areas that high grade candidates definitely don’t.


Not Amused

“It is a fair point. Former PM Gordon Brown famously always considered himself the cleverest person in the room. Any room. And a firm full of Gordon Browns might look good on paper but imagine …”

I don’t need to imagine. It’s called ‘the Bar’.



The Bar just got roasted.



Unless some people I know are lying about years’ worth of experience on their CVs, Freshfields do take paralegals.



I think he means they don’t take trainees from the paralegal cohort.



I think most trainees paralegal for a bit now because they do the shortened LPC and have a 6 month gap.



I’m thinking of starting a pop-up, third-wave, boutique firm specialising in ecclesiastical and sports law.

I’ll promote it by coming up with here today, gone tomorrow recruitment gimmicks and getting websites to write about them.




You wouldn’t mate. Because you’re all talk. At least this guy actually set up a firm: easy to be a keyboard warrior….


Lord Lyle of 3rd class unmanicured

I had to Google’boutique law firm’. I thought it might be a specialist beauty salon law firm or something.

And there’s loads of lawyers out there with a basic 3rd class degree, coz daddy.



Did you really? These guys act for BMW and Microsoft . Humour here is razor sharp….


Paddy Whack

Surely a good 2.1 or a first should be proof enough of the academic ability of persons applying for TC’s or pupilage

Relying on A level results that are lower down on the framework for qualifications than a degree is a bit silly.

Either A level results are superior to a degree and proof of ability to cope with a legal career or a Degree is superior and proof of ability, aptitude and knowledge.

Which is it? Why should we even bother with a Law degree if it is not sufficient to prove ability.


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