Ashurst ditches A-Level requirements for training contract hopefuls as government performs exam U-turn

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Follows similar move by DWF

Ashurst’s London office

City law firm Ashurst has ditched A-Level requirements for training contract seekers in bid to increase the diversity of candidates who progress to the interview stage.

The firm, which takes on around 45 trainees each year, said “gamified assessments of cognitive ability, problem solving and emotional intelligence” are more accurate predictors of performance.

Ashurst first introduced online tests into its London recruitment process in 2019.

Legal Cheek’s Firms Most List shows the silver circle player previously required a minimum A-Level requirement of AAB or equivalent. This will be officially scrapped from September.

Nick Wong, graduate recruitment partner, said: “We know that academic performance is not an accurate predictor of performance in a role and using these tests also reduces the risk of unconscious bias and social capital playing a part in recruitment.”

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He continued:

“This approach will also allow us to increase the diversity of candidates who progress to interview and are offered positions at Ashurst. 2020 A-Level students can therefore be reassured that their grades will not disadvantage them when applying for a training contract at Ashurst.”

The move comes as the education secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed yesterday that all A-Level results in England will be based on teacher-assessed grades, after it emerged almost 40% of results had been downgraded as part of a controversial standardisation model.

Last week DWF announced it was scrapping specific A-Level requirements for aspiring lawyers. It will instead ask for “good A-Levels/Scottish Highers or equivalent”.

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This comes with all the Virtue Signalling PR boost, and none of the downfalls, considering A-Levels for this year, next year or whenever education can be effectively carried out, are now worthless.


Showround @ Bakers

Genuine question, why are you disgruntled? Assuming it’s because you worked hard at A-levels and have the grades to show for it you’re likely at a better university than those who benefit from this so still have an advantage.



Existence. Existence disgruntles me.


Showground @ County Fair

Because A levels are already diluted to the point of being a joke. Giving out A’s like sweets to the undeserving and inflating outcomes for 40% of the cohort is plain wrong and unfair on the school years just past and those to come in the next couple of years. These should be forever “starred” A levels, the stars meaning “almost as likely to be worth one grade less as the certificate says”.


Patient NQ

I don’t follow? A-Levels are entry requirements into university, so law firms dispensing the need for them wont change much, you’ll just need a damn good redbrick uni degree and some experience on the side same as before. I understand that they’re a good metric to sort the wheat from the chaff so to speak with the grade inflation that occurs in some uni’s as it shows a longer period of academic excellence, but honestly, even the LLB doesn’t do much in terms of preparing you for practice. People still need to get through the assessment stages and if you’re a duffer you have no chance anyways.



Good move


M Ployer

This year’s A levels will now forever be viewed as the ones that are 40% over-inflated and thus meaningless for whole cohort now the government chickened out.


Just call me chicken

“Chickened out” of what?? Of using a flawed algorithm that over-promoted the privileged (like we don’t see enough of that already) and penalised the disadvantaged? It’s pretty tragic if that is what you’d like to see more of in society.



If you can’t get AAB at Alevel, you are going to struggle with practicing at a decent city firm. Having seen the results of attempts to recruit from ex-polytechnic universities to boost “diversity” and how quickly that was shelved when the trainees turned out to be inept and lacking in basic literacy, I suspect this will be quietly dropped after one recruitment round.



I’m not a fan of diversity hiring, and I agree that someone with a long and successful educational pedigree can and should be very attractive to firms. However, A-level results and pre-uni education more broadly is the least valuable factor in that matrix.

Very few students are truly focused on their career (including grades which they might need for that career) at 15, 16, 17. When you’re a teenager, unless you have very strong micromanagement from your parents / mentors, you’re 99% of the time focused on friends, the opposite sex (or the same sex, whatever’s your cup of tea), going out / parties, coming of age. So you can’t honestly say that someone can’t get their game together at uni, and then go on to be a brilliant and committed lawyer at a demanding City firm, just because they don’t have the A-level / GCSE grades to show for it.


Andrew (Andy)

Still, getting straight As at A level is very easy. Especially nowadays when many As are really Bs in old money.


Showground @ County Fair

And this year, A’s are C’s in old money for half the candidates.



Don’t be stupid.

I got way below AAB and am at an MC firm now. I’ve met people who got A*’/A’s in their A Levels, went to Oxbridge and Russell group unis and some are completely useless.

A level grades don’t define you! Firms are lazy and don’t want to take the time to find real talent – that can be in the form of being academic, resilient and hard working, being a people’s person etc. etc.



Your spelling and grammar says otherwise.

What sort of person says “am” instead of “I’m / I am”??? Definitely not the MC kind that’s for sure.



If that’s the way I write/speak, it is what it is. Let’s not pretend that this comments section is going to be taken into consideration when I’m getting my pay check.

At the end of the day, I know my worth and I know that I deserve to be where I am.

Not to brag or anything but I have outshone people with top academix throughout my TC and beyond.

Btw – I spelt academics like that because I knew it would grind your gears. Please don’t make a note of it in my next appraisal x


Building Society from 1986

Sorry, what’s a “check”?


It is what the poorly educated call a “cheque”. If I saw that in a letter from a UK based lawyer I’d seriously question using them going forward.


2/3…. who ever gets the 3 mistake gets a TC

Small potato

“Me”, you are the 3rd mistake.


If only Me was half as smart as he thinks he is. I say “he” because in my experience only men behave like such a tool.


Good on you for your success, but you’re naive if you think it’s about law firms being lazy rather than making a commercial decision.

Your MC firm could interview everyone with CCC or better at A Level. No doubt they would unearth a couple of unpolished diamonds, but the thousands of hours spent operating this process would obviously not be worth the benefits.



I do not think this is true. A-level May show commitment at a young age but does not mean you will not be a good trainee. I did all sciences for my A-levels and did bad but got first and distinction in all my undergraduate and postgraduate exams. I would suggest you look into the correction of A-levels and success as a trainee.



Um the heads of multiple departments at a couple of top 10 City firms went to ex Polys in the 90s having had crap A levels. Don’t recall them struggling to practise…



Pretty pointless when no one with good grades is applying to Ashurst anyway.



Good response that reflects the firm’s values – other firms should follow



Why no article on big daddy Latham’s fat retention rate?



This is good news. Of course, there is a lot more work to be done.



Why are the down vote brigade out to get me again? This behaviour is disgusting. Why must there be so much hatred and nastiness in the world?



Because people rightly think you are talking garbage.


Head of Trolling

Because it’s fun watching snowflakes whine when people don’t agree with them.



Snowflake? I am as tough as they come. I didn’t get fed with a silver spoon growing up and I have had to do things the hard way. I think you’ll find I am a strong diamond rather than a withering snowflake. Internet trolls are the real flaky types, unable to engage in good and reasonable debate and instead resorting to trolling and down voting. Such a pathetic bunch.


I have to return some videotapes

My god, this is a cringe post. Surely this is a troll? If not… oof.

I wanted to be on your side originally but now you just sound like a raging Karen.


Must be old school flaming – can you imagine anyone being so self-righteous and dull?


Total nonsense. A levels are inherently discriminatory and have very little bearing on anyone’s abilities five years down the line. Just ignore them. Look at University results (and ignore which university because otherwise ignoring A levels is just a bit of virtue signalling: you do not get into Oxbridge/Russell Group without “good” A levels), set your requirements carefully, ask the questions in your paper applications which will demonstrate the skills you are looking for and have rigorous and transparent interviews. Of course, it is more difficult than lazily relying on subjective views of which universities are “better”, but it is not impossible and you get the best people.



Ignoring university is stupid, a First from Oxford is worth a thousand Firsts from Southampton Solent.



Unless you came from a really deprived background, there is no excuse for not getting at least AAA.



If you are not from a deprived background, how can you find it hard to get 3 measly As?


STEM Student

To be fair, some people do f*** up at A-level. I know a fair few people who got A*AB or A*A*B but are still at UCL, Durham, even Oxford. Especially common among those who took the first or second year of the new physics and chemistry A-levels. Some of those friends are far more intelligent than others who did less rigorous A-levels but got A*A*A*.

But they did have consistent track records before then (all of them got six or more A*s at GCSE). An AAA strict minimum is arguably too inflexible and will discriminate against candidates who are unlucky in a single subject. Some universities (Cambridge, Imperial, usually LSE) have pretty strict grade requirements which you could argue is somewhat unfair. UCL and Oxford seem to be a little more flexible if they have seen consistent achievement until then. I do that AAB minimum for law firms (which is more common) is probably fair though.


2 Real 2 Furious

I never thought I’d be so grateful to be a dual national and have been (un)fortunate enough to attend college (aka high school) in America. This A levels nonsense has been an utter car crash. Students protesting grades. Boys and girls crying that they’ll never be doctors, etc. We’re they banned from going to school? Can students not go to their safety school, excel there and then progress career-wise? I’m genuinely asking!

To those commending Ashurst, get a grip. It’s just another sleight of hand to keep pace with all the other firms in an arms race re: #diversity.

Maybe it’s just me but the reality seems to be that there are a disproportionate number of students to legal jobs available. You can have all the diversity initiatives you want but without opening up the number of jobs at the end of it, you’re not going to be much better off.


Fed Up

I was told all through school working hard to ensure I got top grades in my GCSEs and A levels was imperative, and to get into a good RG university. Sick of these ‘social mobility’ measures syncing down the standard. What’s the point in working hard at school then if companies prefer some pillock with 3 Cs in Media, Psychology and Sociology, and a 90% degree from an ex poly (no respectable university gives above 80-85% maximum for non STEM subjects). Why do we now view rewarding the lazy and/or thick over those who have consistently worked hard for years as a positive step?


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