Firms must not focus on applicants school results

If you havent already done so, nows the time to get working on those dreaded application forms. But what if the form youre trying to complete doesnt let you proceed to the second stage because you dont satisfy a firms minimum academic criteria?

This is unfortunately the case with a number of firms online application forms.

Theres no denying that working as a lawyer is mentally demanding. So its no wonder that firms set strict academic criteria for their future trainees. Indeed, during my research for this newsletter I didnt find one firm that accepts applications from students who arent on track for a 2:1 degree unless they have mitigating circumstances. Indeed, in some cases firms also admitted that a 2:1 from the Russell Group of universities was given more weight.

I dont have a problem with firms requiring applicants to achieve a 2:1. With so many students leaving university with a 2:1 and with some of the larger firms receiving far in excess of 1,000 applications for 20 to 30 places there seems to be little benefit in lowering this benchmark.

I do, however, have an issue with firms extending their minimum academic criteria to A-level grades. Even if A-levels have been devalued – and thats a proposition which has not been proven – automatically rejecting a candidate just because they dont have sufficient UCAS points is both arbitrary and unfair.

University is arguably a more level playing field than secondary school and sixth-form college. Its pretty easy to get three grade As if youre fortunate enough to be educated at a decent school and have a home environment thats conducive to study.

But if youre brought up in a less privileged background and are educated at an inner city school youre more likely to mess up your A-levels. But that doesnt necessarily mean youre thick. Whats more, if firms are discounting applications from students without sufficient UCAS points then theyre indirectly rejecting those from non-traditional universities. And what about those of you who are late developers?

Addleshaw Goddard recognises this is a problem. Currently the national firm automatically filters out students who dont have three grade Bs at A-level. But its planning to tweak its online application form so that if an applicant doesnt have enough UCAS points, a message will pop up directing them to the firms diversity access scheme. This is definitely a move in the right direction. But surely it makes more sense to remove this minmum requirement altogether?

Once youve graduated A-level grades arguably become less significant. I just hope that more firms start to recognise this and do something about it.