Mark Levine
Mark Levine
Managing Director: In-house

Articles From the Team

Is the legal profession lagging behind others when it comes to focusing so heavily on school and university grades?

Two articles caught my attention when considering this topic. The first was on and was titled “My career story: I left school at 16 – now I’m a partner” and tells the story of Donna McCarthy, a partner at Devonshires. From a working class family where no one went to university she ‘didn’t change that’. On seeing a card on her school’s career board for a trainee legal assistant at a London council she went for the interview and was offered the job. A number of years down the line Donna finds herself at the top of the tree in a highly thought of London law firm.

The second article noted that Ernst and Young “will no longer consider degrees or A-level results when assessing future employees”. Maggie Stilwell, EY’s managing partner for talent, said she hoped the new policy introduction would “open up opportunities for talented individuals regardless of their background and provide greater access to the profession”.

Ms Stilwell said EY’s move was an attempt at “modernising the workforce, challenging traditional thinking and ways of doing things”. Regarding the legal profession the article did comment that the previous year, The Independent reported that Clifford Chance had adopted a radical new approach to recruiting graduates – introducing a “CV-blind” approach. It meant interviewers would not be given any information about which university candidates had attended or whether they had come from state or independent schools. The idea was to neutralise any bias towards the independent sector or Oxbridge.

On the main I would suggest that the junior lawyers (NQ-5 years) who are called for interview at the in-house businesses that I assist would fall into the following category: Good grades at GCSE and A level (A’s and B’s) , 2.1 (+) at university, LPC (commendation and above) and a training contract with a leading law firm.

In my experience many clients will recruit in their own image and if this means that they got certain A level Grades or went to a certain university they will expect the same from the prospective lawyers that they may recruit. I have inevitably been told previously by a client that they will not see any candidates who may have a 2.2 university degree, citing academic ability equalling commercial aptitude.

I am sure we all feel that if perhaps we were to go back to school/university we might give it more focus than we did then. It is my opinion that if someone has for whatever reason not excelled in education, but has gone above and beyond to get their career on the right track they are definitely worth an interview and certainly shouldn’t be written off for the rest of their career/life! I also commend the likes of Donna and EY.

We continue to live in a brand new world where the youth of today put less importance on what they achieved in the class room and focus more on what they can do in the work place.

For more information contact Mark Levine at BCL Legal.

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