I got a 2:2 in drama — does it even matter how well I do in my GDL and BPTC?

I’m expecting a distinction

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one aspiring barrister wonders whether he’ll ever be able to shake the stigma attached to his 2:2 degree in drama.

areer

I went to university in 2002 and gained a 2:2 in drama and English. I then went on to complete a masters degree in English.

Since then, I have spent nine years in the police, working various roles from response policing to detective work. I am currently, while still working in the police, undertaking a full-time Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). I have thus far obtained five distinctions (public, tort, EU, criminal, ethics) and one commendation (contract). My expectation is I will achieve a distinction overall.

I have been accepted onto the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), and am wondering whether to take up the LLM option to go alongside it. I am worried that no matter how well I do in the GDL and BPTC, the fact that I achieved a 2:2 all those years ago may hamper me. Thoughts?

If you have a career conundrum, email us with it to careers@legalcheek.com.

96 Comments

Anonymous

Some sexy stuff going on at a BIG LAW FIRM THAT is housed in a building that has a peculiar shape (ie it fits into a certain hole in the body)

(5)(0)
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Anonymous

Not to say it can’t be done, but it will be incredibly tough. Don’t expect to get anywhere near a top firm/set.

Doesn’t say what you got in your masters. if that was a top mark that may help.

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Anonymous

It’s not fair. Getting those results in the GDL is epic and shows you have what it takes. I reckon apply- results that good DO make you stand out, even if the 2:2 is unhelpful.

(12)(17)
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Anonymous

Yes, it does.

A 2.2 in drama isn’t your strong point – 9 years in police, esp if that has included time in C.I.D. & some promotion, should go a long way to mitigating that.

Pick the sets to which you apply for pupillage, though.

There are sets where everyone’s gone to Oxbridge, and they probably aren’t going to interview you.

(11)(3)
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Anonymous

They never sound real. Alex likes to make these up to get the maximum reaction of “no, get lost”, which all LC commenters like to say. There’s going to be fewer clicks if the question is “I went to Eton, got a first from Cambridge, was on the rowing team and spent a year in Africa building a school. My dad is the CEO of a major oil company. Should I apply for a TC at a city law firm?”.

(50)(1)
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Anonymous

Wholly agreed. By spamming the sh*t out the comments under this article, we’re effectively paying for Alex’s mortgage.

The articles are obviously all fake, but who cares when the bantz are flowing right?

(33)(0)
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Anonymous

I watched a panel discussion on YouTube and there was a barrister on the panel from one of the top London criminal chambers. Her view was that a 2.2 would not be fatal – for her chambers – if you could (1) explain the poor result (2) demonstrate academic ability in other ways and (3) demonstrate an aptitude for criminal advocacy.

That’s one barrister’s view from one group focusing on a very particular area of practice. It probably isn’t the norm.

If you’re looking to practice commercial law in London then you’ve probably got no chance.

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Anonymous

You’ll do fine nobody looks at your degree certificate when you have that much experience, just try and avoid digital recruitment systems that auto filter and get a recruiter to get you in the room. Honestly degree class is not a concern, experience, presentation and creativity is. I know Oxford first class graduates that are complete blankets and couldn’t present to save their life. You are only as good as your last project not the one you did when you still wore hoodies.

(19)(6)
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Anonymous

Lots of big law firms will filter you out by algorithm. My first class law degree wouldn’t get me past most of those, because I had no A-levels (I can kind of see the sense of that in edge cases, where someone has a poor 2:1 or good 2:2, but other than that it seems more than a little naive).

(4)(1)
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Anonymous

Scrap the discouragers in the comments. You have YEARS of relevant experience, excellent recent grades and something that was done 15yrs ago won’t be a hindrance IF you go to the right chambers who will look past a undergrad degree! Network and speak to the right barristers and chambers. Aim high and wide seeking and filtering out the right chambers for you!

(22)(1)
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Anonymous

You’re doing a full-time GDL so you could have applied for pupillage this cycle, and you should have applied for an Inn scholarship for the BPTC.

If you didn’t do either of those things, (a) why not? (b) take a year out and do them next year.

If you did both and got absolutely nowhere then there seems little point in spending £15,000+ on the BPTC.

If you did both and got, say, a small Inn scholarship and a few pupillage interviews then it may be worth taking the risk.

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Anonymous

This. A thousand times this.

I have a first class degree, top of year distinction at Master’s, prizes, scholarships, tons of public speaking, and I did the GDL part-time (distinction) while developing and running a business. And yet, I didn’t get pupillage this year, despite several final-round interviews. Were it not for the fact that I was incredibly lucky to get a full Inn scholarship, I would not dream of doing the BPTC.

Face it: my qualifications are not particularly exceptional. Everyone has these, and some people have much better ones. Many of them got their firsts and distinctions despite the so-called “mitigating circumstances” like ill health, bringing up children, or just having to make a living. The Bar is an academic profession. A bunch of self-employed people are going to give up loads of time and their own money in order to teach a pupil the job for a year. Why would they take you over someone who has better academics?

By the way, I asked every mini-pupil supervisor I’ve had if one should do the BPTC before getting a pupillage offer. Every single one of them expressed the opinion that the BPTC will not increase your chances of getting pupillage by one iota. Unless you have it funded, why do it? You apply for pupillage over a year ahead, so you have time to do it once you accept an offer.

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Ex-rec

If you’re doing the BPTC and intended on practising that way, contact Chambers’ and see what they say.

The worst they can say is no… Legal Cheek isn’t the best place for ‘careers advice’, better to come here for info.

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Anonymous

Having a police career on your CV can rule you *out* of public or criminal law, rather than in (at least among solicitors, the bar might be different). There is huge mistrust in crime and public law firms of anyone who has been part of police culture. I couldn’t get anywhere with crime or public law, but got a TC at a city firm when I changed focus to commercial.

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Anonymous

met a pupil a while ago who was at a good London set after a similar stint with the police. Working with the police would only rule you out of doughty st/garden court/mansfield and maybe matrix.

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Anonymous

S&G don’t have much of public law or AAP profile, so probably don’t have the same prejudice. In firms that do that alongside criminal defence, it’s seriously embedded.

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Anonymous

1. Apply for an Inn of Court scholarship – this will go a long way to testing your suitability for pupillage. Middle temple interviews everyone who applies for their scholarship programme.

2. 9 years in police force is significantly more experience than most pupils. Milk it.

3. 2:2 degree was 15 years ago. Laugh about it and demonstrate how you’ve improved.

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AnonymousGuy

I’m a graduate recruitment partner at a magic circle firm. We would never interview a recent graduate with a 2:2 in drama. But you’re not in that category – your experience and recent grades means you do have a chance of reaching interview. If City law interests you, you should consider applying to firms like us – you might be surprised at the result

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Anonymous

I’m on a first for law at a top Russell group uni, good extra curriculars, private/public/ngo internships, poor background (diversity woo) and I’m struggling to stay in the race for pupillage.

I’ve done a few minis and the competition is insane. I’ve met people with a similar profile to myself who did 100+ applications over years and barely made it. Some didn’t and went for TC’s. Do you really think you can distinguish yourself from these people ? Those going for pupillage at Bristol/Manchester/Birmingham will also be exceptional, and as talented as London pupils.

LinkedIn and chambers websites have profiles of barristers. Be realistic and honest to your self. Are you cut from the same cloth as these guys ?

My honest advice would be to just paralegal and then get a training contract at a smaller firm. It hurts my pride but I might just have to do the same.

Also if this is a troll screw you guys i wasted so long typing this.

(10)(3)
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Anonymous

Can understand why you say that but it’s not that at all. In fact, quite the contrary. I don’t think I’m entitled to pupillage at all. There are some truly outstanding candidates who will not get pupillage. Once the final few candidates are whittled down, it becomes a game of chance in many instances as to who actually is awarded pupillage. The field is unbelievably strong for pupillage even in the less prestigious sets, and those with smaller pupillage awards.

The only reason I mentioned my situation is to state that even in a theoretically strong position, obtaining pupillage is still very much a game of chance for all but the very small exception of candidates. Going for the bar is a risk I took, and one which I am well aware may not pay off, despite my best efforts.

With the competition for pupillages so tough, I would just advise caution when embarking on such an expensive risk. There is no harm in admitting you don’t think you’ll make it to the bar.

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Pupillage committee member at criminal set

“Can you distinguish yourself from all the brilliant people like me with a Russell Group first applying for pupillage?” Moron. One thing he obviously has going for him is that his application will stand out.

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Anonymous

I graduated a decade ago with a 2.2 in earth sciences – which I’m sure some commenting on here would consider no better than drama! After a number of years working in the public sector and trade union movement I went back to uni like you and completed my GDL (with distinction) and LPC (with distinction) while continuing to work full time. I also start a training contract with a top 50 firm next month.

In my experience firms will see your attainment on your GDL as proof of your academic aptitude and view the experience you have gained in the police as an advantage.

There are always the usual snobs commenting on here but my advice is to ignore them. If you work hard, achieve top marks and learn how to sell your experience and skills there’s no reason why you can’t do anything you want to do in the legal sector.

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WisePerson

I completely agree. It doesn’t matter about your first degree, if you have shown academic competency in your law degree then that is all that matters. If you’ve even managed to get a distinction then that’s even better then some of the nasty people who are commenting against you who are probably not getting a distinction for their law degree and are insecure about that.

Keep going because even though commercial law in a big city firm might be too competitive (who wants to work 8:00-7pm in a dog eat dog culture anyway?) there are plenty of other regional or local firms that would be willing to take you on.

A 2.2 does not automatically bar you from a career in the legal sector. A distinction in your law degree will open so many doors for you.

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Anonymous

Have a look at any of the military bar programs. They will value your experience. Alternatively do the LPC. A law firm would value your experience more than a chambers would. Remember, as much as they would like to deny it, the Bar is still 30 years in the past.

(5)(4)
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WisePerson

Yeh, get over yourself you academic snob. Not everyone gets a good start in life.

I’m assuming you are top of your class and are achieving a distinction in your law degree?

Haha, even if you are…JOG ON. Loser.

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Anonymous

The GDL was a lot tougher than my RG History degree. I got a full 10 marks lower in the GDL than I did for my undergraduate degree. In a perfect world firms/sets would appreciate the difficulty of getting a distinction on the GDL and take it into account for your application. Unfortunately they will look at your academic results and not your vocational ones.

The LPC on the other hand is a piece of piss and nobody respects it. I got a full 20 marks higher on it than my undergraduate degree. It is a hoop you have to jump through, nothing more. Don’t expect to impress people with that.

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Anonymous

I will give you an example to demonstrate the difference in difficulty between undergraduate degrees, the GDL and the LPC.

Lots of City firms give bonuses to future trainees for good academic performance, wherever you studied. For instance, you could get £500 for a 1st in your undergraduate degree, £500 for a distinction in your GDL, but then for your LPC you will get £500 if you get a distinction on each any every module. That is because probably 75% of your intake will get a distinction on the LPC.

(1)(2)
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Anonymous

Ignore the vast majority of the comments on here. Get a Distinction in the GDL, an Inn Scholarship and with your experience you’ll stand as much of a chance as anyone in getting a pupillage at certain sets (crime / common law, I dont think you’ll stand much chance at commercial sets). Chambers will much prefer to take on a decent, intelligent person with good experience, regardless of a poor undergrad many years ago, than some dippy post-undergrad with a 2:1 or a 1:1.

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Grad recruiter

As per a comment above, do not apply via an online recruitment portal as you will likely get filtered out. Instead, find out who the key decision makers are at the firms\sets you wish to apply to and send them a short e-mail setting out your dilemma. Those that are worth applying to are those that respond favourably, of which I’m sure some will.

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Anonymous

It depends on your personality and looks as well. Many firms, particularly larger ones where you have a lot of trainees, put emphasis on what you are like to be around and how aesthetically pleasing you look about the office, at after work drinks/events, or elsewhere.

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Anonymous

Play to your strengths and apply to a firm or set that specialises in working with public sector bodies and, more specifically, the police. Otherwise save your money…

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Anonymous

A Distinction on the GDL is enough to negate an unimpressive undergrad 7 years beforehand. Years in the police force would also involve extensive legal training. If this is real, which is unlikely, then this person would have as good a chance as most.

But kudos to the commenters for keeping up the poisonous rhetoric. Alex’s mortgage will continue to be fuelled by indiscriminate hate and vicious character assassination!

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Still smiling about securing my TC

Yes it matters.
If I were you I’m give some serious consideration to applying for a TC and getting in with a criminal law firm because although your academics are average you have amazing and relevant work experience in criminal law. I know a lot of law firms in London who would take someone like you on.
Good luck.

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snowball

2:2 barrister here, in a legal 500 set doing well & have experience recruiting pupils. This CV should be good enough but in the present climate the quality of applicants for pupillage is astounding. A 2:2 even with interesting work experience will be tough – you need to do mini pupillages at your target sets and make a real effort to get on with them so when you apply they remember you and are prepared to give you a go. Sadly at interview you will still be up against very strong candidates with better degrees and equal work experience so its going to be very tough. The BPTC LLMs are not of any value with a pupillage application so do not waste your money, if you want to do an LLM do a proper one!

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snowball

Ha ha, the sign I have finally made it, ive been trolled on Legal Cheek and by someone who thinks its funny to make jokes about mental health. even better. perhaps we can have a chat Anonymous about your views on why its acceptable to make MH a joke.

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Anonymous

If it is a criminal set you want to get into (you did not specify), then I think you have a good chance. I am not sure why so many people above are disregarding your Degree in Drama. The Criminal Bar is nothing but advocacy work, and what goes into advocacy? Drama and Theatricals. Use that Degree to your advantage in applications/interviews. Criminal Defence work requires the ability to perform in front of a jury and captivate them – your skills in Drama could do just that. Good Luck.

(0)(2)
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D. Amppatch Esq

I hear Adam Barlow is looking for staff in his Canadian/ British cheat, non-mention of insurance, pseudo legal practice. Try there! Todd doesnt seem very well qualified at all.
Incidentally, I took a late law degree (34 yrs old), and the ILEX studies. Was messed about by the uni non-stop. Passed with a 2.2. Half did a LLM. Prejudiced marker denied me 4% of the shortfall marks. No LPC or Pupillage to anyone over 30. So I passed an online diploma in law. Set up my own paralegal law firm with heavy PI insurance cover. In 2 years, Ive gained over 200 clients in 23 countries. Inc household names. Earn around £70k a year. There are alternatives to shelf-stacking.

(0)(1)
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