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Is it wrong for law firms to look at A-levels and GCSEs and have cut-offs?

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    Do you think it is wrong for law firms to look at candidate's A-levels and GCSEs or even have cut-offs?

    Personally, I think it is a rather arbitrary way of sifting through the growing number of applications they receive.

    My A-levels are good, but my GCSEs aren't the best. I was a different person back then - I didn't even know that I wanted to go to university, let alone do law. I was about to come out of compulsory education and wanted to enjoy myself. Plus, I was at a tough comprehensive - so I didn't have the best influences. I am a completely different person now, in every sense, to how I was back then. So I cringe when I have to enter my GCSEs on application forms and ask myself how they are relevant to my potential as an employee within the law firm.

    It's the same with A-level students - they are barely adults and probably live at home (so haven't gained the independence and adulthood that comes with university).

    I just think that, in the grand scheme of things, a person with not-so-amazing A-levels or GCSEs from a decent university with a 2:1 and relevant extracurriculars is not going to perform worse (as a lawyer) than someone exactly the same - but with slightly higher A-levels. What about candidates who have great extracurricular and legal experience but are sifted into the bin because of having achieved ABB at A-level rather than AAB?

    I think law firms are missing out on a number of potentially great employees by having arbitrary A-level or GCSE cut-offs.
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    Wow they actually look at your GCSE's and A levels? That's incredibly stupid of them.
    Alright, maybe it's okay if they take a quick glance at your A levels (and don't place too much importance on it) but GCSE's? That's ridiculous, you do your GCSE's when you're a lil kid lol.
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    (Original post by Theoneoranro)
    Wow they actually look at your GCSE's and A levels? That's incredibly stupid of them.
    Alright, maybe it's okay if they take a quick glance at your A levels (and don't place too much importance on it) but GCSE's? That's ridiculous, you do your GCSE's when you're a lil kid lol.
    Almost every application with a mid to higher-end law firm asks for GCSEs. Not such much with the bar, though.

    And yeah, some go further than glancing at your A-levels and don't let you apply if you don't meet their cut-off, even if everything else (degree, university, extracurriculars, legal experience) is amazing.
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    (Original post by Lady Maleficent)
    Almost every application with a mid to higher-end law firm asks for GCSEs. Not such much with the bar, though.

    And yeah, some go further than glancing at your A-levels and don't let you apply if you don't meet their cut-off, even if everything else (degree, university, extracurriculars, legal experience) is amazing.
    I think you'll be fine if you have good A levels, I don't do law or anything but I seriously doubt they're going to turn you down because of some little GCSE tests you did when you were a kid.
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    (Original post by Theoneoranro)
    I think you'll be fine if you have good A levels, I don't do law or anything but I seriously doubt they're going to turn you down because of some little GCSE tests you did when you were a kid.
    Oh, I know that - but I still question why they are relevant. This thread is more of a general rant than me asking for advice.
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    Arbitrary, but better than other arbitrary measures (or, rather, the least 'bad' of the possibilities). Let's be honest, A-Levels are pretty indicative of your intelligence and/or conscientiousness, and for those who did badly at A-Level but got into a decent university and got a decent degree, the question remains: why did you not work hard throughout? For top law firms, ABB or whatever the cut-off is seems entirely reasonable: on AVERAGE, somebody who got less than that is probably not going to get a job at those kind of firms anyway. Yes, there will be some, but ultimately it's probably quite efficient.
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    I think consistency throughout your academic life is a good indicator of general intelligence. Lots of people can do really well if they work hard, it's the ones who consistently do well, regardless of their motivation at the time, that probably have the natural intelligence law firms are looking for. Perhaps it's not perfect, but I can think of a number of ways that could be worse.
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    the only reason they do that is because its just another way of filtering out applicants since training contracts are always largely oversubscribed.

    in an ideal world, no. they shouldnt look at those grades because as you say, the majority of people are different people back then and gcses and a levels, while they do measure some things, are hardly measures of intelligence or indicators of potential ability as a lawyer - a degree should hold much higher value when judging such things.
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    (Original post by Lady Maleficent)
    Oh, I know that - but I still question why they are relevant. This thread is more of a general rant than me asking for advice.
    Law firms have cut-offs because they can. They are commercial enterprises and clearly many think that having minimum requirements for A-levels and GCSEs is a good way of trimming down a big pool of candidates.

    HR's time costs money; I guess the big firms have decided that the chance of finding a rare gem isn't worth wading through 200 additional applications. TCs are usually hugely oversubscribed. The chances of finding someone with poor GCSEs/A-levels (mitigating circs aside) who is better than the top few applicants in a pool of many hundreds is miniscule.

    That said, I do think looking in-depth at GCSEs is a bit far; but it's firms' prerogative.
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    Not at all.

    Law firms and other businesses that highly value intelligence and academic ability are completely justified in having whichever academic criteria they wish to have. If you only want people from Harvard, that's fine. If you only want people from Oxbridge, that's fine. If you only want people with a first in their undergraduate degree and AAA at A-level, that's fine.

    Law firms, and indeed all businesses, do not owe anybody a job. They can decide who to employ on whichever academic basis they want.

    It's worth noting however that not all firms care about GCSEs - I've been told by a Freshfields representative that they don't even ask for them on your application.
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    (Original post by Lady Maleficent)
    Do you think it is wrong for law firms to look at candidate's A-levels and GCSEs or even have cut-offs?

    Personally, I think it is a rather arbitrary way of sifting through the growing number of applications they receive.

    My A-levels are good, but my GCSEs aren't the best. I was a different person back then - I didn't even know that I wanted to go to university, let alone do law. I was about to come out of compulsory education and wanted to enjoy myself. Plus, I was at a tough comprehensive - so I didn't have the best influences. I am completely person now, in every sense, to how I was back then. So I cringe when I have to enter my GCSEs on application forms and ask myself how they are relevant to my potential as an employee within the law firm.

    It's the same with A-level students - they are barely adults and probably live at home (so haven't gained the independence and adulthood that comes with university).

    I just think that, in the grand scheme of things, a person with not-so-amazing A-levels or GCSEs from a decent university with a 2:1 and relevant extracurriculars is not going to perform worse (as a lawyer) than someone exactly the same - but with slightly higher A-levels. What about candidates who have great extracurricular and legal experience but are sifted into the bin because of having achieved ABB at A-level rather than AAB?

    I think law firms are missing out on a number of potentially great employees by having arbitrary A-level or GCSE cut-offs.
    Law firms receive hundreds, and in the case of the bigger firms thousands, of broadly similar applications. One has to cull them to manageable proportions somehow.

    Not every firm uses an A level filter, not least because this enables the firms that don't to pick up good candidates missed by others, but all firms have to use something to get the numbers down.
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    (Original post by Aspiringlawstudent)
    Not at all.

    Law firms and other businesses that highly value intelligence and academic ability are completely justified in having whichever academic criteria they wish to have. If you only want people from Harvard, that's fine. If you only want people from Oxbridge, that's fine. If you only want people with a first in their undergraduate degree and AAA at A-level, that's fine.

    Law firms, and indeed all businesses, do not owe anybody a job. They can decide who to employ on whichever academic basis they want.

    It's worth noting however that not all firms care about GCSEs - I've been told by a Freshfields representative that they don't even ask for them on your application.
    Of course they have this prerogative and can demand whatever arbitrary and silly academic requirements they wish. But my point is that it's their loss because they are losing out on potentially fantastic employees.
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    They are evidently happy with their methodology and results. Their job, they draw the lines.
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    (Original post by lukas1051)
    I think consistency throughout your academic life is a good indicator of general intelligence. Lots of people can do really well if they work hard, it's the ones who consistently do well, regardless of their motivation at the time, that probably have the natural intelligence law firms are looking for. Perhaps it's not perfect, but I can think of a number of ways that could be worse.
    I think the number of people who can sail through GCSEs and A-levels without putting much work in is statistically limited.

    You either know the intricacies of the Industrial Revolution or you do not, there's no just 'knowing' because you have 'natural intelligence'. You have to put the time and effort in to absorb the information.

    I am sure there are people with very high levels of 'natural intelligence' who have a blip in terms of the GCSEs and A-levels because of different motivations or external influences which stopped them from revising for the time needed to grasp the relevant facts of certain subjects.
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    (Original post by Lady Maleficent)
    Of course they have this prerogative and can demand whatever arbitrary and silly academic requirements they wish. But my point is that it's their loss because they are losing out on potentially fantastic employees.
    Are they, really?

    For every 'hidden gem' there might be, there are dozens of fantastic 'traditional' applicants. They turn down great applicants every year who are well above their entry standards due to the immense competition. They simply can't take everyone who would be a great employee.

    I think it's rather naive to think that they are somehow 'missing out' by not having an extremely wide pool of applicants - they already have their pick of the best and brightest.
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    (Original post by Aspiringlawstudent)
    Are they, really?

    For every 'hidden gem' there might be, there are dozens of fantastic 'traditional' applicants. They turn down great applicants every year who are well above their entry standards due to the immense competition. They simply can't take everyone who would be a great employee.

    I think it's rather naive to think that they are somehow 'missing out' by not having an extremely wide pool of applicants - they already have their pick of the best and brightest.
    You appear to think I am talking about people with Cs at A-level, mediocre university grades and no relevant experience as being 'hidden gems'.

    I am not. I am referring to those who have equal, if not far better, university grades and relevant experience but are struck by a law firm's A-level cut-off because they have ABB rather than AAB.

    I respect that law firms want to see a candidate's A-levels to get a wider scope of the candidate as a person. The firm can then choose how to weigh the A-levels, depending on later academics and experience. Although, I still think law firms should recognise that an adolescent A-level student is likely to be a completely different person to a graduate.

    It is the law firms who essentially say 'DO NOT APPLY UNLESS YOU HAVE XYZ A-LEVELS' or even have an automatic filter which I think demonstrate my point. Granted, it is understandable that they do this because of the number of applications they get, but I do believe that they are turning away candidates with some fantastic credentials that may exceed traditional applications because they don't want the associated HR cost.
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    (Original post by Lady Maleficent)
    they don't want the associated HR cost.
    It isn't really a matter of cost. Once you have a large number of fundamentally similar CVs for a few positions, you start using anything to distinguish them.

    At the end of the day very few law students have anything on their CV that one can call a real stand out. They have broadly similar results from broadly similar universities. They have done broadly similar ECs at university and they have gained broadly similar work experience. Where they have done undergraduate theses, they have done the same old collection of topics. O for a thesis on Bills of Sale, the Assize of Novel Disseisin, or the law of railway level crossings.
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    It isn't really a matter of cost. Once you have a large number of fundamentally similar CVs for a few positions, you start using anything to distinguish them.

    At the end of the day very few law students have anything on their CV that one can call a real stand out. They have broadly similar results from broadly similar universities. They have done broadly similar ECs at university and they have gained broadly similar work experience. Where they have done undergraduate theses, they have done the same old collection of topics. O for a thesis on Bills of Sale, the Assize of Novel Disseisin, or the law of railway level crossings.
    But, surely law firms who demand AAB (for example) from the outset are automatically turning away those with ABB but a first class degree, those with ABB but who have worked in some fancy NGO or a law firm for 5 years, etc.
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    (Original post by Lady Maleficent)
    But, surely law firms who demand AAB (for example) from the outset are automatically turning away those with ABB but a first class degree, those with ABB but who have worked in some fancy NGO or a law firm for 5 years, etc.
    Yes, but if they didn't, they would be turning away people who failed to put a comma after "sincerely". The problem with modern graduate recruitment, is that you are just trying to find a reason, any reason, to weed out another batch of applicants to get the numbers down to something an interviewing panel can cope with.
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    Yes, but if they didn't, they would be turning away people who failed to put a comma after "sincerely". The problem with modern graduate recruitment, is that you are just trying to find a reason, any reason, to weed out another batch of applicants to get the numbers down to something an interviewing panel can cope with.
    I assume you've hired people that really haven't worked out before. How much would you say they cost you as oppose to someone that was absolutely right? Do you think you'd be more likely to get the right candidate through interviewing more widely?

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