Chances of making a legal career with bad grades??

#1

I am currently in the process of applying to various law firms for training contracts, mostly to the larger city firms. I have ABC at A-level, which I know isn’t fantastic, though in my defence at 18 years old, I had no idea what I was doing. I picked it up however and worked pretty hard at uni with a solid 2:1 average, but in my third year my father fell ill, which disrupted my family life and then my laptop crashed a week before my dissertation was due, losing me masses of work and resulting in a 2:2 grade which is a really frustrating blip on my academic record.
Considering now the majority of application forms require a detailed breakdown of individual module results I am a bit worried about this- how can I prove on a piece of paper that I’m worth hiring? Any advice much appreciated!

#2

It’s difficult. Although firm’s attitudes to accepting applications from candidates who may have received poor/average grades at some point during their education are changing, many firms still require a minimum of a 2.1 at degree and 300+ UCAS points to make an application.

The best advice I can give you is (1) at the application stage, make sure to call the firm and explain your situation. Explain that you are a bright candidate, with a good academic record who has been affected by a situation outside of your own control. Find out if it is still worth applying with a 2.2, or if there is anything you could do to make an application (e.g. get an MA). Then (2) should you make it to interview stage, you need to prove to your interviewers that you have a wide range of fantastic skills and [[competency based interview|competencies]] that make you a better hiring decision than someone with only good academic results. Your interviews will need to be killer (sharp, focussed, and highly intelligent) if you want to get a job because the first objection your interviewers will have to you will consistantly be - “this candidate only got a 2.2 but this other one got a 2.1 - wouldn’t hiring someone with a 2.1 make more sense?”

You can get into law with a 2.2 and you can get a very good job and be successful, but to do so you will need to prove yourself at this stage, work very hard and be proactive (e.g. calling companies). If you want the job, you’ll get it, but it isn’t going to be easy!

#3

Thanks for the advice, though I did actually get a 2:1 result for my final degree, I just meant that my dissertation mark was a 2:2. I know this isn’t too bad a situation, but I am aware that those who have to spend hours looking through application forms are going to be really picky and will look for any reason to discard applications.
Do you still think it’s worth calling companies? Would I simply say “hello, I’m brilliant despite grades, please employ me, here’s my application” ???
Thanks again, Anna.

#4

Yeah I’d call. You’re in a much strong situation as you have a 2.1. I think you’ll be able to get a job more comfortably with a 2.1 but calling certainly wouldn’t hurt. Where are you applying to?

#5

Anna - those grades at degree level should in no way restrict you other than one or two of the most fussy firms (think S&M, a few of the US firms). I have a low 2.1 and a 2.2 in my dissertation (and more than a few of my other modules) but have interviewed at some v good firms including a top 5 (the only top 5 firm I applied to). The only hindrance you might have is the A-Levels as some firms won’t let you complete the application form unless you pass their screening criteria which often includes minimum UCAS points.

I would second the suggestion that you contact firms directly - but I’d ask them about the A-Levels as I honestly don’t see your degree being a problem. If you are concerned, the best way to make yourself shine on paper is to demonstrate your commitment to law and all the skills you possess in addition to academic abiity. Do some pro-bono work, talk about transferrable skills obtained from extra-curric activities etc.

Good luck.