‘From civil service to City law – will I secure at TC?’

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By Legal Cheek on


Career changer seeks guidance

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, a civil servant is eager to understand his likelihood of securing a training contract with a “good” City law firm.

“I have a 2.1 in law from a top target university. I graduated over 5 years ago and have worked in government across a number of departments including the Foreign Office, Cabinet Office and HM Treasury. I now run a team and have management responsibilities — for those familiar with civil service grades, I am a Grade 7.”

“Unfortunately, whilst I secured a 2.1, this was a low 2.1 – and I received 2.2s in key modules such as contract and tort. What would my likelihood of success be if I were to apply for a training contract at a good law firm, such as Travers Smith or Clyde & Co. I suspect I am unlikely to be successful at the Magic Circle.”

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


Career changer

I think it’s difficult to state your likelihood of success. It won’t be easy, but give it a go. Perhaps target firms that predominantly advise governments departments. Your work experience is valuable, you probably just need to find the firm that’ll recognise and appreciate your value. I graduated almost 10 years ago and managed to secure a training contract at a city firm last year, I also didn’t have a high 2.1 degree.


If you run a team why would you to move to the bottom of the ladder? If you do this it will be years before you have a similar level of responsibility again.

Do you really want to be a lawyer or do you just not want to be a civil servant any more? If the latter, go into consultancy where you can leverage your experience for a role that’s more senior. Think carefully about the prospect of doing admin for someone five years younger than you.


Even as a trainee, OP is likely going to be earning 1.5x their salary as a trainee, and then 2x or even 3x their salary as a NQ… Public sector work is interesting but severely underpaid.

Radical cynic

I wonder if it’s underpaid because they leave the office at 2pm

Ex-Civil Servant, now Offshore Trainee

First off, kudos for looking for guidance here.

Your skills are transferable, but you are right to query the extent City firms will apply a first filter against your university grades. I am an ex-civil servant trainee who works for an offshore firm and had best let others advise on the hurdles set by London firms.

On making the career change from Whitehall to a new industry, my experience has been one of persistence and being really clear on WHY I made the move. It was important to have a convincing narrative that was more than: (i) I would like a pay rise, (ii) I’m looking for a new challenge, and/or (iii) I always really wanted to practice law. I found demonstrating my commitment helped. For example, by having a path thought out on how I was to qualify (tying in the role the firm played in this) and by showing my willingness to take a risk to make the career change work (having a law course or postgrad ready to go). Otherwise, how could I expect my employer to reciprocate and put their resources and faith in taking me on over and above a more conventional candidate?

Good luck in the career change!

Mr truth

You’ll hear a lot of blah blah from many on here. Really the most important thing is a friendly personality and a good sense of gusto. Many of the first years on here think it’s all about the grades and the uni, but they think they’re in Suits.


This is true. An Oxbridge first is worth nothing if you’re unlikable!

Career changed into city law

100% agree. It’s a people business which is often forgotten about. While grades can be an initial filter, on any applications do emphasise your transferable skills from a different career path and why these will make you an effective lawyer (project management, working with lots of different people in a team etc). Once you’re through that stage then you should be able to do well in the face to face parts, as long as you have a good and honest explanation of why you want to switch.

From my TC cohort at a SC firm, the people now in the “best” positions aren’t those that did best on the LPC but rather the ones that got on with people, did extra curricular things (pro bono, helped with initiatives etc).

This had nothing to do with overstretching while working or brownnosing, it just showed that they were able to get along with a variety of people. That translates well into working with clients, which is the whole point of our industry.

Dolce Dolce

Try Paul, Weiss or the ‘land – they’ll hire you as long as you’re willing to work 100hr week.

Try again

You have clearly not read the post – OP is coming from the civil service where doing 100 hours in a month is considered burning out.

Kirkland NQ

100hrs a week smashing PE deals in return for the latest Lambo, a holiday home on the Côte d’Azur and a townhouse in Chelsea seems more than fair.

Radical cynic

What’s the trainee-to-partner promotion rate at the ‘Land? 3%?

You will be fine

I got a low 2.1 in a law degree including several 2.2s and even applied in 2nd year having averaged a 2.2 in first year.

Didn’t stop me getting multiple training contract offers at US law firms and I didn’t even have close to your level of professional experience.

As long as you can justify the career change if asked in an interview I’m sure you will do fine (you want to avoid the firms that have a stick up their ass on grades anyway)


This is sound advice . Also on a health and safety note you should stand well clear of any firm that does this as donkeys kick very hard !

Culture Shock

The first thing you will need to come to terms with is that you will be expected to work beyond 4pm.


Oh well.. the problem is that Civil Servant’s culture is difficult to shake off, working from home for weeks on end, going to the office to find no one there… finnishing at 3pm….will you be able to cope? If so, go for it, you can always go back to work as a civil servant. Dont concentrate on your academic weakness.. and others will do the same.

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