Articles From the Team

Legal jobs and applications: should your uni grade classification matter?

Being a former solicitor and now a legal recruiter, I understand how frustrating it is for lawyers looking for a new legal job who encounter firms that simply disregard their application based on degree classification. 

Many of these lawyer candidates have many years of experience in the legal sector and feel this should bear more weight than their grades, which on many occasions they obtained many years ago. Many candidates feel they can prove themselves with how they conduct their caseloads and their success in surpassing billable targets.

Well, I’m pleased to inform you that change is coming, even if it’s in baby steps, and it seems to be the professional services firms that are leading the way.

Recently, Ernst & Young (one of the Big Four) removed university degree classifications from their entry criteria. Their reasoning: there’s no evidence that good/great grades equate to success. Previously, Ernst & Young had a policy that required a 2.1 degree classification and three B grades at A-level (or equivalent). Some may argue this is relatively lenient criteria compared to other professional services or top tier law firms. Now, and this applies to legal applicants, Ernst & Young use online assessments, which test a candidates legal ability. 

The change comes after thorough research, which concluded that screening applications based on academic performance alone were too blunt an approach. I must say, I agree; I’m sure many other young legal professionals do too.

Ernst & Young aren’t the only professional services firm making a change. Earlier this year, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) removed UCAS point prerequisites.

I’ve placed a number of candidates who have progressed very quickly in their legal careers. Prima facie, some of these people didn’t possess the grades required. Their application success was down to our relationship with the firm. We’re in a position to persuade partners to meet strong candidates where they’re always pleasantly surprised. 

My advice is never to turn down a firm if you feel your grades aren’t at the calibre the firm’s seeking. Instead, have an open and honest chat with a good legal recruiter we’ll tell you about our experiences with particular firms and whether there’s a likelihood of the firm progressing with your application.

Change is coming and sometimes all it takes is a conversation with a legal recruiter the prospective firm/employer trusts.

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