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    Hi everybody,

    Need some advice in regards to applying for/looking for a suitable training contract.

    Firstly my circumstances:
    - Average (or less looking at TSR) GCSEs (Couple of As, Mostly Bs, couple of Cs)
    - Poor/Mediocre A Levels (BCC - History, English Lang & Lit and 1 other)
    - Currently 3rd year student at a below average ranking uni but aiming for a first, 2nd year result average was around 66%, got 70%+ on a few modules).

    Just to put all this into context: I was predicted very poor GCSEs, I beat all my expected grades by miles. However this was due to me being a troublesome student most of the time. I genuinely think my A-Levels are not representative of my intellect/skills etc. I simply did not put any effort in, didn't revise properly etc. that also applies to my GCSEs.

    When I started Uni, I kind of experienced a reality check and started to put some effort in and started working hard. I am confident that I will manage to obtain a good degree classification. As I said above, I am aiming for a first, but currently working at a 2:1.

    My current situation is that I am starting to search for/apply for training contracts, but face a few problems:

    1. I don't have any evidence (certificates) for my A-Levels. I do have a grade sheet, would this be sufficient? Or should I go to my college and ask for certificates, I understand I will probably have to pay for them (I don't remember recieving my originals to be honest). I'm not claiming to have exceptional grades, will most firms be picky about the proof?

    2. Should I be blunt and completley straight to the point about my past grades and the circumstances surrounding them if questioned? Will it be to my disadvantage? Will they think that I only started to find my way in life three years ago, therefore consider me to be slightly unstable? Or might it show grit and determination considering my socio-economic background, if I present it in such a way, without lying of course?

    3. Do you think despite managing to get a first or a very strong 2:1, I will be restricted to small/medium sized firms due to my A Levels and GCSEs?

    4. I did GCSE french, I don't remember it much and it was a lesson I didn't pay much attention in. I'm thinking of learning a new language at home, is it a good language to learn to give me an edge over other applicants? Asia is seen as a developing region, is knowing an Asian language a definiate advantage?

    5. I only have 1 term of work experience at a small law firm (5-6 weeks), how much more experience should I get under my belt before applying, or is it OK to apply now and should I explain that I am still looking to get much more work experience? I have applied for Vac Schemes at bigger firms before but was too late and all the places had been filled. I will be applying again for 2011 Summer vacancies. I also have various other experiences, which are strictly speaking non-legal but involve many aspects which would be very useful in a legal career.

    I guess thats enough questions for now...

    Any help would really be appreciated. Before anybody points me to google or something similar, I have researched this as much as possible but I am looking for different opinions just to assess peoples' views on my position.
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    (Original post by hmaus)
    The first thing that comes to mind is that some city firms have diversity schemes where they give a chance to students whose A-levels don't meet their usual requirements but who have done very well at uni. I know Addleshaw Goddard does this and quite a few other firms do too. Not sure of others off the top of my head but I always see this kind of thing in law school careers newsletters. Have a search, because it sounds like they might be suitable.

    1. A-level certs - you can't get these from your school and will have to send off to the exam board. Not all firms ask to see certificates but some will and it's good to have them in case.

    2. If you don't have actual mitigating circumstances then I wouldn't really "explain" the grades as I'm not sure what you could put. I'd just fill in the grades. I would suggest you either go through some kind of scheme as mentioned above, pick firms who have lower A-level requirements or phone HR and ask them what their policy is on lower A-levels.

    3. Possibly. Ones with screening questions on A-level results will be out of bounds and I think the lowest A-level requirements I've seen at a city firm were BBB. Most candidates for city firms will probably have strong a-levels + strong degree, making it harder for you to compete. What kind of firm would you like to work at? Also btw there is a PDF on chambers website listing the entry requirements of all the main firms, so that would be worth a look in case some are more lenient on A-levels.

    4. I think languages are not much use unless you can reach an advanced level, so I wouldn't advise picking up a new Asian language since getting to a very high standard in a short time would be very time consuming and difficult. Improving your French might be easier but I think it would be better to focus on your studies and make sure you get a first, as this will help you more than beginner Chinese etc!

    5. If you want to apply for 2011 vac schemes, start now as a lot of places are already interviewing and filling slots. Good that you have done one placement but you need to get as much work experience as poss.

    Good luck
    Wow, quick response.

    Thanks for your views and advice.

    I guess my mitigating circumstances are not conventional, the simple truth is that I was going through a very rough patch. But that is fully behind me now and I have being foucsed and worked fairly hard over the last couple of years, I have put my foot down though this year - really trying to push myself to get a first. Hopefully it pays off.
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    You should try to get original A-level certs. I was asked for them and this is common practice. I don't think its the end of the world if you don't have them but this means the screening people will have to ring your own school and ask you for the details - it would be a bit of a pain and could lead to delays.

    RE: being blunt you'll certainly need to put A-levels (possibly GCSEs) down when you apply. I don't think its smart to omit A-levels from a graduate CV even if they aren't great, legal employers will definitely expect them.

    I don't think your mitigating circumstances are good enough to count, sorry (there may be more to the story but you haven't convinced me with your post). The problem is that SO SO SO MANY people state mitigating circumstances now. I'm not sure firms are that interested unless its something very serious, and mucking about when you are a teenager is something that is applicable to nearly everybody. I think it might be better to phrase your progression in a positive way i.e. "I've tried really hard at university and am consistently getting better and better because I'm determined to improve".

    Not sure how much use an Asian language would be unless you are applying to large city firms doing cross-border work. You need to bear in mind that getting to business standard takes a LOT of effort - GCSE level isn't that helpful.

    Your grades aren't that bad at all there is no reason why you can't get a decent TC
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    (Original post by jacketpotato)
    You should try to get original A-level certs. I was asked for them and this is common practice. I don't think its the end of the world if you don't have them but this means the screening people will have to ring your own school and ask you for the details - it would be a bit of a pain and could lead to delays.

    RE: being blunt you'll certainly need to put A-levels (possibly GCSEs) down when you apply. I don't think its smart to omit A-levels from a graduate CV even if they aren't great, legal employers will definitely expect them.

    I don't think your mitigating circumstances are good enough to count, sorry (there may be more to the story but you haven't convinced me with your post). The problem is that SO SO SO MANY people state mitigating circumstances now. I'm not sure firms are that interested unless its something very serious, and mucking about when you are a teenager is something that is applicable to nearly everybody. I think it might be better to phrase your progression in a positive way i.e. "I've tried really hard at university and am consistently getting better and better because I'm determined to improve".

    Not sure how much use an Asian language would be unless you are applying to large city firms doing cross-border work. You need to bear in mind that getting to business standard takes a LOT of effort - GCSE level isn't that helpful.

    Your grades aren't that bad at all there is no reason why you can't get a decent TC
    Thanks for your opinion.

    There is more to my mitigating circumstances and it was definately more than messing around as a teenager, but I didn't go into any detail in my earlier post, nor do I want to with any potential employers. As you said, so many people use them, I don't want to be relying on it nor do I want to bring it up much. It was a mixture of my own inadequacies and the unfortunate circumstances I found myself in, but I totally agree with you that I should just focus on the positive when asked about it. Maybe those assessing my application will appreciate that I'm not trying to rely on what are essentially, even in my own opinion, petty excuses for past failures.

    But thanks for the positive view. I had loads of Qs in my head about TCs that I couldn't find answers to the other day, but now they are not coming to mind.

    One more thing I wanted to ask is, I am currently applying for Summer Vac Schemes as well, many of the summer schemes are around the June time and the t/c deadlines are 31/07/11. If I was to be invited for the Vac Scheme, should I wait till I have being and taken part before submitting my actual TC application? As I write this, I'm starting to think to myself that this question probably sounds a bit stupid - I should probably apply for both as soon as possible? Is this correct?

    (Original post by hmaus)
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    I don't see how applying for a TC and a VS with the firm at the same time makes sense. Surely you'd apply for VS first and then apply for TC?

    You may end up applying for a TC before actually doing a VS but this is different

    You shouldn't wait until VS have finished before submitting TC application if it means you miss the deadline. Saying "I will do a VS with firm X" is fair enough I think. Personally I ended up applying for TS mid-way through my Vac Scheme, though once you get the VS if you are able to have the VS earlier in the summer this is obviously best.
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    (Original post by jacketpotato)
    You may end up applying for a TC before actually doing a VS but this is different
    This is what I meant. Thanks for clearing it up for me.

    The reason I asked is, with a few firms I have been looking at I would still be able to apply within the deadline, albeit I'd have to do it very quickly after the VS has finished.
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    Not sure if this has been mentioned above but I went to a presentation recently where a partner of one firm said that he was v.suspicious of firsts from lower ranking unis. It's good that you are on course for one but their true meaning is questioned by some firms at least.

    Also as for the language thing-you won't be able to get to a standard that is useful quickly enough for job apps I don't think.

    I'm in a similar position to you re: old grades. Messed about a bit during GCSEs/A-levels (sailed through early school and thought I didn't have to put ANY effort in...oops), talked my way into Durham, got a decent 2.1, GDL commendation and on course for LPC distinction (based on mock results), so I've shown considerable improvement. I broached the topic with some firms at law fairs (regional/national, not city), some of whom said they didn't care so much about the A-levels, it's the degree that is important and the ECs. Not saying it's every firm, but some firms aren't so bothered, you might want to look into that.
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    (Original post by Lell)
    Not sure if this has been mentioned above but I went to a presentation recently where a partner of one firm said that he was v.suspicious of firsts from lower ranking unis. It's good that you are on course for one but their true meaning is questioned by some firms at least.

    Also as for the language thing-you won't be able to get to a standard that is useful quickly enough for job apps I don't think.

    I'm in a similar position to you re: old grades. Messed about a bit during GCSEs/A-levels (sailed through early school and thought I didn't have to put ANY effort in...oops), talked my way into Durham, got a decent 2.1, GDL commendation and on course for LPC distinction (based on mock results), so I've shown considerable improvement. I broached the topic with some firms at law fairs (regional/national, not city), some of whom said they didn't care so much about the A-levels, it's the degree that is important and the ECs. Not saying it's every firm, but some firms aren't so bothered, you might want to look into that.
    Interesting.

    Did the partner mention any reasons for why he was suspicious?
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    Did the partner mention any reasons for why he was suspicious?
    This research sponsored by the Sutton Trust and Department for Education might have something to do with it.

    http://www.suttontrust.com/public/do...port-final.pdf

    The evidence (page 25 onwards) seems to support the idea that it's easier to get a good degree from some unis than others, after controlling for prior attainment.

    This looks like a very robust piece of research and it's the first time I have seen confirmation of what many would describe as "prejudice" by graduate recruiters. The Commons Select Committee on Universities and Skills tried to pin expert witnesses from unis on this point of degree comparability and failed miserably.

    No one wants to publicly admit the hard truth: a 2.1 or 1st from X is not the same as a 2.1 or 1st from Y. But of course those who know how to play the system absolutely understand the differences. Profit is derived from asymmetries of information.

    The real scandal about tuition fees is that the return on investment varies so much over a lifetime

    (Lights blue touch paper, stands well back, waits for loud explosion)
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    (Original post by Steph90)
    Interesting.

    Did the partner mention any reasons for why he was suspicious?
    The quality of the degrees they offer and the idea that it's easier to get a first at one of these unis than a well-regarded one.
 
 
 
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