Nick Fear
Nick Fear
Senior Associate: Manager

Articles From the Team

Does your socio-economic background have an impact on your legal career?

Currently, social mobility is a hot topic in both business and the mass media. A particular point of discussion is the effect social background has on a person’s academic performance.

One side of the argument is that children who attend fee-paying schools have an unfair advantage when it comes to achieving good school grades. I guess it’s obvious that children who attend academically-selective schools have an advantage.

How does this impact someone’s legal career?

The fact is A-Level grades have an influence on the universities you can attend. Subsequently, the university you attend (and the grade you achieve) can impact your choices and ability to secure a training contract.

It appears that some legal careers are stopped before they start.

After this point – across the industry as a whole – things become a little more convoluted. There are plenty of senior lawyers who get 2.2 degrees from lesser-known universities, who pay absolutely no attention to academic credentials when they recruit. Equally, there’s a fair number with 1st class degrees from Russell Group universities who will not consider 10+ PQE lawyers with a weaker academic record. Even within the same firm – two partners might have different ideas and approaches.

In contrast, almost all of the law firm recruitment and HR teams I work with are keen to educate internally: moving away from reviewing academic qualifications in isolation. Many are investing in contextualisation software (particularly for graduate recruitment), which allows them to evaluate an individual’s academic background against their school/college average.

This works on the assumption that an intellectual from a socially disadvantaged background will come out with weaker exam results than a person with less intellectual intelligence from a socially advantaged background.

The model is flawed to a certain extent - the most obvious example being people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds who attend academically-selective schools who may end up missing out when considered against people who attend (non-selective) fee-paying schools.

The important point here is that the issue is being addressed and considered by law firms. A real and genuine attempt to open the profession up to people from all manner of social backgrounds is heartening.

From a legal recruiter’s POV

As a recruitment consultant operating in the legal field, I strongly advise that your socio-economic background shouldn’t have an impact on your ambitions or career. Shoot for the stars and see where you get to.

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