Friday, August 20, 2010

In Law, 'A' level is for All-Important

The recent coverage over A-level results prompts me to tell a tale. A few years ago, I studied law part-time. I got my degree and then the Legal Practice Course. All I needed was to find a two year training contract and I would be a fully qualified solicitor. As anyone working in law knows, finding a contract is not easy – and it was made even more difficult by the first question I always got.

What were your A-level results?

I would point out that my A-levels were taken in 1987, that since then I had a degree upper second class, a Masters degree, a law degree with distinction, and 16 years full-time work experience including ten in a management position.

Yes, they would say, but what were your A-level results?

At the reply of three C’s I would get a shake of the head.

Some firms recruit on-line and this is often the first question. If you haven’t got AAB then it’s ’sorry but we wish you every success’ etc and you don’t get any more questions.

In 1987, getting CCC was not great but OK – it was good enough to get me into university. But it has always struck me as unfair that I should be judged by exams I took 23 years ago and that the wealth of experience and qualifications I had accumulated since then did not count. Of course most applicants for training contracts are aged 19-21, hence the question, but the legal profession were clearly unaware of the presence of mature students or career changers.

I was even asked for my positions of responsibility at school. Isn’t ten years as a manager running a team responsible enough?

To be fair they were not all like this and I did get a few interviews, twice I was the reserve candidate, but a very large number of law firms would look with blinkers at A-level results.

I considered going to evening classes to take more A-levels to try to get some As but was advised against it – and as the recession came along, training contracts dried up and the competition got even tougher. Hence three years after completing my law studies, I have had to abandon my legal ambitions.

So a word of warning to anyone at school out there – work hard and take your A-levels seriously – as like me you may still be judged on them when you pass the age of 40.

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