I seem to read a lot of misconceptions on this board. I've lurked here for quite a while after being referred by a friend who wanted some advice. Anyway, if you're wanting to become a lawyer at a major firm and earn big $$$ (
), you need to:
1. Get 3 As or AT THE VERY LEAST, AAB.
Very few of the big firms will even entertain you if you don't have these. Don't worry so much about GCSEs - I only did 5 due to illness. Some firms don't even require you to list them.
2. Go to a reputable university.
I only had a choice between Durham and Newcastle. I had to stay local because I hadn't fully recuperated after being ill. I was offered a place at Van Mildert, Durham and didn't like it, so chose NCL instead. Very happy 3 years. Don't get hung up if you don't get into Oxbridge. Providing you've been to a highly-regarded uni (something that's research-based or York/ Durham) then you won't have any problems.
DO NOT choose anything that isn't redbrick unless it's Oxford Brookes or UWE! Even if you do choose one of those better, newer unis, there is a great deal of snobbery in the City. It is starting to disappear, albeit very slowly. Fact remains: new universities are not
highly-regarded by most London firms. You can get a 1st, have 5 As at A-level and a whole raft of extra-curriculars but you're still likely to lose out.
3. You don't need to study law.
I read finance (got a 2:1) and have been wooed by some of the rich American firms which are finance-focussed. Something like 50% of City lawyers are non-law and it in no way harms your chances if you've read any other academic subject. By "academic" I don't mean Media or Star Trek Studies etc. :P
4. Get very good grades throughout your studies.
You won't get an interview if you don't average at least a 2:1 throughout your career at university.
5. Find out about the law and the major firms in your first year and apply for vacation schemes in your second year.
Vac schemes are very useful when applying for TCs as they show an interest in the law.
6. Get some good stuff on your CV.
I know people who got high degrees from great unis (including Ox) but haven't been able to secure an interview at a major firm because they lack the "commercial acumen" that firms are attracted to.
Follow those stages and enjoy your career in the law. I'm currently doing my CPE (law conversion course which lasts for 1 year) and will begin my LPC in September. My training contract starts in 2005 at a major American firm in London. 35k for first two years and 65k on qualification.
Bottom line: Get excellent A-Level grades, go to a highly-regarded uni, get good grades, apply to lots of firms, sit back and relax while you get free cash and a fat salary when you start your career.
PM me if you want to ask any Qs.