As A Level chaos broke out across the UK last week, DWF made the decision to stop asking for specific A level grades from training contract applicants. The decision has been made to attract talent that might otherwise have been put off by the firm’s grade requirements.

Firms’ attitudes to A Level grades vary considerably. Some set exacting criteria and screen out those who do not meet it; others have no grade requirements at all. There are also a host of firms somewhere in the middle, who set A Level requirements but look at applications in the round and are willing to let lower grades slide here and there. Many of these do not make explicit statements about A Level grade requirements on their own websites but hint at them on recruitment sites elsewhere in the web. Some firms, including Allen & Overy and Linklaters, also use contextual recruitment tools to better understand the context in which students attained their results.

Here is a rundown of different firms’ stated policies.

No A Level grade requirements

DWF: Previously asked for AAB but has dropped this requirement.

Freshfields:We do not have any minimum A level requirements and we do not assess GCSE grades.”

Macfarlanes: “We have no minimum requirements for A level results. However, we receive a high number of applications each year, if your A level results are below BBB, you will be competing against a high number of candidates with strong applications.

Slaughter and May:Good A-Level grades are not a strict requirement. All applications are welcome and will be reviewed by our recruitment partners based on their own merits. If you have any mitigating circumstances that affected any of your academic results, we recommend that you include them in your application.”

Ask for ‘excellent’ A Levels

BLM: “At BLM we look for a blend of high academic ability & people who fit with our dynamic, ideas led and ambitious culture. Therefore we look for you to have achieved a 2:1, or expected 2:1 in any degree, plus excellent A-Levels. Please note we do not screen any candidates out of the process based purely on academic results, we consider your entire application.”

Osborne Clarke: We take applicants’ results in each of their degree modules into account and screen applications in favour of those with stronger ‘A’ level grades.

Penningtons Manches Cooper: “A high standard of academic achievement is expected: three or more good A-Level passes and preferably a 2:1 or better at degree level. ”

Ask for AAA

Debvoise & Plimpton: “Applicants should be expecting to achieve at least a 2(i) in any degree discipline and have a minimum of 360 (old tariff) or 144 (new tariff) UCAS points at A-level (or equivalent).”

Sidley Austin: “You’ll need to have a minimum of three A-levels (at least three A grades)”

Winckworth Sherwood: “It’s not easy to become a Winckworth Sherwood trainee… you should have a strong academic record both at school and university, usually a minimum of 3 As at A-level and 2:1 degree.”

UPDATE: Since publication, Winckworth Sherwood has got in touch to say the information on its webpage is “outdated” and has provided the following statement: “We look for candidates from all backgrounds who have the potential to thrive as a lawyer in our firm. Our trainees are all very different in character but they have many values in common… you should have a strong academic record both at school and university.”

Ask for AAB

Allen & Overy: “Our application requirements are AAB at A-Level and a 2:1 degree. I would also point out that we use Rare’s contextualised recruitment system so we can measure performance against the average attainment of the school, and in addition to this we take into account mitigating circumstances when candidates apply, on an individual basis.”

Baker McKenzie: “As with GCSE grades, A-Level grades form part of the selection criteria for many firms. We look for around 340 UCAS points as a benchmark and use a contextualised recruitment system to understand each candidate’s achievements in the context in which they have been gained. So even if you fall slightly short of our qualifying criteria, if you demonstrate great potential, you will still be considered.”

Dechert: “Our recruits almost invariably have exceptional academic grades, generally at least AAB (or equivalent) in their A-levels (or equivalent), and have graduated with, or are on course for a 2.1 or first. We take all relevant information into consideration and look at your application as a whole.  If you didn’t reach the minimum requirements and you have mitigating circumstances, please provide these in the relevant part of the application form.”

Goodwin: “You need a minimum of a 2:1 degree (gained or predicted) and AAB at A Level (35 in IB equivalent).”

Latham & Watkins: “We would expect all candidates to have achieved AAB at A-level (or equivalent) and a 2.1 in their undergraduate degree where applicable.”

Mayer Brown: “We take all relevant information into consideration and look at your application as a whole. If you didn’t reach the minimum requirements we ask that you provide any mitigating circumstances surrounding this in the relevant part of the application form.”

Norton Rose Fulbright:AAB at A Level (or equivalent)”

Shearman & Sterling: “You need to be smart to be a lawyer at a top firm so we are very strict on our entry requirements of AAB (or equivalent) at A-Level and a strong 2:1 at degree level. We absolutely consider mitigating circumstances, so don’t be afraid to put these down.”

Russell-Cooke: “We require a minimum 2:1 degree and AAB at A-level.”

Stevens & Bolton: “We also require a minimum of 340 UCAS points in one sitting with at least one grade A at A Level.”

Travers Smith: “We expect our applicants to have achieved a minimum of AAB or equivalent at A-Level; however, we do not automatically discount an applicant that has not achieved these grades as we do look at applications in the round. We also take into account mitigating circumstances and use Rare Recruitment’s CRS system in order to contextualise results against an individual’s cohort at the same school / college.”

Weil Gotshal & Manges: “Our entry requirements are AAB at A level or equivalent, and a 2:1 degree.”

White & Case: “Whilst we prefer for candidates to have achieved AAB at A Level, we do look at the application as a whole and take into consideration any mitigating circumstances.”

Withers: “You’ll have, or be on track to have, a 2:1 degree or higher and a minimum of AAB at A-Level (or the equivalent if educated outside the UK).”

Ask for ABB

Addleshaw Goddard:We will not automatically discount an application if these grades have not been gained. There is space on the application form to enter any details you may feel to be relevant, such as mitigating circumstances… applicants should be aware that the competition for placement schemes and training contracts is fierce, and you will be competing against applicants who have achieved the requirements.”

Cooley: “Cooley requires a minimum of a 2.1 at degree level (any discipline) and 128 UCAS points or equivalent, not to include points from AS levels or General Studies (320 points under the pre-2017 UCAS Tariff). We will accept applications from individuals who do not meet these requirements where an individual has clear and valid mitigating circumstances and has otherwise demonstrated excellence at another point in their academic or professional history.”

Covington & Burling: “Candidates must be able to demonstrate a consistently impressive record of academic achievement. In particular, we look for strong grades at A-level (minimum ABB/128 UCAS points or equivalent) and candidates must be predicted to achieve (or have achieved) at least a 2:1 in their undergraduate degree.”

Dentons: “We look for a minimum of ABB. [Below these] your application will only be considered if there are mitigating circumstances. If there are, then please note these on your application and they will be taken into consideration (you may be asked to produce documentary evidence).”

Eversheds Sutherland: “Have you achieved or are you on track to achieving 128 UCAS points (new UCAS tariff points) (ABB) at A-Level (or equivalent), a 2.1 degree (or equivalent) in any degree discipline and a Pass (or above) at law school (GDL and /or LPC)?”

Farrer & Co: “Our minimum academic requirements are one A and two Bs at A Level (or equivalent) and an upper second class degree unless there are exceptional mitigating circumstances.”

Gibson Dunn: “You should have at least three ‘A’ levels (AAA, AAB or ABB) or equivalent, and have obtained, or expect to obtain, a 2.1 degree or better.”

Hill Dickinson: “Academically you’ll need at least a 2.1 and ABB or equivalent, however we do consider any relevant extenuating circumstances for those who may not have met this requirement.”

Michelmores: “Ideally you will have received A,B,B at A-Level (not including AS or General Studies) or equivalent and will be expecting to achieve a 2:1 or above at degree level… if you did not achieve these results but you feel that you can offer something that will make your application stand out, then please apply and we will, of course, consider your application. You should be aware however, that competition is extremely fierce.”

Mishcon de Reya: “Typically our applications will have a 2:1 degree minimum and ABB at A-Level, however we can be flexible with these and ultimately we look for the best candidates. Please don’t be deterred if your grades are lower than this, we are looking for people who have a strong application form across the board. Candidates should enter their GCSE, A-level (or equivalent) and a full breakdown of their degree grades on the application form.”

Taylor Wessing: “Academic ability is a must, and we look for a minimum ABB at A Level (or equivalent), and at least a 2:1 in any degree discipline.”

Taylor Vinters: “We look for trainees with good A-level grades of at least ABB and a minimum 2.1 in your undergraduate degree, or a minimum of a commendation if you’ve taken a GDL or LPC.”

Trowers & Hamlins: “As well as having a minimum of 128 UCAS points at A-Level on the basis of the new tariff system (ABB or above), and a consistently strong predicted or achieved 2:1 degree, you should be comfortable in your ability to deliver on all of our selection criteria.”

Watson Farley & Williams: “We also look for at least ABB from A-level results, 34 points from IB or the equivalent if you have taken other qualifications.”

Ask for BBB

Cripps Pemberton Greenish: “At least three B grades at A-level (or equivalent) and grades 6-9 (A-B) at GCSE (or equivalent)”

Mills & Reeve: “300 UCAS points pre-2017 or 120 UCAS points post-2017 at A level (BBB or equivalent)”

Muckle:A/B grades at A Level and a 2.1 degree or above. Not having these does not mean that your application will be automatically rejected if there are mitigating circumstances.”

Orrick: “Applicants for our graduate trainee program should have at least three A-Level passes at grades A and B (or equivalent) and a 2:1 degree (in any discipline).”

Pinsent Masons:120 UCAS points from your best three A-levels or equivalent. This equates to 300 UCAS points under the previous tariff.”

TLT: “A minimum 300/24 UCAS points consisting only of A-level A & B grades.”