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The Oracle

Do first-year exams matter for law firm applications?

updated on 21 January 2020

Dear Oracle

My first-year exams don’t count toward my final degree – does this mean that law firms won’t see my first-year results as important?

The Oracle replies

Brace yourself for some sobering news – most law firms care about applicants’ first-year exam results.

As you know, it is very competitive to get onto a vacation scheme, or to gain a training contract, and there are many more applicants than there are vacancies. This means that recruiters will ask you for a complete breakdown of your module results, including those from your first year, in order to be able to decide which applications to reject and which ones to progress to the next stage.

For example, if a recruiter is considering two candidates with equally high 2:1s, but one has much better first-year marks than the other, the candidate with the more consistent track record will win on academics. That isn’t to say that exam results are the only things that matter – work experience, extracurricular achievements and interests, and the overall of quality of your application (how well it is researched and tailored to the individual firm) will all influence the recruiter’s decision. But ultimately you should give yourself the best chance – taking your first-year exams seriously will benefit you in the future.

You’ll find lots more information and advice for first-year law students in our first-year hub, including this blog post which offers some ways to get ahead in your first year.

Plus, read Violet’s advice on how to stay motivated during exam season, and Kat’s revision tips for the exam season.