From Bath Spa to Clifford Chance: how a history graduate who bungled his A-Levels made it to the Magic Circle

Avatar photo

By Legal Cheek on

The deadline for Clifford Chance’s much-talked about ‘CV blind’ scheme — which sees the magic circle firm award 20 vac scheme places to students without looking at their CVs — is on Friday at midnight. All hopefuls have to do is submit 500 words on this topic.

We went along to Clifford Chance’s Canary Wharf offices to meet one of last year’s winners and the graduate recruitment duo who are behind the programme…


Pictured above (from left to right), trainee-to-be David Boyd, and Clifford Chance graduate recruiters Laura Yeates and Aasha Mahadoo.

Despite getting a first in his undergraduate degree and founding an award-winning renewable energy social enterprise, David Boyd wouldn’t get a look in at most top law firms. Like thousands of 18 year-olds each year, Boyd messed up his A-Levels: traditionally an unpardonable crime at the elite end of training contract recruitment.

“It was only when I got to university that I discovered that I was a nerd and loved learning,” says the Bath Spa history graduate, who launched Energy for Old Fadama while completing an accelerated LLB at Queen Mary University of London.

Happily, Boyd became aware of the ‘Intelligent Aid’ limb of the ‘CV Blind’ programme, saw that last year’s question was about favourite topic renewal energy — and the rest is history.

Along with 39 other successful first-stage applicants, he was then invited along to a “final” (essentially an assessment day minus the interviews). Despite initially feeling “pretty terrified”, he found himself among the 20 winners and was offered a place on Clifford Chance’s summer vac scheme — from where he went on to bag a TC, alongside nine other Intelligent Aid applicants.

This year the firm has slightly increased the word length of its Intelligent Aid submission — up from a very-brief 250 words last year to a still-short 500 — and is accepting entries made through alternative mediums, such as podcasts and short Tumblr-style blogs.

Of such unconventional submissions, Clifford Chance graduate recruitment and development manager Laura Yeates says: “You need to submit the application via the applicant tracking system, which means that you would probably need to put a covering letter with links in to allow us to access it. But I would strongly suggest that this might differentiate you as an applicant.”

CVs must be included with the submission, but they are “for our recording purposes only,” adds Aasha Mahadoo, Clifford Chance’s graduate recruitment advisor. They will only be considered — after a decision has been made on the applications — to confirm that the candidate is currently studying at a UK university (a requirement for the scheme), she continues.

Listen to Boyd, Yeates and Mahadoo speak to Legal Cheek editor Alex Aldridge in the podcast below.

Further reading

Exclusive: Law firm Clifford Chance adopts ‘CV blind’ policy to break Oxbridge recruitment bias [The Independent]

7 things you should know about Clifford Chance’s ‘CV blind’ programme [Legal Cheek]

Clifford Chance Plays a Blinder? [Lawyer Watch]

Join the conversation