Great Degree But Bad A-Levels: Is There Any Point Going Into Law? Watch

Astynax
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I completed a Masters degree in Classics at Oxford a little under a year ago, and I have a first in Archaeology and Classics from Reading at undergraduate, in which I came at the top of my class in every assessed category.

To my frustration, I've been struggling for work ever since, and have spent my time volunteering and doing part-time jobs while living with my parents - not an ideal conclusion to what was quite a successful series of results.

The kicker: I have only BBC at A-level, having got into Reading in the first place only by the skin of my teeth. This has caused me endless problems, and I have found myself automatically filtered from the majority of the positions I have applied for.

While I do not by any measure come from a legal background, my current intention is to take up a GDL at BPP Waterloo in order to pursue a career in the law. I am very concerned however that I will find myself in exactly the same situation two years down the line, only around £40,000 poorer.

Does anyone have any views on this, or experience from someone in a similar situation who made it through the significant barriers of entry? Any advice would be greatly appreciated, as I must decide whether to accept my offer at BPP within the next two weeks.

Thanks!
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woody-wood
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(Original post by Astynax)
I completed a Masters degree in Classics at Oxford a little under a year ago, and I have a first in Archaeology and Classics from Reading at undergraduate, in which I came at the top of my class in every assessed category.

To my frustration, I've been struggling for work ever since, and have spent my time volunteering and doing part-time jobs while living with my parents - not an ideal conclusion to what was quite a successful series of results.

The kicker: I have only BBC at A-level, having got into Reading in the first place only by the skin of my teeth. This has caused me endless problems, and I have found myself automatically filtered from the majority of the positions I have applied for.

While I do not by any measure come from a legal background, my current intention is to take up a GDL at BPP Waterloo in order to pursue a career in the law. I am very concerned however that I will find myself in exactly the same situation two years down the line, only around £40,000 poorer.

Does anyone have any views on this, or experience from someone in a similar situation who made it through the significant barriers of entry? Any advice would be greatly appreciated, as I must decide whether to accept my offer at BPP within the next two weeks.

Thanks!
In itself BBC,1st from reading and a MA from ox is not actually a bad application. There are plenty of people in the legal field with lower qualifications for you to have a solid punch at the career. However this makes me assume a number of things, firstly that you are potentially aiming too high, you mentioned you were being auto filtered, generally speaking most top city and regional firms have these filters. May I suggest instead going further afield, niche firms, small practices and firms without these filters in general would have been an obvious place to start. Secondly you mentioned you have had legal volunteering experience, this will arguably also set you apart from other applicants so is it possible to assume that either your c.v/ written style/ general presentation is slightly off?
It must be pointed out that if so your application will be binned quite quickly, for example you may have put something on your c.v that suggests you are uncommitted or academically lazy.
If from what you have said is true I see no reason for you to get into law, however start small and think big in the long term.
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Astynax
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Than you for the reply. That's actually the most useful advice I've had from anyone yet. The problem seems to be that few careers advisers seem to have any experience of people in my situation - simply put (in their words, not mine...), people with BBC generally don't go to Oxford. It's important to bear in mind, I suppose, that starting off in a small firm doesn't necessarily mean I'll be stuck there for my whole life, and indeed a rise to the top can be more enjoyable than simply sitting there from the start.

I take it you would view a career as a barrister to be more or less impossible at this stage, however? I would love to end up there in the long term, but if it means I have to slog it out as a solicitor for a few years beforehand then so be it!

In my despair I have also considered the possibility of turning down my offer from BPP and moving to the states next year to qualify over there, where A-levels matter not. This would be a desperate last recourse however - does it seem foolhardy?
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AP1989
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(Original post by Astynax)
Than you for the reply. That's actually the most useful advice I've had from anyone yet. The problem seems to be that few careers advisers seem to have any experience of people in my situation - simply put (in their words, not mine...), people with BBC generally don't go to Oxford. It's important to bear in mind, I suppose, that starting off in a small firm doesn't necessarily mean I'll be stuck there for my whole life, and indeed a rise to the top can be more enjoyable than simply sitting there from the start.

I take it you would view a career as a barrister to be more or less impossible at this stage, however? I would love to end up there in the long term, but if it means I have to slog it out as a solicitor for a few years beforehand then so be it!

In my despair I have also considered the possibility of turning down my offer from BPP and moving to the states next year to qualify over there, where A-levels matter not. This would be a desperate last recourse however - does it seem foolhardy?
As a solicitor it's very possible outside of the top 20 or so City law firms, and even more possible outside of commercial law.

For the Bar, I'm not the best person to advise you. If you really have the motivation and willing to do whatever it takes i.e. lots of pro bono volunteering etc, and not solely focused on the top sets, it will happen. And no I'm not just saying that, if you had a 2:2 from a lower ranked university and no Masters I wouldn't be telling you this.
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woody-wood
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(Original post by Astynax)
Than you for the reply. That's actually the most useful advice I've had from anyone yet. The problem seems to be that few careers advisers seem to have any experience of people in my situation - simply put (in their words, not mine...), people with BBC generally don't go to Oxford. It's important to bear in mind, I suppose, that starting off in a small firm doesn't necessarily mean I'll be stuck there for my whole life, and indeed a rise to the top can be more enjoyable than simply sitting there from the start.

I take it you would view a career as a barrister to be more or less impossible at this stage, however? I would love to end up there in the long term, but if it means I have to slog it out as a solicitor for a few years beforehand then so be it!

In my despair I have also considered the possibility of turning down my offer from BPP and moving to the states next year to qualify over there, where A-levels matter not. This would be a desperate last recourse however - does it seem foolhardy?
Careers advisors can be useful to the point of asking what ambiguous or uncomplimentary aspects of a c.v you have and how to change them, but I would expect many of them not being in the legal field and knowing as much as every other applicant who bothers to look on a firms website would not expand on these aspects in great depth.
In regards to be being a barrister I would say that you must balance some aspects, firstly a career at the bar is tricky for a flawless applicant. However they do tend to look less at you A levels than city law firms, although it will play a part. The fact that your A levels are poor will be balanced against your first and masters from ox, arguably giving you just as much chance as any 2:1 degree from a classic red brick uni or even more of a chance. Of which such applicants some will also make it to the bar. So to answer your question, it is not impossible more luck, but as you said if you were willing to qualify as a solicitor first then change it would perhaps help also.
I have absolutely no clue about the american bar, all I know is that the american legal system is more expensive and the job market is in a potentially greater mess than our own.
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NessEB
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(Original post by Astynax)
I completed a Masters degree in Classics at Oxford a little under a year ago, and I have a first in Archaeology and Classics from Reading at undergraduate, in which I came at the top of my class in every assessed category.

To my frustration, I've been struggling for work ever since, and have spent my time volunteering and doing part-time jobs while living with my parents - not an ideal conclusion to what was quite a successful series of results.

The kicker: I have only BBC at A-level, having got into Reading in the first place only by the skin of my teeth. This has caused me endless problems, and I have found myself automatically filtered from the majority of the positions I have applied for.

While I do not by any measure come from a legal background, my current intention is to take up a GDL at BPP Waterloo in order to pursue a career in the law. I am very concerned however that I will find myself in exactly the same situation two years down the line, only around £40,000 poorer.

Does anyone have any views on this, or experience from someone in a similar situation who made it through the significant barriers of entry? Any advice would be greatly appreciated, as I must decide whether to accept my offer at BPP within the next two weeks.

Thanks!
From what I remember, A levels mean **** all once you're in University. All they do is get you into uni and from then on employer's only really care about your degree.

My Uncle never did A Levels, got a 1st in both undergrad and postgrad at UCLan (in some engineering course can't remember which one) and was offered funding for a Phd and a very well respected managerial role at an engineering firm in Preston.
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AP1989
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(Original post by TimmonaPortella)
Out of interest, does anyone know what would happen re: autofilters if OP sat some A levels next month and got As?
Do you actually know for a fact that some firms use these?
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woody-wood
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(Original post by TimmonaPortella)
Out of interest, does anyone know what would happen re: autofilters if OP sat some A levels next month and got As?
Potentially an idea...
Sometimes the way they ask for your A levels are, in your first sitting & first time round i.e at school. Others not so much. At this stage I would argue there is little point but it is still an option. However the firms that care about A levels would arguably filter out later A levels anyway as it would not be the correct academic pedigree they would look for.

(Original post by NessEB)
From what I remember, A levels mean **** all once you're in University. All they do is get you into uni and from then on employer's only really care about your degree.

My Uncle never did A Levels, got a 1st in both undergrad and postgrad at UCLan (in some engineering course can't remember which one) and was offered funding for a Phd and a very well respected managerial role at an engineering firm in Preston.
...which is why the OP is asking about ways he can get into law with out being auto filtered because of his A levels.
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TimmonaPortella
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(Original post by AP1989)
Do you actually know for a fact that some firms use these?
No. Do they not?
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AP1989
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(Original post by TimmonaPortella)
No. Do they not?
Well I know for a fact that one of the Magic Circle doesn't. Tbh I actually think it's a myth.
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happyinthehaze
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Do you have a reason for the A level results to mitigate?

Do you have any 'barriers to overcome to get into the legal profession'?

My A levels are a lot worse than yours are - you will not be the only one who doesn't have straight As. My plan is to try as many routes as possible and try as many avenues as I can. When I talk to people with TCs they often say, I just decided I was going to try every single thing to try and get in. And they got in.

You will need show enough dedication via your CV to offset the A levels. I would think hard before trying to go to the bar (apart from anything else, it is disappearing!)

If you do a GDL, you will have time to assess what you want to do.

If you do decide to do a GDL, my tip is, do as much work ex as you can BEFORE YOU START because it is a very intense course and you won't have much time.

Do not dispair! You have done well with your first and this will mitigate too.
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nulli tertius
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(Original post by AP1989)
Do you actually know for a fact that some firms use these?
An autofilter doesn't necessarily mean a computer programme. It can be a junior HR person with a shredder. What it means is that someone is not looking at the merits of an application at all, merely whether a certain threshold is met.
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nulli tertius
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(Original post by Astynax)
I completed a Masters degree in Classics at Oxford a little under a year ago, and I have a first in Archaeology and Classics from Reading at undergraduate, in which I came at the top of my class in every assessed category.

To my frustration, I've been struggling for work ever since, and have spent my time volunteering and doing part-time jobs while living with my parents - not an ideal conclusion to what was quite a successful series of results.

The kicker: I have only BBC at A-level, having got into Reading in the first place only by the skin of my teeth. This has caused me endless problems, and I have found myself automatically filtered from the majority of the positions I have applied for.

While I do not by any measure come from a legal background, my current intention is to take up a GDL at BPP Waterloo in order to pursue a career in the law. I am very concerned however that I will find myself in exactly the same situation two years down the line, only around £40,000 poorer.

Does anyone have any views on this, or experience from someone in a similar situation who made it through the significant barriers of entry? Any advice would be greatly appreciated, as I must decide whether to accept my offer at BPP within the next two weeks.

Thanks!
As others have said, I think you may be trying for firms that are too large and too structured for your background.

Traditionally Oxford firms have a bias for Oxford graduates. Have you considered Linnells (or Blake Lapthorne) as they are now known.

Look at their FAQs http://www.bllaw.co.uk/careers/our_g...acancies201112 You meet their academic requirements and Christ Church isn't a bad client to act for.
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Astynax
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Wow, many thanks for all the helpful replies!

Regarding retaking A-levels: it has emerged as a possibility, though I have a sneaky A in Physics at AS level that pushes me over the threshold anyway if they aren't specific about their requirements. Nevertheless, I suspect someone will notice either way...

nulli tertius, thanks for the heads up about Blake Lapthorn - I had no idea entry requirements could be so low! I can imagine many worse clients than Christ Church - while I am a Brasenose man I have many fond memories of the place!

The only mitigating circumstances I have, unfortunately, are a lack of direction: I had no idea what I wanted to do, though my gap year sorted that out for me and gave me focus.

I am aware that the bar is extremely hard to get into at the moment, though when I think about it I feel some unease about "settling" for an obscure provincial firm, while I feel nothing of the sort about provincial sets. I believe the bar would suit me down to the ground, though you are very right to advise caution, and I will not leap headlong into a BPTC without considering my options very carefully.

I've got a lot to think about, it seems! I'm in the process of redrafting my CV to get some mini-pupillages and visits under my belt as soon as I can - this will allow me to really test the water before I commit. Annoyingly I just got rejected post-interview for an internship at a small local solicitors, so I doubt anything will be easy, no matter which route I take.
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jjarvis
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(Original post by nulli tertius)
An autofilter doesn't necessarily mean a computer programme. It can be a junior HR person with a shredder. What it means is that someone is not looking at the merits of an application at all, merely whether a certain threshold is met.
A close friend was told his a levels weren't good enough to apply for one MC firm, notwithstanding a masters degree and a Cambridge first. They suggested he sit more A levels...

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tizzybelle
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Hey my friend, went to exeter uni with not so great a-levels too... I think she got ABC? Or worse? But anyway she is doing her LPC this year and has managed to find herself a really good paralegal role that will lead to a training contract if she does well. It's not a big City firm, but a nice local firm. She loves it there.

She also didn't get a first in her undergrad, nor she does have a masters from Oxford! But if you want to become a solicitor, I do not think, based on my friend's experience, your options are doomed. Although the results aren't statistically significant seeing as I am only talking about one friend haha.

I think maybe grab a list of the employer's you want to work for, look at entry requirements, do thorough research and make your applications. You can also maybe ring the HR people up and ask them for their thoughts? This was once recommended to me (about something else).

I'm at Oxford ATM it's not that great unless you want to join a big city law firm, but sometimes you get some awesome advice. The woman I saw was very shocked I wanted to join a nice regional firm haha.
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woody-wood
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(Original post by tizzybelle)
Hey my friend, went to exeter uni with not so great a-levels too... I think she got ABC? Or worse? But anyway she is doing her LPC this year and has managed to find herself a really good paralegal role that will lead to a training contract if she does well. It's not a big City firm, but a nice local firm. She loves it there.

She also didn't get a first in her undergrad, nor she does have a masters from Oxford! But if you want to become a solicitor, I do not think, based on my friend's experience, your options are doomed. Although the results aren't statistically significant seeing as I am only talking about one friend haha.

I think maybe grab a list of the employer's you want to work for, look at entry requirements, do thorough research and make your applications. You can also maybe ring the HR people up and ask them for their thoughts? This was once recommended to me (about something else).

I'm at Oxford ATM it's not that great unless you want to join a big city law firm, but sometimes you get some awesome advice. The woman I saw was very shocked I wanted to join a nice regional firm haha.
Being at oxford is not that great unless you want to be at a 'big city' firm, I'm really sorry to hear it's holding you back so much.
In reality you are right about securing a TC as potentially smaller firms will allow a lower grade requirement however it must also be stated that if your undergrad degree hasn't allowed you to get a TC in a city firm it is unlikely this masters in oxford will help further. I'm sure they will have the foresight to see that you didn't get in first time round and that your masters hasn't actually changed either your ability in law (I'm assuming you're not doing a law masters) and that it hasn't changed you as a person....
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tizzybelle
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(Original post by woody-wood)
Being at oxford is not that great unless you want to be at a 'big city' firm, I'm really sorry to hear it's holding you back so much.
In reality you are right about securing a TC as potentially smaller firms will allow a lower grade requirement however it must also be stated that if your undergrad degree hasn't allowed you to get a TC in a city firm it is unlikely this masters in oxford will help further. I'm sure they will have the foresight to see that you didn't get in first time round and that your masters hasn't actually changed either your ability in law (I'm assuming you're not doing a law masters) and that it hasn't changed you as a person....
Very true about Oxford being all about the city life.

I'm not sure about the Masters comment - I spoke to a few recruiters and they've said that by third year/masters year you are very different to the second year you were when applying. So, already having better grades and getting into Oxford (apparently showing academic intellect)... but this was just a few recruiters I have spoken to.

I don't think the Masters by itself will do anything, I think it's really important to have a combination of work experience, commercial acumen and showing a real commitment to the law. Maybe by Masters level you can convince them more readily about it... Not sure though... these are just my thoughts!
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Eboracum
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Is this for a solicitor or barrister. If it's a solicitor, you'll still be in with a great chance. Not sure about barrister as I've not researched that.
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angelin
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(Original post by jjarvis)
A close friend was told his a levels weren't good enough to apply for one MC firm, notwithstanding a masters degree and a Cambridge first. They suggested he sit more A levels...

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This is insane! After an undergraduate and a postgraduate degree, I think it's a total loss of time and effort to sit more A-levels, isn't it?

Yes, the competition in legal world is fierce, but this simply doesn't sound right.
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