Help! I'm not in the A Team

Dear Oracle

I'm currently doing my LPC and have a 2.1 law degree, but I've been receiving a lot of rejections for training contracts. I suspect they might be due largely to my awful A levels. Do I have any hope of getting a training contract?

The Oracle replies

How much your A-level grades will affect your chances is hard to say - it really depends on how rigidly a firm applies its selection criteria. However, the current economic climate can't help the situation, as competition in an already competitive job market has got even tougher.

First, look carefully at the firms you have been applying to. If a firm is categorical about its A-level requirements, you are going to have trouble getting past the first hurdle (especially if the firm has an online application system, which automatically sifts through candidates based on requisite information). There are some law firms (ie, magic circle/large City firms) that will be out of reach to anyone with less-than-perfect grades, but there are plenty that consider people who have different skills to offer. It's a question of doing thorough research and identifying which firms might be receptive to candidates in your position.

Second, try to offset your poor grades by highlighting your other strengths. Good work experience, activities such as a mooting, pro bono and memberships of sports clubs and societies are all excellent ways to do this. 

Finally, it may also be worth contacting the graduate recruitment teams of firms you are particularly interested in. Explain your position and ask for an honest idea of your chances of getting past the first stage.

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