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Graduate recruiters need to realise some law modules are harder than others

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Some firms don’t even look at what subjects you’ve studied

When I was at university, I was attending law firm presentation evenings on campus in order to network with commercial firms. One of the most alarming and revelatory encounters I had was with one firm’s graduate recruitment team.

We were discussing the firm’s grade requirements. Some firms take particular interest in each individual module mark an applicant has achieved. You may have heard stories of interviewers questioning a 2:2 mark from first year, or you may have been asked yourself why you scored 70 in criminal law and only 61 in commercial law.

My answer to this would be that the commercial law module was far more challenging. It does not mean I am more predisposed to criminal law. Some modules are more difficult than others.

You only need to look at your university data for module results. When, year on year, 70% of a class are scoring 65+ in module A, and in module B 70% are struggling to achieve 55+, it is logical to conclude that it was more achievable (for the ‘reasonable’ student) to get a high score in module A (whether that is down to better teaching, the assessment methods used, or the general intellectual difficulty of the content). This is plain as day to law students.

The issue came to a head when I asked the recruiters if they looked at what modules an applicant had undertaken. What I found remarkable was that this firm, at the application stage, did not. In fact, they told me they put applicants’ module marks through a computer screening. So it didn’t matter whether a student had studied wildlife law, corporate insolvency law, or even flying monkeys law. It was about getting high marks to get through this computer filter.

HR teams at law firms are highly experienced and adept at their jobs. You would undoubtedly be questioned on your rationale for choosing non-commercial modules when at interview and would have to give a really convincing answer.

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But recruiters don’t see the whole-year results for your modules. They only see your mark, in isolation. So, what’s to distinguish medical law from UK human rights law?

Legal Cheek in 2016 explored the trend of students ‘playing the system’ by taking non-law modules (which were easier to score highly in) to boost their overall grade. That can be quite an obvious tactic, which recruiters can see through, and law schools can guard against.

I know several students, though, who have deployed the same strategy by choosing those law modules which are easier. They find this out from the statistics on results, which are published after exams every year.

I put my view to this grad rec team about some modules being more difficult than others, but they did not agree. I was incredulous.

I don’t think other HR teams share their views. I know most law students would agree that there are specific types of modules that are harder than others.

It’s quite depressing that an application could be rejected on the basis of grades that don’t quite meet a computer’s threshold, despite you having chosen difficult modules that you thought would demonstrate your interest in the firm’s practice areas. I suppose that is the brutal nature of the training contract application process. Achieving high 2:1s or firsts in every module seems to increasingly be becoming an essential prerequisite to be considered.

I am a strong believer in choosing modules that I find most interesting. But I can’t deny I’ve seen people that have strategically chosen specific ‘easier’ modules and ended up getting a better degree overall. It was also a sure-fire way to more interviews for them. This firm didn’t agree that was the case.

Judgemental Observer is a future trainee.

78 Comments

BPTC student

Boo-hoo.

(57)(4)

LLB

employers need to take this into consideration its ridiculous

(6)(14)

BPTC student

Excuse me whilst I fetch my microscope so that I can find my violin.

First, if you can’t do well in modules which you are choosing specifically because you’re finding them very interesting, then something is wrong.

Quite apart from that point, what an entitled thing to say. Employers are commercial enterprises. They choose such trainees as they think will bring the most value to their balance sheet, and devise their recruitment criteria accordingly. Getting the job you want is not one of your human rights. If you want that training contract, you need to play your prospective firm’s game by your prospective firm’s rules. Employers don’t “need” to do anything for you.

(31)(6)

Anonymous

Most of these comments seem to be reinforcing the point made by the article, rather than challenging it. They just serve to highlight that we all know some modules (and indeed degrees) are easier to score highly in, and students can play on that to get ahead.

The point is that you would think that firms would care about hiring smart people, not people that meet an arbitrary numerical threshold regardless of how difficult it was to get there.

Just to forestall accusations of sour grapes, I played the game (successfully) as much as anyone.

(1)(1)

Future trainee at MC

You chose to do law. You chose to convince your family and friends that your law degree meant that you would become a lawyer. If your decision to study law on the false perception that it made you on the path to become a lawyer has resulted in poorer grades then it has nothing to do with the System but everything to do with the fact that your not willing to make the sacrifices. I studied psychology and got a very high 2.1 whilst barely lifting a finger till the last 3 weeks of 3rd year. Choosing to do law is a decision you made and now you have to deal with.

(10)(4)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(5)(1)

Future trainee solicitor

They have a fair point. You make a decision to do law, you know it’s going to be harder than most degrees and you know if anything it reduces your chances of being a city lawyer. It’s a decision that’s made and so one can’t complain about the system. People are dying in Syria and I’m not going to feel sympathetic for an arrogant law student who got poor grades. Enjoy your TC at Farrer & Co!!!!

Anonymous

I dont’t disagree. Just had to point out that part of his comment as it was unnecessary and made him look like an utter twat

Law Student/Future Trainee

Good for you, although let’s be real here – that attitude and mentality would not even carry you through the first month of your GDL as you begin to realise that your pea-sized brain can’t comprehend the difference between a “dispositive power in a trust” and a “discretionary trust”

(0)(0)

Anonymous

You know graduate recruiters, on the whole, tend to be massive morons, right?

(9)(3)

Anonymous

This article seems to suffer from a fallacy in logic…on the one hand you’re saying grad HR teams are very good and you would be questioned in interview if you hadn’t taken the seemingly requisite modules for a commercial firm. Then you go onto say that firms don’t accept that some modules are harder than others and it doesn’t matter. Bottom line this sounds to me like you want a hand up because you’ve done a commercial module when someone else hasn’t, and you scored worse in it than someone who did something else, but then you’ve also said they are sceptical if you’ve not done the module. So it’s not the people who haven’t done commercial stuff who are your competition then – it’s the people who also took commercial modules, and are evidently better at it than you, who the firms prefer. In which case I echo the above comment – boo hoo.

Also unsure of the comment re medical law vs UK human rights law, medical law is heavily intertwined with human rights on a national and international level so seems a bizarre pit off.

(50)(1)

Anonymous

To call the HR departments good when in fact they are not is a rhetorical technique also known as paralipsis.

(9)(2)

Ego slayer

I STUDIED BORING SUBJECTS AND DIDN’T GET A GOOD MARK BUT YOU SHOULD GIVE ME A JOB BECAUSE I HAVE AN INFLATED OPINION OF MYSELF

(96)(0)

LC recruitment

Please contact me ASAP, we are always hiring people who don’t get good marks and have inflated opinions of themselves

(19)(0)

Anonymous

Sounds like a lot of spiteful whining from someone annoyed at others they looked down on getting TC’s

Grow a pear

(19)(4)

Rick Ross

Shout out to all the pears

(58)(0)

Anonymous

Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn will redistribute the wages of the highly paid trainees who luck out in the rigged job market

Mobilise

Organise

The revolution is coming

(10)(20)

Anonymous

Installing Jeremy Corbyn and allowing the party’s take-over by middle class Trots will prevent Labour being elected for at least 20 years.

Rejoice!

(16)(4)

Corbyn. Symphathiser

Was this message found in a time capsule from June 7th 2017?

(7)(11)

Anonymous

Was Corbyn found in a time capsule from 1932?

(23)(3)

Corbyn. Symphathiser

No. Jeremy Corbyn was born in 1949. For further information, I would recommend using Google. I hope this has been helpful.

s.32 Salmon Act 1986

Can Google help you locate a sense of humour, CS?

Google can, for certain, provide you with plenty of information on the failings of socialism (at least for now – I am sure it will all be purged once your glorious revolution takes place…).

Corbyn. Sympathiser

Bugger off fascist.

Corbyn. Symphathiser

We don’t need Google to see the dramatic failings of capitalism all around us, luckily.

Big Dolla

The ‘failed’ capitalist societies are still far better than those socialist societies which were attempted.

Corbyn. Sympathiser

Anonymous

We also don’t need google to deduce that Corbyn is Russia’s useful idiot, and if Prime Minister would succeed in destabilising the western alliance and therefore global law and order.

Cambridge Grad

This was par for the course in Cambridge for those in the know (another iniquity of the college system).

Most people with borderline Firsts got them through taking the easier papers. I took harder papers and got a decent 2.1. I would have done exactly the same had I known.

(15)(7)

First Class Honours Grad

I call bollocks on this.

(17)(5)

Anonymous

Find it hard to believe that someone intelligent enough to get into Cambridge wouldn’t have thought to speak to final year students and find this out in advance. Considering this kind of talk was all the rage at my middle tier RG uni and the older students were very happy to talk to us frequently about which modules were easier and which markers were more harsh, I can’t take your suggestion that you didn’t know about this until afterwards seriously at all tbh. If you also didn’t work this out yourself by second year and didn’t think to find out then maybe you didn’t deserve a first.

(15)(1)

Cantab

Everybody knows that the holy trinity of Admin, CSPS, and a Dissertation is the ticket to a First.

The above poster is right.

Also, ‘middle-tier RG’ says all that needs to be said about the weight of your contribution to this discussion, which is Cambridge specific. As far as I can tell, the previous comment attributed this specifically to the college system, which is not found at most other universities. I took those papers and got a First. I took those papers on the advice of third years in my college – a college known for law.

I am happy to say that I doubt I would have got a First had I taken Aspects, Juris, or any other of those nutty papers which tend to be both harder in content, and more conservatively marked thanks to the types of academic who teach those courses.

(12)(1)

easy first cantab

amen. all about getting from point A to point B mate.

(7)(1)

Anonymous

I don’t know what these people want. Do they want others to use a weighting system to award higher marks for so called ‘tougher’ modules?

Life is by and large about finding out what comes naturally to you, and flogging that to the max. Everyone has a calling. Not everyone’s calling is land law, EU law or other modules that some people seem to find difficult.

This translates into life as a grown up too by the way. You get some people who clearly aren’t the right ‘fit’ in their job – eg me doing personal injury cases at the bar before I managed to switch to employment and sports work. It’s just some people realise this and adjust. Others keep flogging the dead horse.

Don’t be a dead horse flogger – learn to play the game.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Someone obviously regrets not sitting the ‘Women and the Law’ module at Southampton Solent…

(35)(1)

Southampton Solent Grad, US Firm Trainee

Want some vinegar with that chip on your shoulder mate?

(4)(23)

Partner at US Firm

And you’re not picking up my dry cleaning right now because…?

(33)(1)

Fan of wood

The chip in the “chip on one’s shoulder” is a plank of wood, not a piece of fried potato.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

And salt would be more appropriate if it was an edible chip.

(1)(0)

Norman

Recruiters are mostly near-illiterate, superfluous parasites insinuated between the client and the lawyer, simply to extricate firms from the liability of having bona-fide employees and additionally to keep that which would ordinarily be unemployable, as a buffer between professionals and access to capital.

(64)(4)

Anonymous

This is excellent, 10/10.

(6)(3)

Anonymous

It is a prime example of a parasitical industry. As a capitalist system develops, inefficiencies also develop, superfluous jobs and indeed whole industries that have managed to pull off the ultimate con – justifying their existence by shabby, barely existing precedent, rather than any rational analysis.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Bit like law then.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

You say that there are all kinds of reasons some modules might be harder (have a lower average mark), like bad teaching or assessment methods. These are things that change university to university, and don’t even always mean that they are easier in the sense of not requiring the same skill – if the teaching is better and everyone gets good marks, that might just mean that people who take this ‘easy’ module learn to be better lawyers. So it would be really hard to accurately gauge which modules are hard v easy in any meaningful way without far more info than law firms have. It would just end up being a bias towards commercial and black-letter subjects, but they won’t necessarily make you the best lawyer overall.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

Perhaps all students should sit the same exams, they could call it the SQE.

(17)(3)

First Class Grad

Let me guess… You would have got a First had you not studied the really difficult modules?!

Truth is, you didn’t get a First because you didn’t get the grades needed for a First regardless of the modules studied.

(11)(1)

Anonymous

Which university did you go to?

A first from Edge Hill isn’t the same as one from Oxford sunshine.

(12)(4)

Anonymous

Its like my man Louis says, GABOS – Game ain’t based on sympathy.

(12)(0)

Anonymous

“My answer to this would be that the commercial law module was far more challenging. It does not mean I am more predisposed to criminal law. Some modules are more difficult than others.”

Graduate recruiters will be tremendously impressed by the objective critical reasoning here, then.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

Alternative dispute resolution was the favourite gimmick module at my university

(0)(0)

White Shoe NQ - First Class Honours

Another person moaning – how about … revise harder! And just get a first LOL

(7)(4)

Anonymous

It’s Friday – pour whine.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Indulged entitlement, excuses and more whine than spine. And they say nurses have it tough.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

As a law firm I would want to hire smart folks who were canny enough to maximise their ROI, rather than dunderheads who want to study ‘interesting’ but ‘difficult’ subjects.

Become an academic if that floats yer boat.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

“Ok, so this man got a 67.5 in the second year 19th c maritime studies option in the University of Liverpool’s history department. That beats this woman’s 68 in the final year comparative law course at Bristol, but is itself trumped by that woman’s 65 in the notoriously tricky post-Kantian ethics option at the University of Edinburgh…”

Yes, this sounds like a very practical solution that doesn’t call for any arbitrary judgments, well done.

(19)(0)

Anonymous

I found criminal to be the most difficult core module because I had absolutely no interest in it. Barely scrapped a 2:2.

Modules like commercial, company and contract law were very interesting, and this was reflected in my results.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Criminal law is as easy as piss mate. Don’t need to have an interest to at least get a 2:1. I think you might just be retarded.

(6)(3)

Anonymous

Well, I hope you’ve pursued it professionally, because your reasoning suggests you aren’t cut out for commercial law.

(1)(0)

Comments are closed.

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