Should I go back and re-sit my A levels (DDD) – I want to join a Magic Circle law firm
in Careers Advice, Training Contracts, Pupillage and Work Experience

Should I go back and re-sit my A levels (DDD) – I want to join a Magic Circle law firm

A sad question from someone who clearly has their eye on the riches of central London and the hugely disproportionate salaries advertised in most glossy training contract guides.

The quick answer is definitely not, move on with your life and make decisions based on your current position. The longer answer is below..

Why Corporate Law?

Firstly work out why you are contemplating the action you are planning. Is it based on any evidence that going down the corporate law route is for you? What experience do you have of corporate law in practice, and if you do not have any experience why are you trying to make a decision without backing it up without any evidence that this is the future for you?

Your A Levels are real

I suspect that regardless of what you do now in terms of your grades, the DDD you got at A level will always count against you and it does not matter what HR managers and recruiters tell you, certain law firms will never let you forget the poor A level results.

We have been asked this question numerous times before and quite a number of students have considered a similar action. I am yet to come across anyone who has completed their degree and then gone back to do A levels and then managed to get the job they set off to get in the first place.

Academic Consistency

The difficulty is that law firms are looking for consistency, whether this is academic consistency or consistency in your life to date. Someone who has got DDD at A level, gone off to do a degree and then gone back to do more A levels is going to stand out a little bit from the norm, and not necessarily for the right reasons.


You have not said in your question what you got for GCSE, because this again is another example of academic consistency, and if you did not get straight As or A*s (or 9s as they now are), will you then go back and re-sit all your GCSEs to try and get the perfect results?

University Grades

More interestingly in your question, you have not indicated what degree class you are likely to be getting. You are attending a university with a reasonably good reputation, and a high 2:1 or first class degree from this institution will drastically improve your chances of success as you make your way through the legal profession. A lower level degree is going to impact on your future prospects.

Extenuating Circumstances – do they matter?

You mention in your email that you had extenuating circumstances which resulted in the DDD, but I’m afraid in most cases law firms simply shrug their shoulders. If they have 3500 applications for 40 training contracts and they are picking between 400 of those applications with perfect academic grades, then someone with potential extenuating circumstances is not really going to stand much of a chance. This does not mean that you do not have a future in the law; you simply need to look beyond the perceived top institutions where all the money is and look further down the food chain at the other firms, where you stand just as much chance of getting a training contract and progressing your career as everyone else.


Personally I think you are probably worrying about the wrong thing. Someone who has got DDD at A level needs to prove during their degree that they are not struggling with the academic constructs of law and the legal system, so the degree is the key for you. Yes there are going to be certain firms you are not going to be successful applying to because of your A level grades, but you must have known this when you started your law degree, because presumably you researched the future career prospects of law students before committing to £27,000 worth of tuition fees.

If you have managed to show future employers that you fully understand law through your high academic results on your degree and academic consistency, then I see no reason why you would even contemplate returning to do A levels, which are really an entrance way into doing your degree. Your future legal career is very likely to be restricted by decisions and actions you took some years ago, and it is important to be looking in the right places for jobs, and to have realistic expectations in the outcomes.


In summary, my answer is that I don’t think you should be returning to do your A levels, but similarly I think you need to make sure that you understand exactly what it is you are going forwards into, using your time and energy to getting a good degree and as much work experience as possible in order to give you evidence to make grounded decisions on which will affect your future career.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at