London law firm partner with 2:1 degree ‘immediately discards’ applicants with a first because she thinks they’re arrogant

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By Katie King on

Tell that to your parents when they nag you to do more revision


A law firm partner who has over ten years experience recruiting has revealed she gives priority to 2:1 candidates because first class degree holders are arrogant.

Sarah Perkins, chartered patent attorney and owner of namesake intellectual property firm Stevens Hewlett & Perkins, has adopted this non-traditional approach to recruitment because:

In all my years I have been recruiting, I have singularly failed to find a good candidate with a first class degree, so I choose to consider and interview people with lower classifications first.

The 52-year-old University of Edinburgh grad — who herself received a 2:1 — also said first class candidates “talk down” to interviewers, “think they can do anything” and ultimately lack the skills needed to work in a law firm environment. She added:

Academic brilliance encourages an arrogance that is not helpful.

When Perkins is recruiting patent attorneys — who must have a science degree and aren’t required to have a background in law — she “immediately discards anyone who has a top degree and no extra-curricular activities on their CV”. She will only interview first class degree holders if their extra-curricular work is “outstanding”, but ultimately prefers 2:1ers because they’re “more rounded”.

Though we doubt any budding lawyers will be throwing their non-charitable trusts notes out the window to sabotage their degree results, we still wanted to find out a bit more about Perkins’ uncommon recruitment approach.

Nailing first class marks in exams tends to be a good indicator of work ethic, determination and effort, so why favour lower scoring candidates?

When we put that to Perkins, she said:

I wholly agree that a first class degree is (usually) a good indicator of work ethic, determination and effort. However I also consider ‘soft skills’ such as communication skills and emotional intelligence to be important. My approach to recruitment would only be considered non-traditional by those who would consider such ‘soft skills’ to be of lesser importance.

But where does it end? If being academically high-achieving equals arrogance, then does that mean Perkins wouldn’t employ an Oxbridge grad? Again we put this to her, and she replied:

I do not attribute arrogance regarding one’s intellectual abilities to particular universities.

In fact, Perkins thinks this arrogance predates even the university enrolment stage, let alone graduation:

My personal experience from my involvement in careers events within schools is that some students have developed an arrogance in their intellectual abilities before they even get to university!