Can i still become a Barrister?

I am a 1st year LLb student doing very well (so far) and I already have my mind (and heart) set on becoming a Barrister. I left school young without GCSE's (due to an illness) and didn't bother to go back and get them even though I was predicted to gain top marks across the board.

After a couple of years of "finding myself" where I kept myself busy with an array of jobs, I decided to go back to college, where I was introduced to the Access qualification.

Nearly a year on and I'm preparing a C.V for work experience and noticing that all the websites dedicated to legal career advice state that I need to put my GCSE grades and A Level grades into my C.V as these will be considered.

Obviously this leaves me a little more than unnerved! Does this mean that I'm just kidding myself attempting to become a Barrister?

Or simply that I am getting to the bar via an alternative route?

I am prepared to work hard and most definitely prepared to work even harder to get what I want!

1 Answer

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  • Anonymous
    9 years ago
    Best answer

    Ooh your background is similar to mine! I also left school pre-GCSE and ended up in uni via an access course, and am also going to be a lawyer - albeit a corporate solicitor rather than a barrister. Clearly I can't tell you with any certainty how you'll fair with gaining pupillage/minis, but I can say that I had no issues whatsoever with getting interviews with 'top' firms. I gained vacation schemes with a magic circle, two silver circle and a large regional firm and now have a training contract with a (different) silver circle firm.

    It is true that application forms require you to fill in your GCSEs and A levels, and this was a huge concern to me also - especially as law firms tend to have a UCAS point requirement of 340 or so, which obviously, having done access, I didn't have. However there will usually be some kind of 'additional info' section on the form in which you can briefly state that you left school early due to illness and have completed the access course instead. Personally, I found that firms viewed my background in terms of 'overcoming adversity' and 'succeeding against the odds' and as a result I was far more successful in gaining interviews than, perhaps, my other attributes (university, grades, extracurriculars) warranted. Certainly I know several people from my university with a 'traditional' background, straight A grades at A level/GCSE and all, who have found it much more difficult than I.

    Obviously, I can't guarantee that you'll have the same experience as I've had, and I'm aware that gaining pupillage is tougher than gaining a training contract. But honestly, assuming you meet all the other criteria (i.e. are at a good uni, doing mooting/debating, have or will have some relevant work experience/minis and are aiming for at least a high 2:1/preferably a first), your background is more likely to be an advantage than disadvantage. This is especially so given that barristers' chambers tend to give more personal consideration to applications than do law firms - whereas in firms applications are initially sifted by HR, in chambers it will usually be barristers themselves doing the job. This means that applicants who may not quite meet one criterion, such as A level grades, but exceed another, e.g. by gaining a first, are actually more likely to succeed in chambers - in firms they will often just be thrown out automatically. I'm not saying that you will be viewed as not meeting any criteria, by the way, just illustrating my point!

    Hmm this seems to have turned into a bit of an essay, so apologies for that. I hope it helps a bit though, & good luck!

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