‘As a career changer without a 2:1, what are my chances of becoming a solicitor?’

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By Legal Cheek on


Advice needed

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, an aspiring solicitor seeks readers’ opinions on the feasibility of pursuing a career in law.

“I’m a career changer and am interested in pursuing a career as a solicitor. I graduated with a non law degree back in 2020, which was graded an ‘Ordinary Degree’, a degree passed without honours. Realistically, what are my options for pursuing a career change? As an employment advisor for over three years I believe I have transferable skills to enter the legal field but my grades feel like a big blemish. I can’t go back and change them but going forwards I wanted to know if there are any law firms with no minimum academic requirements for TC’s? I wanted to also know, if any other students/career changers have been in my position before and if so what they did to enter the legal field?”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at tips@legalcheek.com.



I don’t think many can offer help without knowing what degree you studied, what result you got, what university you went to, and what A level grades you received. If you received a 2:1 in a transferable degree from a somewhat OK university then you should be fine. It will take some time, but you’ll have to swallow the fact you’ll need to play the long run with this. E.g. GDL, SQE Prep, SQE exams, and TC/QWE. This will take roughly 4-5 years minimum, and that is assuming you’re successful for a TC or a Paralegal role which you can sign off as QWE. Firms will like the fact you have been an employment advisor, if you are keen and interested in pursuing a career in employment law. You should target those firms that specialise in this.


Probably ought to read it a bit more carefully mate – it clearly states that the questioner has an ‘Ordinary Degree’, i.e. he or she doesn’t have a graded honours degree with a classification of 2:2, 2:1 or whatever. The question is can he or she get a legal job with that academic background.


It is not impossible but it won’t be easy and it might feel like a step backwards or at least sideways in your career. So you need to be certain that this is what you really want to do.

How strong are your pre-university academics, is there a good reason for the disappointing degree result, and what is the legal component of your post-university work? Do you have other legal work experience? Are there any law firms you are working alongside in your current role who might look at you favourably based on the work you have done with them?

You might be tempted to get some legal education – a masters, say – but that feels like a high risk / low reward approach.

I expect you would find it easier to go a “para” legal route – not necessarily working as a paralegal, but in a role with more of a legal slant, perhaps where you are already working as an employment adviser. At law firms, you’ll be up against people at or after university with actual or expected good results, and people leaving school starting as legal apprentices. So if you want to go that way, you’ll need to rely on your experience and skills to get an interview, and then persuade at interview.

Good luck.


Having genuine professional experience will be somewhat useful in interviews and applications because you should be able to offer more detailed responses to competency-based questions. If you are at least open to practicing employment law then your background could a useful adjunct. Don’t overestimate the value of non-law experience to your CV, though. Unfortunately many partners are utterly indifferent to anything you’ve ever done outside a law firm.

Your academics are a serious but not necessarily insurmountable problem. I won’t list the academic requirements of individual firms for you because you can discover that for yourself, but I would aim at less competitive firms and try to work your way up in the long run. Working at one of the big national firms with a healthy employment practice is a plausible best-case scenario for now. The confidence and people skills you have hopefully gleaned should help separate you from the rest of the pack and facilitate a move elsewhere a year or two after qualifying. Academics matter less as you progress through your career.

Maybe not at that level..

In all honesty, I don’t think any large regional (or even niche boutique small regional) will accept anyone with less than a 2.1. Even a third or a 2.2 would be a struggle. Realistically, you’re looking at high street firms but even then, it’s going to be competitive.

Know what first degree it was, what the reason for the 4th was, any mitigating circa and what good experience OP has – these might change it more favourably… but it’s still going to be a slog.

Reality cheque

The real question is why you wanna join a fiercely competitive profession filled with elites when you already have a stable career in employment advisory?

Kirkland NQ

Everyone wants the feel of a Lambo accelerator under their foot my friend, and some make rash decisions looking for it.

Archibald O'Pomposity

It’s over before it even started.

A lawyer is not a next-step advisory role, even for a very good advisor.

Phil McPanz


What’s your angle?


Are you collecting downvotes? What’s your record?

Not impossible but it will be a difficult challenge

Things going for you:

1. Career changer – means you have experience of another career – which might (depends on what you did) make you attractive to certain practices.

2. Your degree wasn’t in law – so it’s not a case that you did poorly in law.

3. You have experience of pseudo legal advice work. Again shows you have some idea of what you are getting into.

Things you need to overcome:

1. Academic grades. Firms use academics as filters. Your degree is evidence you can hack it academically. As well as top grades at A level, most law firms require a first or 2.1 at the least. Some firms who aren’t as bothered will consider a 2.2. But your grade is an ordinary, which is below a 3rd. You won’t get passed page 1 of most application forms on websites – unless you have some sort of mitigating extenuating reason. think about how you would answer the question, why should we take you over someone with a 2.1 or 1st?

2. Although no longer a requirement for the SQE, the GDL tends to require you to have a 2.2 in your first degree – otherwise you won’t qualify for this course – and without it, you’ll find it exceedingly difficult to pass the SQE. That’s before you even get to applying for firms.

3. There might be other non-SQE routes in – paralegalling, Legal Exec etc..

4. Law is a tough nut to crack even with good grades and academics and many will have at least a few months work experience too so your competitors will be a tough crowd.

Not saying you won’t be able to make it – persistence counts for a lot – but the odds are stacked against.. certainly for a large number of firms (the best biggest and most sought after).

All the best tho.


It’s a great question and one which many career changers such as myself look for clarity. I myself have concerns over my degree classification predicted within my legal honours degree (being a 2:2) and if I accept and not return for an additional year, how this may affect future applications. However, I have been accepted for a masters for 2024/25.

Following from my discussions with careers advisors and in support to the question and answer from my personal perspective, the effect of a 2:2 is to the discretion of the firm. My argument being a masters is a higher level, thus, places the grade of my degree as irrelevant. this is not the case from these discussions.

The academic background is similarly subjected by the firms as to your prior working background however, given firms hire on the premise of the required academics, that’s is a focus at first. The decision is with the firm primarily and firms such as Shoosmiths and BCLP make a strong emphasis to prior experience and do not have (according to Legal Cheek) minimum requirements as to grading.


I would say if you want to be a lawyer, never lose the enthusiasm despite academic failures.
I knew of a woman who everyone had written her off, had a third class from second rate uni, qualified as a Solicitor, after two years at her west end law firm she was made redundant. She then went to Legal recruiters, who secured her an interview at Clifford Chance at 8am and by midday she had an offer! Her third class degree did not matter! They needed property lawyers… So, if the law is what you want…. persevere, never give up!


I had no GCSE or A levels and I secured a career in law, albeit over an almost 10 year span of gaining experience and studying part time in the evening. If you want it enough then keep at it.


I am a career-changer with a fairly unimpressive degree, but I focused on securing high-distinction PGDL results and secured multiple training contract offers from London firms with zero legal work experience.

Your past academics do not define you, but as others have suggested, ensure you have reflected on what caused your degree result. The PGDL and SQE are academic undertakings, and knowing what you are signing up for is key. Also, remember that you don’t have to aim for MC or SC and can have a successful career as a lawyer at a range of firms.

Honest Joe

The short answer is that your options are so limited that you should forget a career change altogether. No respectable city firm would hire candidates of your background. You’d likely end up in a regional firm making ends meet, after putting in all the hard work and financial resources.

If your motivation to change comes from the desire to earn eye-watering sums (£180k+NQ) you’ll be disappointed to find out that you have no chance in making that kinda money.

L&D Diva

As you haven’t got a law degree, you need to do the SQE and get two years of qualifying work experience so I’d say that unlike days past, you probably have a better chance of doing that even though you don’t have a 2:1 or higher. You can do the PGDL although there is no actual requirement for you to do so…
You could get a job as a paralegal so you can get your two years’ worth of QWE and then take the SQE. If you choose an area it’s typically hard to recruit for such as property or construction, I’d say your lack of a 2:1 will become quite irrelevant once you have the relevant experience and have passed your exams…
That said, when the employment market is awash with law graduates with 1sts who can’t even get a job as a paralegal, it’s a tough call.
You will help yourself no end by engaging with Firms and attending open days/ insight evenings, by the way. This will give you a chance to show who you are regardless of your academic record and a chance to know whether it really is the career change you actually want… I work for a reasonably sized regional law firm and we look at those who attend our open days over those who don’t when we recruit…


The quality of most lawyers I’ve come up against since I qualified in 2004 are so dire that you’ll be fine. I originally ‘obtained’ a 2:2 from a really crap law school (i.e. a low-end Russell Group) and I make a lot of money as a partner in America. Admittedly the road is harder/longer but by the time you make partner at a top firm, most of the private school/Oxbridge types are back working for the family company or have punched out as they couldn’t hack it. The longer you stay in the game the better my friend and good luck.


I distrust anyone who got a 2:1. The only classifications that matter are 2:2 and first class. 2:1 is average, vanilla, and associate-fodder material. Anyone who makes it in the profession with a 2:2 or lower is a fighter and has a bit of character. Of course, those with firsts have my total admiration. I mean, people with 2:1s actually boast about it…total lack of judgment.

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