Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Law Students - Make a New Years Resolution not to get a 2.2 degree or Suffer the Consequences for the Rest of your Career

A message for all law students in their 1st, 2nd or even 3rd year. 

Make one New Years Resolution as follows:

"I will not get a 2.2 degree. I will work harder and get a 2.1."

In fact you could make two resolutions - the other resolution would be to get as much legal work experience as you possibly can but this does not add as much to your career at this stage as the first resolution so we will stick with this!

If you do not get a 2.1 or 1st class degree (and it seems a lot easier these days at certain Universities to get the latter), your legal career will be damaged. Forever. And Ever. And Ever More.

'What a load of nonsense' I hear you say. 
'Why would my career be affected in 20 years time by a degree I get when I am 21 years old?'

Why indeed! Unfortunately the legal profession is relatively easy to enter at a certain level, but very difficult to enter at another level. The difference is the salary you will earn for the rest of your career.

If you are happy earning £20,000 to £30,000 for pretty much the remainder of your career (until you are 65 years old) feel free to not bother working very hard at your degree and get a 2.2 or even worse a 3rd.

Chances are you will end up doing paralegal jobs for about 5 years, followed by a training contract you may well have managed to source courtesy of your paralegal work. When you qualify and apply for other firms who will pay you more than £15,000 some will reject you. Those that do not are likely to only offer you between £20,000 and £30,000. After about 3-4 years you will apply for other jobs, advertised at better pay levels, and be unpleasantly surprised when you get rejected. It may be that the firm you are applying to do not like your first firm, but more likely they will take one look at your degree and decide you are a bit of a slacker.

If you are not happy earning £20,000 to £30,000 do yourself a favour and work harder. It will change your life. Honestly.


I won't even go near the barrister side of the profession. OK you've talked me into it.

Got a 2.2, no family links, not head boy or girl, not captain of the rugby or netball team or national champion debater coupled with no quality legal work experience in Chambers that lasted more than 5 days? Don't even bother doing the BPTC. Unless you are a glutton for lots of punishment and unrewarded effort coupled with forking out for the LPC as well as the BPTC once you have finished.

'I don't care, I'll just work as a legal executive.' 

Of course you will. After all, firms are crying out for lots of underqualified legal executives with 2.2 law degrees and no legal work experience. Legal executives tend to be grafters who have worked their way up through the ranks - secretaries, PAs, unqualified fee earners. Very few make the decision to become an ILEX out of choice. People tend to fall into this route and there is nothing wrong with this. However doing a law degree is not really going to push your career forward very much when going down this route.

A Horror Story
Let me tell you a horror story in one last effort to make you realise how important my advice above is.

I have recently been recruiting for a specialist solicitor post with a Tier 1 Legal 500 law firm. The field of law will stay anonymous at this stage. The firm require someone with about 4-5 different areas of expertise, most of which any solicitor working in any law firm in the country in this field of law will have. Salary levels are probably 50-75% higher than these candidates will get elsewhere. We have had applications from all types of candidates; those with outstanding experience in some areas and some from those with a bit of experience of all the areas.

However a lot of candidates have been unpleasantly surprised by instant rejection. We have even had telephone calls from indignant candidates asking why we haven't progressed them. I'll let you into a secret... this firm only recruit candidates with consistent academic achievement, even though they are looking at solicitors with 10-20 years PQE (PQE stands for Post Qualified Experience).

Consistent academic achievement means a minimum 2.1 degree classification plus good A levels (or equivalent). It does not mean a 2.2 degree followed up by a masters degree to try and hide the 2.2 degree as this is not academically consistent.

So even though perhaps it shouldn't, your law degree has an effect on you for the rest of your career. Get used to it. You are entering one of the most rigid professions in the country (after doctors and dentists) and getting a 2.1 degree is yet another burning hoop you have to jump through.

Does a 2.2 make a difference to who you are? I am not sure about that but whether this is right or wrong we do notice from time to time that candidates with poor or low academic results are more likely to have a grammatical or spelling mistake on their CV. Does this follow through into the candidate's work? Who knows. However legal employers seem to think so....

Jonathan Fagan, Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and Interim Lawyers.

Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment - Online Legal Recruitment for Solicitors, Legal Executives, Fee Earners, Support Staff, Managers and Paralegals. Visit our Website to search or download our Vacancy Database or view our Candidate Database online.

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