Barristers dish out career wisdom to mark A-Level results day

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Exams scrapped in wake of coronavirus mean sixth-formers receive grades based on predictions and schools’ past performance

It’s an A-Level results day like no other.

This summer’s exams were scratched by the government in March owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Today students up and down the country are receiving their grades based primarily on predictions calculated by teachers using past work, mock exams and student rankings, as performance indicators. The grades were then standardised according to factors including a schools’ past performance and students’ previous exam scores.

Amid the corona chaos, some barristers have shared helpful pointers on Twitter (unlike last year’s distinct lack of dialogue) to those receiving their results today, and that aspire to join the bar.

Bunny blogger, The Secret Barrister, came under the thread started by The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, one of the four Inns of Court, stressing the importance of extra-curricular activities outside the law. The anonymous author said:

St Johns Buildings barrister Douglas Lloyd echoed SB’s sentiment, stating: “A disappointing grade shouldn’t stop you becoming a lawyer. Your CV can be much bigger and more interesting than a grade you got aged 18.”

He continued that when interviewing candidates for pupillage, we presume, “I’ve had zero interest in A-Levels”, adding “there are many paths to take”.

“As the proud (?!) owner of an E grade in A-Level French I know that A-Level results are not the be all and end all as an indicator of ability,” wrote Nine St John Street criminal silk Jaime Hamilton QC. “As a chambers we recognise that A-Levels are taken at a time when socio-economic disparity can be at its widest. That’s why we don’t consider someone’s A-Level results when scoring pupillage applications.”

The grade was “a pretty good indicator of my ability to speak French” but just wasn’t “an indicator of my potential as an advocate rather than an avocat”, he quipped.

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Meanwhile, his chamber mate, Robert Smith, encouraged students to take part in public speaking, saying he’s amazed by how many haven’t done so.

No5 Chambers employment barrister Nabila Mallick wrote, “you are not your A-Level grades and they do not define your intellectual ability or the success you could obtain”, continuing, “whether you get As or Es it all hangs on determination hereafter — just don’t let anything get in your way!”

One bar student and future pupil barrister shared his story of how he scored “disappointing” ABD grades at A-Level. He summed up saying: “What matters is finding experiences and making the most of them!”

Sixth-form students unhappy with the grades they achieved can appeal to receive their mock results, or sit exams in the autumn, under Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s ‘triple lock’ system announced yesterday.

No5 Chambers barrister Kawsar Zaman tweeted this handy guide setting out how students can appeal exam grades.

Congratulations to all those who will be starting their law degrees later this year!

Did you overcome poor A-Level results to succeed in law? Let us know in the comments section below.

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It is not all about law, yet it is all about academic achievement. A-Levels play a part in that.


I agree

True, without disregarding ‘personality’, as someone with fantastic grades but a bland personality would not be favoured over someone with okay grades, and a fantastic personality.



I don’t think this term personality is useful, and suggests you are still very young. To get into transactional law areas you will need AAA plus a 2.1 from a redbrick university at the minimum. In addition firms will look at other achievements which show them you have the qualities they look for. For example a guy with A*AA and a 2.1 from Durham but nothing else will probably find it more difficult to get a training contract than someone with AAA and a 2.1 in History from Liverpool but who represented England in hockey through school and Uni. In addition, you will have to pass interviews and the assessment centre. Your success then will be down to fit, do the team you are in like you. It isn’t personality per say, it is whether they like you, and therefore cover your mistakes. So you could be dry as a bone but if you went to the same secondary school and Durham college as the daughter of your supervising partner, you will be alright.



are you genuinely being serious about needing AAA at the minimum?


Fed Up Teacher

Yeah, pull the other one.

Chambers and firms filter by A Level results.

Pathetic to prey on the anxieties of students and promise a Hollywood ending of ‘if you believe it, you can be it!’ for social media ‘likes’.

Is there literally nothing SB won’t do to fish for social media kudos? Has he/she got a child waiting to find out if they will make their uni place?

Why are barristers so obsessed with being popular on Twitter????


Fish Pie

Their advice is guff. We know firms filter by A-Level results because it’s easy, and saves them effort. When did you last come across a University of Cumbria grad in the city? Today’s fiasco shows the need for a CV blind approach to be adopted by more firms. If Russell Group grads are as good as they say they are, what’s to fear?



Unis, especially the better ones, invest significant resources in selecting the best candidates they can (although now that process is diluted by social justice warrior imposed quotas). Piggybacking off the investment of the tertiary sector makes perfect economic sense for firms and, especially, chambers. So “no thank you” to CV blind nonsense.


Cold Fish Pie

Back to my point – what does an Oxbridge grad have to fear then? If they truly are top quality, why would they fear CV blind? The gov cock up today means a lot of talented working class kids (in particular) will have missed out on Oxbridge / Russell Group Unis. CV blind hopefully allows that talent to shine through.



You seemed to miss the efficiency point. It is far more efficient to use CVs and to average of the work of the unis at selection stages.



If the University of Cumbria grad is so good why would they need a CV blind approach?


Jaime Hamilton QC

We remove the university attended from the application form and award no marks for A-Level results. Really.



That means a lot of review more time has to be spent on sorting out applications which could be spent earning money or not working at all. Far more sensible to speed up filtering through the candidates by having this information to hand.


Bob the Builder

The only thing worse than a B is a B that comes with a snowflake sob story about why they got a B. Getting straight As is easy.



Don’t do people’s jobs for them. Efficiency shouldn’t come at the expense of quality, unless of course you’re saying non-RG are a priori incapable of doing law at a high level?



There is plenty of quality, and with the relative fungibility adopting the most efficient route makes business sense, especially when there is no cost benefit in taking risks since wages are a constant.



Non-RG are by definition intellectually second rate and badly educated. No decent law firm or chambers should allow them in. There is more to this than career aspiration: ensuring that the public are offered only those able to provide legal advice and representation.



Speaking as someone who has a SC TC and multiple MC/SC interviews with BBB a level they do not blanket filter by A level.

Some US firms do however.


SC Trainee

ABB at A-Level (which is lower than most of my friends at uni). When interviewing for a SC TC my interviewer was more interested in my degree and subsequent work experience.

This isn’t universal however and I know a lot of firms insist on AAB minimum for trainees (which I think is fair enough).



My A level results were BCD, but I went on to obtain a First in Philosophy and 2:1 in the accelerated 2-year LLB from a Russell Group University. I was graded ‘VC’ on the BPTC with an overall score of 78%.
But…despite mini pupillages and marshalling galore, I did not manage to secure pupillage… My poor A levels may have been to blame.



Nothing to do with your meh law degree and useless first degree.



Nothing to do with your so so law degree and useless first degree.



Any degree from Liverpool University is rightly considered utterly worthless. You have to be incredibly dense to go there in the first place.



The managing partner of FBD London went to Liverpool University.

I suspect she has achieved slightly more than the cretin who posted above.



One swallow does not a summer make. How did the rest of her year do?



Quite. Pointing to someone who isn’t bright and saying “But they have done well”, isn’t helpful or relevant. There are always one-offs, and it is always down to luck. Besides, you do not have to be clever to be a solicitor. If you do non-contentious work, you just cobble together boilerplate documents. As a litigator, you delegate the law to counsel and sit at the back of court, taking notes.

Non-tedious barrister

No one cares what barristers spout on Twitter.

It’s so fucking needy and tedious. Stop it.



When I google my opponents and find they’re in the “My DMs are always open to any aspiring barristers please RT” brigade I assume I’m going to be dealing with a needy useless prat, and so far I’ve never been wrong.



These barristers are obviously not on the pupillage committee or oblivious to how it all works. It has always been clear that A levels are taken into account and scored. Feedback from my rejection letters made that clear as I didn’t have strong grades.

I applaud any set that ignores A level results and focus on degree onwards. I was in my early 30’s seeking pupillage and all they were concerned about was A level results- says a lot about their recruitment methods.



Aug 18 2020 8:28pm: what is says about their recruitment methods is that they only want those who are the brightest candidates. This policy is entirely rational. Just accept that you are not clever enough and do something else. Remember that there is more to this than career aspiration: the rule of law. The public deserve to be represented by those who are sufficiently able. You do not fall into this category and the public should be protected from you.



There are many QC’s with weak A level grades. If they had listened to people like you then we wouldn’t have these great legal minds the profession deserves.

The trouble with people like you is that you are privileged and think you are above everyone else. Grades do not make a person. Did you even read this article???



“There are many QC’s [sic] with weak A level grades.”

Which QCs? Name them, or you are just making this up.



Unreal 20 Aug 2.01pm

‘Take note As the proud (?!) owner of an E grade in A-Level French I know that A-Level results are not the be all and end all as an indicator of ability,” wrote Nine St John Street criminal silk Jaime Hamilton QC. “As a chambers we recognise that A-Levels are taken at a time when socio-economic disparity can be at its widest.’

People need to be protected from you and hopefully you are never in a position to recruit ANYONE!



I am sure Jaime Hamilton is a nice chap, but with an E at A Level and a degree from Aberystwyth, he cannot be that bright. But then again, you do not need to be clever to get into a criminal set, especially in the regions, nor do you require a top intellect to do crime.



You don’t even know what I do!

I am successful and people ask me to represent them. Yes I do a good job and clearly able. It take more than grades to be a practitioner and with your people skills I would never shortlist you with your negative attitude. You could have the best grades in the country, Oxbridge educated but with your attitude believe me it will get you nowhere unless you work with people like you. Your opinion means absolutely nothing.



Vanilla Malick- No 5 Chambers has strict criteria- how many of your pupils in the last 10 years obtained A levels C grades and below and have been recruited as pupils? I am obviously not talking about mature candidates as they may enter with a wealth of experience. Your comment is positive but your set takes A levels into account.



Sorry spellcheck turned your name to Vanilla. It was not intentional.


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