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Is my career in law over? Advice needed!

Starting off, I recieved CCC in my A-levels and have no mitigating circumstances. I am now currently a second-year LLB law student at the University of Northampton (one of the worst universities in the UK). I got 2:1's in all my first year modules and I am on track on getting the same for this year. I hope to get a 2:1 or First overall by the end of my degree. However, I am aware getting a 2:1 at this university would be like getting a 2:2 at a Russell Group university and my poor A levels will never get me a training contract. Furthermore, as much as I would like to pretend firms and recruiters don't have a preference for RG and good non-RG universities, they do. In order to compensate for my poor A level grades and extremely low ranking university I have tried to apply for Vacation Schemes at the beggining of this year, but I was ultimately unsuccessful. Subsequently, I have tried to get myself some informal work experience at firms using my network, however, I am in the middle of this process and everything is still up in the air. My idea was to try and gain as much work experience as I could to make up for my situation but I am still trying to land something. I guess I am just feeling a bit hopeless at the moment. I really want to do my Masters (LLM) at a Russell group university, speccifically an LLM in Intellectual Property Law as this is an area I would like to practice. Although I have heard that getting an LLM is practically useless I still want to do it as I have never had the opprotunity to live the 'uni experience' as I live at home with my parents. Moreover, I really want to attend a Russell Group university even if it's for a year because I feel like such a dumb failure and I want the status of attending a RG university to prove to myself that I am not. Hopefully it will also make my applications look better as well. So I probably will 100% apply for my Masters after my LLB course. Will attending a RG university for 1 year make my applictaions more employable? Will it make my situation look better? I have high career aspirations and want to achieve them. I guess what I am asking is, is it over for me? I know for a fact it will be harder and might take longer but is it completely hopeless? And if not, what are my next steps what should I do? What career route should I take? Please offer your advice and reassurance.
(edited 1 month ago)

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if you really want to attend a Russel group I suggest choosing one of the lower-ranked ones like Cardiff, Exeter, Liverpool, Queen Mary, Belfast, or york. All these schools are good and highly respected but these are the weaker russel group unis
You may face a hard road, but it may not be an impassable road. I practise towards the high end of the Commercial Bar and I have a CV typical of such barristers, but I also have a mentee, and here is her story.

Ms X grew up in a poor area of Birmingham. Her migrant single mother is illiterate. Ms X went to a not very good university and got a 2.2 in law. She did various non-law jobs, but eventually got a job as a Home Office Presenting Officer in Immigration Tribunals. She then obtained a good LLM at KCL. She became a barrister, initially in a down market chambers doing crime. Then she moved to a better chambers doing crime.

Then Ms X moved to a small Chancery chambers. She did a stint overseas, as a Senior Associate in the litigation team of an offshore commercial law firm. She then joined a large mixed chambers, where she does Commercial Chancery work. She is also consultant Senior Counsel to an upmarket offshore law firm, and is working on one of the World's biggest commercial fraud cases.

I have worked with her a lot, and given her some guidance. I recently led her in a high profile case in London, which we won, against heavy opposition. She was an excellent junior.

I am trying to persuade Ms X to join my chambers (which are posher than her current set). Ms X is now in her early forties and thinking of applying to become a KC. She is a member of various committees at her Inn of Court, and she teaches advocacy. She is married, prosperous, and happy.

So: don't give up. Maybe do an LLM at the best university you can get into. Try for some some quasi legal work in-house at a business, for a government organisation, or an NGO. Try not to get trapped as a Paralegal at a big firm - there is little career progression. Look out for project work such as claims handling at banks doing customer redress after mis-selling.

You won't get a training contract anywhere decent for a while, but you may get one after a while. Once you are qualified, make yourself a good lawyer and you can aim to move from firm to better firm to better firm. Also, the country always needs High Street solicitors. Also country town solicitors, mid sized boutique firm solicitors, etc. It's not all about Big Law.

Good luck!
(edited 4 weeks ago)
PS: A small tip, OP. You do not write badly. Your writing is better than that of quite a few people posting in Oxbridge threads. Please, however, pay attention to detail in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Precise writing, and careful proof reading, are important in legal work. Lawyers will not be replaced by AI for some time to come!
PPS: A word about Intellectual Property Law. "Hard" IP (patents, trademarks, registered designs) is quite often practised by lawyers who have degrees in science subjects, engineering, and what not. "Soft" IP (copyright, passing-off, database rights) can be practised by any lawyer with half a brain. To begin with, it might be better to do a more general LLM, but by all means try IP if that is what you are keen on.
Reply 5
Original post by augnelanto
if you really want to attend a Russel group I suggest choosing one of the lower-ranked ones like Cardiff, Exeter, Liverpool, Queen Mary, Belfast, or york. All these schools are good and highly respected but these are the weaker russel group unis

Thanks, I was thinking of Queen Mary & Cardiff :smile:
Reply 6
Original post by Stiffy Byng
You may face a hard road, but it may not be an impassable road. I practice towards the high end of the Commercial Bar and I have the typical CV of such barristers, but I also have a mentee, and here is her story.
Ms X grew up in a poor area of Birmingham. Her migrant single mother is illiterate. Ms X went to a not very good university and got a 2.2 in law. She did various non-law jobs, but eventually got a job as a Home Office Presenting Officer in Immigration Tribunals. She then obtained a good LLM at KCL. She became a barrister, initially in a down market chambers doing crime. Then she moved to a better chambers doing crime.
Then Ms X moved to a small Chancery chambers. She did a stint overseas, as a Senior Associate in the litigation team of an offshore commercial law firm. She then joined a large mixed chambers, where she does Commercial Chancery work. She is also consultant Senior Counsel to an upmarket offshore law firm, and is working on one of the World's biggest commercial fraud cases.
I have worked with her a lot, and given her some guidance. I recently led her in a high profile case in London, which we won, against heavy opposition. She was an excellent junior.
I am trying to persuade Ms X to join my chambers (which are posher than her current set). Ms X is now in her early forties and thinking of applying to become a KC. She is a member of various committees at her Inn of Court, and she teaches advocacy. She is married, prosperous, and happy.
So: don't give up. Maybe do an LLM at the best university you can get into. Try for some some quasi legal work in-house at a business, for a government organisation, or an NGO. Try not to get trapped as a Paralegal at a big firm - there is little career progression. Look out for project work such as claims handling at banks doing customer redress after mis-selling.
You won't get a training contract anywhere decent for a while, but you may get one after a while. Once you are qualified, make yourself a good lawyer and you can aim to move from firm to better firm to better firm. Also, the country always needs High Street solicitors. Also country town solicitors, mid sized boutique firm solicitors, etc. It's not all about Big Law.
Good luck!

Thank you, this is all very reassuring and informative. I will take all your advice into account. It is very much appreciated.
You are most welcome, and I wish you success.

One benefit of Queen Mary is that it's in London, and London is where most IP lawyers are. Studying at QM could assist you in deciding whether or not you like living in London (assuming that you are not already a Londoner), which is the place offering the most legal job opportunities in the UK.

QM is in my opinion better for law than people on here tend to suggest. This forum has an undue obsession with ranking tables, all of which look to me to be pretty meaningless. There also appears to be an inaccurate perception here that, for law, only Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, LSE, KCL and a small handful of other places count (nobody agrees on what those other places are; sometimes people include QM, sometimes they don't). I know nothing of Cardiff, other than that I don't much care for the town itself, but that's probably because I've been stuck there on a few quite boring cases over the years.
(edited 1 month ago)
Not everyone will graduate with a 2:1 in the RG. So I would suggest that you concentrate on your studies, try and gain the best qualification you can, and then see where it takes you. You might not get your first choice in law firms once you graduate, but there will be someone who will be willing to take a chance on you.
I haven’t read the whole post but have you looked into doing a foundation year at a better uni?
Original post by Carter03052
I haven’t read the whole post but have you looked into doing a foundation year at a better uni?


Probably not a realistic option as they are in year 2 elsewhere. They'd have to self-fund one, or potentially two, years of study.
(edited 1 month ago)
Reply 11
Original post by Carter03052
I haven’t read the whole post but have you looked into doing a foundation year at a better uni?

I am currently almost finished my second year at this point I would feel like I have wasted two years and would not want to do that.
Original post by sadgiirl
Starting off, I recieved CCC in my A-levels and have no mitigating circumstances. I am now currently a second-year LLB law student at the University of Northampton (one of the worst universities in the UK). I got 2:1's in all my first year modules and I am on track on getting the same for this year. I hope to get a 2:1 or First overall by the end of my degree. However, I am aware getting a 2:1 at this university would be like getting a 2:2 at a Russell Group university and my poor A levels will never get me a training contract. Furthermore, as much as I would like to pretend firms and recruiters don't have a preference for RG and good non-RG universities, they do. In order to compensate for my poor A level grades and extremely low ranking university I have tried to apply for Vacation Schemes at the beggining of this year, but I was ultimately unsuccessful. Subsequently, I have tried to get myself some informal work experience at firms using my network, however, I am in the middle of this process and everything is still up in the air. My idea was to try and gain as much work experience as I could to make up for my situation but I am still trying to land something. I guess I am just feeling a bit hopeless at the moment. I really want to do my Masters (LLM) at a Russell group university, speccifically an LLM in Intellectual Property Law as this is an area I would like to practice. Although I have heard that getting an LLM is practically useless I still want to do it as I have never had the opprotunity to live the 'uni experience' as I live at home with my parents. Moreover, I really want to attend a Russell Group university even if it's for a year because I feel like such a dumb failure and I want the status of attending a RG university to prove to myself that I am not. Hopefully it will also make my applications look better as well. So I probably will 100% apply for my Masters after my LLB course. Will attending a RG university for 1 year make my applictaions more employable? Will it make my situation look better? I have high career aspirations and want to achieve them. I guess what I am asking is, is it over for me? I know for a fact it will be harder and might take longer but is it completely hopeless? And if not, what are my next steps what should I do? What career route should I take? Please offer your advice and reassurance.

Hey, can I just ask why didn't you just retake your A levels for better results
Reply 13
Because most firms ask when you took your A levels and disfavour applicants who have retaken their A levels or have A level qualifications earned in different academic years. Every single vacation scheme application asked the year I had written my A levels and if they were all written in the same year. Retaking is looked down upon. Not to mention the time and money I would have to dedicate towards that on top of studying for the SQE and already having done an undergraduate. I don't know why in law A levels essentially matter more than the outcome of your university degree, I don't know any other industry which holds this much weighting to A levels. It's a bit unfair. Yes my grades were bad, but it is not a reflection of me as I have very good GCSE's and I am currently excelling academically at university. I was just going through a rough time mentally but unfortunately I don't have any mitigating circumstances to prove it. It seems like these results will follow me my whole life and hold me back. ☹️
(edited 1 month ago)
Please try not to be too downhearted. Your A levels will not follow you around forever. Degree classification is more important than A level grades. Once you are in your second or third job, the degree itself becomes less important, (except perhaps if you are trying for the top of the Bar or the poshest law firms).

If you could overhear the banter amongst those six equity partners or those six silks lunching at the Athenaeum, one out of each group is proudly boasting of his or her meh degree from a meh university, whilst the others are Vinerian Scholars, Prize Fellows of All Souls, BCLs, and so on.

As for mitigation, your own narrative of what pressures affected you during sixth form is evidence.

Push on and try to get a First, and then review your position.
(edited 1 month ago)
Reply 15
Original post by Stiffy Byng
Please try not to be too downhearted. Your A levels will not follow you around forever. Degree classification is more important than A level grades. Once you are in your second or third job, the degree itself becomes less important, (except perhaps if you are trying for the top of the Bar or the poshest law firms).
If you could overhear the banter amongst those six equity partners or those six silks lunching at the Athenaeum, one out of each group is proudly boasting of his or her meh degree from a meh university, whilst the others are Vinerian Scholars, Prize Fellows of All Souls, BCLs, and so on.
As for mitigation, your own narrative of what pressures affected you during sixth form is evidence.
Push on and try to get a First, and then review your position.

Thank you so much for your kind words and support. I have just gotten 2 of my assessments back and have recieved a 78 and 75 (both Firsts). I think I am just going to focus on my degree and try as hard as I can to get some work experience. Your words and encouragement mean a lot to me.
Well done and best of luck. If you do get a first, and can obtain funding, maybe you can obtain a place on a postgraduate course at a good university and enjoy the student experience away from home.
Original post by sadgiirl
Because most firms ask when you took your A levels and disfavour applicants who have retaken their A levels or have A level qualifications earned in different academic years. Every single vacation scheme application asked the year I had written my A levels and if they were all written in the same year. Retaking is looked down upon. Not to mention the time and money I would have to dedicate towards that on top of studying for the SQE and already having done an undergraduate. I don't know why in law A levels essentially matter more than the outcome of your university degree, I don't know any other industry which holds this much weighting to A levels. It's a bit unfair. Yes my grades were bad, but it is not a reflection of me as I have very good GCSE's and I am currently excelling academically at university. I was just going through a rough time mentally but unfortunately I don't have any mitigating circumstances to prove it. It seems like these results will follow me my whole life and hold me back. ☹️

Hi I just asked because I’m scared that I will have to retake, I want AAA as you need this to get in to most of the decent universities for law, informed Leicester uni but I think I can do better. The reason why I wanted to go Russel group was because more then 70% of training contact holders were from Russel group unis so I’m thinking going to a Russel group uni will better my chances of getting a training contract. In you opinion do you think it rlly matters the status of the uni for my future law career whether it is Russel group or not and do u think if I don’t get AAA and I achieve my position at Leicester should I just go there instead of retaking to get AAA and reapplying. I’m just unsure what the best coarse of action is. I’m in yr 13 btw, sorry this has turned around in to me asking u for guidance lol
Reply 18
Original post by x.iram.x
Hi I just asked because I’m scared that I will have to retake, I want AAA as you need this to get in to most of the decent universities for law, informed Leicester uni but I think I can do better. The reason why I wanted to go Russel group was because more then 70% of training contact holders were from Russel group unis so I’m thinking going to a Russel group uni will better my chances of getting a training contract. In you opinion do you think it rlly matters the status of the uni for my future law career whether it is Russel group or not and do u think if I don’t get AAA and I achieve my position at Leicester should I just go there instead of retaking to get AAA and reapplying. I’m just unsure what the best coarse of action is. I’m in yr 13 btw, sorry this has turned around in to me asking u for guidance lol

Hi, no problem I will give you the best advice I can. I applied to the University of Leicester and firmed it as well, they gave me an offer for AAB. AAB is the minimum A level requirments firms ask for when looking at applicants for training contracts and vacation schemes so try and get that or above. Obviously going to a Russell Group university would be an advantage, but Leicester is not too behind in law rankings for universities. If I am being honest, your A level grades are more important than the status of your university. If you achieved AAA and still went to Leicester, it would not hinder you and you would still be a very good applicant for training contracts, even though Leicester is not Russell Group. This is because it is still a really well respected university, especially for law. If you do not get AAA but still went to Leicester, I do not think it would be worth retaking you A levels just to get into a Russell Group university as Leicester is still very well respected especially in terms law rankings. Plus, firms are looking to diversify their recruiting decisions and therefore trying to recruit from more non-RG universities and Leiecester is a top non-RG option. I would avoid retaking any A levels as law firms generally look down upon it and ask questions about it, so just try and do as well as you can in your exams right now. Remember if you get AAB and above you will be fine, no matter the university you go to. As long as you don't go to a university like mine which is virtually bottom of the barrell. Even though Leiecester is not RG it is still very good and has good graduate prospects for law. Just try and get AAB or above in your A levels and you will be fine, trust me. Please tell me which univerisity you firmed and which is your insurance as you weren't that clear in your post. Also let me know what your predicted grades are. Maybe then I can offer you more advice.
(edited 4 weeks ago)
Leicester is a brilliant university if you could ever end up there and their entry requirements are often lower than the Russell Group. Great accommodation too.
(edited 4 weeks ago)

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