TC applications: academic transcript/mitigating circumstances

Hello there! I need some advice.
I graduated a few years ago with a 2.1 law degree from a good Russell Group uni. I have legal work experience and have held several positions of responsibility for various societies/clubs both during my undergrad and postgrad degrees. I also have some additional interesting bits like tutoring in the Middle East and being trilingual. For the past few years, I’ve worked in the civil service in a policy role, which I joined after an initial unsuccessful round of TC apps, but have really enjoyed it. However, there’s still this niggling feeling that a career in law is what I really want to pursue, and I’m having a second go at TC apps.
My predicament is this: whilst I did achieve a 2.i degree from a good university, this was a low 2.i. I’m talking, 60%. Furthermore, I suffered from some personal issues during my undergraduate degree, and achieved only 3rd class results in my first year, which, whilst they don’t count towards the overall degree classification, still have to be entered on application forms! The rest of the years, I achieved 2.2s and 2.1s, but actually withdrew in what was supposed to be in my final year, and did it a year later. There’s also an exam result in my second year that was a fail, but was *discounted* by the university, so, for all intents and purposes, it’s as if I didn’t sit that exam (it was an optional module).
What I’d like advice on is the following:
1. Shall I enter the exam result that was discounted in the module breakdown of TC apps, and an explanation of why I took a year out of university? Even though the exam result doesn’t count, it’s still on my official transcript (albeit saying “0 CATS”). On my transcript, my 3rd year also appears twice. I’m really worried that if I do secure a TC, and background checks are done, it’ll all look a bit weird and a TC would be withdrawn, but I don’t want to over-explain this in an initial application?
2. What is the best way to present my mitigating circumstances?
3. Am I being completely unrealistic about my prospects of securing a TC? I am focusing on mid-sized city firms.

Nah, not MC firms. There's a couple of US firms I'd like to apply to, but focussing on mid-sized city firms.

1. You should fill in all your grades at uni. If you don't, all it will take will be an eager bod HR to request copies of your transcripts and compare them to what you submitted.

2. You should give it a go; a 2:1 from warwick is respectable.  I suspect some HR / solicitors would look unfavourably on mitigating circumstances and might draw more attention.

Seriously, I would go for those too and the US firms (although they have a bizarre obsession with grades so less likely to win there but worth a shot) . You’ve got an interesting background and meet the basic criteria. 

Statistically you’ve got more of a chance at getting a TC at Clifford Chance than at a crappy midsize firm like TLT or one of those glorified bucket shops. And greater chance of interview. 

Where relevant explain any mitigating circa but this is a sales job (you’re the product) so don’t go in apologetic. Rephrase so it’s powerful. 

1. Dunno. Does anyone even care about exact grades? Presumably they can always ask, if they insist.

2. I really wouldn't bother tbh.

3. Not at all, they sound like very solid credentials.

So adding to what Dash says, don’t necessarily go in on mit circs it guaranteed interview route unless you genuinely can and should. By “relevant”  I mean where that specific application process means you must deal with it. 

Thanks for the advice - I may just do that. What's your view on entering the grade that was discounted etc.? I will try to present my mitigating circumstances in a powerful way, but also don't want to come across as 'woe is me'. 

But EVERY firm asks for a module breakdown, even for first year grades. Mine are mostly 3rds for first year, which I feel really needs explaining...

SOAS, work experience in Palestinian Territories, find Civil service policy role interesting....are you sure you want to bloz docs for Megacorp in a mid level City sweatshop?

Can't you just have a word with someone who knows the senior partner? Then you can avoid all the tedious scrutiny over exam grades etc.

3-ducks Can't tell if this is a joke. Sadly I don't know anyone 'that knows the senior partner'...

Absolutely do it. If you crack a TC at a big firm you can always move around. Plus the training will be good as will money. Easier to move “down” than “up”. 

Never lie. If needs be enter the grade. If not, don’t. 

Will the discounted grade turn up on a transcript? Can you request one from the uni yourself to see? Firms verify grades in different ways. 

"Can't tell if this is a joke"

Such is the beauty of the 3-Ducks persona. No-one ever really knows.

Given that they all read this, you have already told them.

Can't you just become an MP? Obviously more interesting.

Why don't you just say that there was a personal issue that heavily impacted on your first year results and that, had that not happened, you feel a 2:1 was reaslistically achievable, evidenced by the fact that was your actual degree result.

If they want to ask you about that in interview then you can give some detail.

You should include the module grade. if you don't and they find out it will appear dishonest. 

Assuming your alevel grades are decent and you have a 2:1 i don't think you'd have an issue

'Mitigating circumstances ' merely shouts out that you can't take the heat, and are a bit of a whinger

Might just as well mention you have mental issues, and that you need drugs to get through the day

Law firms want strong, confident people,  ready to bite the back arse off a bear if necessary,  when they arrive in the morning 

Whilst it might not have been wise to post so many identifying details on a site that law firm partners and HR departments read, I don't think you've said anything particularly embarrassing.

Ultimately no one on here can tell you whether you are likely to get a training contract or not. The truth is probably that it depends partly on you and how you put your application together, and partly on the person reading your form. If you get to the interview stage then by that point it is all about how you come across in person.

Are you planning on applying for vac schemes next year, or just applying straight for training contracts? A lot of law firms recruit primarily from their vac schemes because offering someone a two week placement is a lot less risky than offering them a two year contract, and you can tell a lot more about someone over two weeks than you can from an application form, a verbal reasoning test and a one hour interview.

Regarding your particular circumstances, I would disclose exactly the information the application form asks you to disclose. If your grades as they are don't meet the minimum that the firm in question is asking for, then you may want to apply anyway and briefly explain your extenuating circumstances. But you have a 2:1 from a decent university, and that is usually the cut off point for being filtered out of the application process on grades alone. Some law firms care more about module breakdowns than others, but you may take the view that if a firm is going to rule you out at the age of 28 on the basis of low marks in some modules you took a decade ago, that might not be the kind of firm you want to work for anyway.

In your applications I would not waste time talking about your university grades unless you are absolutely required to (of course as others have said you must always state your grades accurately on your applications, lying on one's CV is a big no-no) and focus much more on your work experience since leaving university and the other interesting things you've been involved in.

You have the potential to make your applications a million times more interesting than some second year law student who volunteered at the CAB and helped organise the law ball (nothing wrong with those things but it is what literally hundreds of people will write on their applications). After a morning of identikit candidates, your interviewers will probably be very glad to talk about something a bit more unusual. That seems to be your main strength, so play to that rather than trying to excuse your perceived weaknesses.

It might well ring alarm bells tbf. Solicitors aren't known for their empathy.

Thanks Lady Penelope. Urgh, yeah I kind of wish I could edit my post to take out some of the personal stuff. Wish I'd known how rof works before posting, whoops. Thank you for the advice though. 

also maybe go for shipping law firms who might find your background more interesting. HFW and Clydes?

About 8 people read ROF and none of them are in positions of any influence so I don’t think you’ve got anything to worry about 

DW, the post will drop down the board like a stone and soon be as good as gone 

This is the sort of thing law firms are wary of

' Cain, who was a senior barrister at the BBC before she moved to RPC's highly regarded media practice three years ago, has now left the firm. In a statement provided to RollOnFriday, she apologised for her conduct, but said her time at RPC had caused her to suffer mental health issues, and provided a letter she received from the firm regarding her situation.

"Since January of this year, I have been in receipt of treatment to address mental health issues I sustained during and as a consequence of my time at the firm", she said.'


If you are enjoying CS, why not build your career there?  It will be much more interesting than being a PP lawyer.  Does the GLS offer TCs? 

What FF said - I wouldn't worry that someone has seen this and made the link.  Very, very slim chance.

As above, the forms you fill in will dictate the information you give about grades.  Personally I would only enter grades that counted towards your degree unless the form makes clear that it is asking for all results.  I would also give a brief explanation of mitigating circumstances that makes clear:

-matter of factly, the reason for your difficulties (an abusive relationship, no need to give details);

-that you have now moved on with your life and are proud of what you have achieved since (again, briefly, but imo you need to make clear that the problems are in the past);

-any relevant information that isn't clear from the grades you have given so you can't be construed as hiding anything (eg you might mention that you restarted your final year).

I deal with pupillage applications (and don't have any experience of law firm recruitment), and while you do get applicants who plead mitigating circumstances unwisely, I would say that these fall into two categories - ones where they haven't really seemed to have any hardship (eg you get a surprising number of people who say that they just don't think their grades reflect their real abilities, with no further explanation) or ones who talk about general difficulties with anxiety or depression without giving a clear indication that they have overcome these, putting the interviewer in the tricky position of wondering whether this is a continuing problem that might affect future performance.  Your issues don't fall into either of these two categories and seem to me to be exactly the sort of thing the mitigating circumstances box is designed for.

Good luck.

It took me  while to get a TC too having not gone to a top university but what was important is honesty and anticipate they may look at your CV and have questions and possibly concerns. My advice is to be factual but then sell yourself on all the other advantages you have and additional skills. It is commitment and all the added skills and experience you bring which is as important. 

It takes resilience but you will get there. Focus your applications carefully. Less is best with quality over quantity. 

Thanks MissorMs, that's helpful. 

Can I ask which type of firm you secured a tc with?

With your background I wouldn't hesitate in applying to all the top firms

They're not just looking for the 'inside track' Eton/ Balliol/ Guards clones, or variants thereof

And in the modern world, mainstream trilingual will always be good- ( not joke Gaelic etc obv)

If you really want a job in law just wait two years and TCs will be irrelevant. Just get a job as a paralegal after stage 1 of the SQE. I expect law firms will use this to avoid carrying the jumped up Cambridge 1st tools that think proof-reading is beneath them for 2 years. Just take 200 grads as minimum wage paralegals on the promise of £150k starting salary on qualification, and then bin them as they prove how useless they are. 

Call up the graduate recruitment people and explain your predicament. You'll know in 5 minutes that your not getting in, versus wasting time submitting the forms. Someone might take pity on you e.g. some US firms end up with fairly poor graduates as those that can pick and choose opt for MC. Also if you are able to tick a diversity box without being blatant about it, this is a big thing for window dressing law firms at the moment so use it. 

In terms of "revealing your hand". It is what it is. On paper you are miles behind lots of people, and given how much people exploit concessions nowadays sadly a real case is likely to be lost in the "pigeons too loud in exam hall" morass. 

Unfortunately systems now are far too automated to get in under the radar, so you need to appeal to someone that can go around it to some extent. 

PP appeals to me because of the exposure to different clients and sectors. With GLS you essentially only ever have one client - the government. Also, I may be wrong but I'm under the impression that if you do a GLS TC you can't then choose to move to PP later. Or, maybe you can in theory but I think it's unlikely.

Also, I may be wrong but I'm under the impression that if you do a GLS TC you can't then choose to move to PP later. Or, maybe you can in theory but I think it's unlikely.

I think this is correct. If you did your training contract in private practice you could easily move to the GLS later (I did this and then moved back into the private sector a few years later) but I think it would be difficult to get out of the GLS if you'd trained there and had no private sector experience at all.

My advice is don’t do it. Seriously. Pick a different career. 

Some sound advice already to which I would add: consider yourself a mature candidate rather than a graduate candidate and focus on what you've done since uni that will make you stand out from the usual drones.

If your policy role is linked to the area you wish to practice than you will likely be an intriguing candidate.

Applications generally aren't chosen on grades, rather they tend to be minimum requirements. What distinguishes candidates is the all the other stuff.

You have the 2.1 from a top university, no problem there. I had slightly better grades from a worse university and I can barely remember grades being discussed at all at interview although that was 10 years ago now and things have got a bit more competitive.

Plus, you graduated 6 years ago so your career to date, experience, responsibility, lessons learned etc... is far more important & relevant to discuss at interview that your undergrad degree - make sure this comes across on the application forms.


  • Enter all your exam results. 
  • No need to present any mitigating circumstances, unless you're *specifically* asked about them at interview
  • No you're not being unrealistic, some firms are more snooty than others but just crack on and get those applications in - the worst they can do is say no and the application process is, for most of us, a number game.

Hi Suzie!

I wanted to comment sooner but it took 24 hours to get my account approved.

So I am in a similar boat. I just scraped 60% overall and got mostly 3rds in first year, mostly 2:2s in 2nd year and thankfully mostly 2:1s in final year. My reasons include significant stress related to anxiety and depression, as well as the fact that I took a long time out of education in a relatively non-academic career before starting uni, and it was a huge struggle to get back into it. Combine that with exceedingly poor feedback and support from my RG uni, I find myself in a bit of an uncertain situation.

However, I wanted to say that I believe you and I will be fine. Sure, we might get a few rejections from those firms that are hellbent on grades grades grades, but I have faith their are a few recruiters out there who look for more than that.

Your experience is incredible, and as long as you are able to speak to each section of your past and explain how you performed and what skills etc. you developed, and then how those skills make you an ideal lawyer, then you should have no problem.

As regards extenuating circumstances, I am also unsure of what to put. On the one hand I want to be truthful and hope that the recruiter is understanding, particularly nowadays with increased mental health awareness. On the other, I am worried that it will have a detrimental impact on my chances. But how else am I supposed to explain my results? Currently I am more inclined to say less on the matter, and simply say that I have clearly demonstrated improvement each year after having a rocky start from not being in education since 10 years beforehand. I will probably avoid the stress/anxiety stuff.

Like you, I am also focusing on mostly silver circle firms but there are a couple of top US firms that I really like. I am steering clear of the magic circle mainly because I am not keen on the huge cohorts of mostly self-obsessed vloggers... but that's a different story. But I also hear that they are mainly interested in grades compared with the rest, and they prefer to grab students as early as possible (1st years/2nd years) so it would seem they are not all that interested in experience. But finally, I also don't really see what all the MC hype is... most of the time you are spoon-fed training and work mostly with other trainees on document review. I'm far more intent on having more responsibility in a smaller cohort and working with Partners and seniors and learning on the job.

So, my advice to you based on what I am planning to do:

- Apply EARLY
- Choose roughly 10 firms, and really make the applications outstanding
- Apply to vac schemes (winter ones if poss!)
- Plan and rehearse answers to 100s of possible questions they might ask
- If relevant and you have time, do a masters/LLM in the field you'd like to specialise in 
     - we're now in a recession so my advice would be work on yourself so you stand out
     - I am starting an LLM in a specialist field next month for this very reason
     - ALSO it's not too late to apply, many unis are still taking applications
     - PLUS as you have the RG uni in the bag, it doesn't necessarily have to be an RG uni for postgrad, as long as it's good for the field you want
- STAY POSITIVE! (ignore the trolls, most of them are privileged and they can't empathise with genuine struggles, but real people need those struggles to become the best they can be)

Seriously, you can do this! It is gonna be tough, but when its over you will be a far better lawyer than most of these kids who are book smart but have no real life skills - those are the ones who eventually leave because they can't hack it!

Best of luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'd just like to add that an LLM will give you the chance to demonstrate your potential further... if you can bag a distinction then that should solve any worries with your undergrad.

Also actually most firms I'm applying to aren't even silver circle. Some are mid-level with mostly regional base, but I've seen plenty of stories of people training at these and then moving up laterally later on and ending up at top firms. It's really not the end of the world where you do your TC :)

An old lecturer of mine told me about one of his former students, flunked his A levels . (DDE) went  into the army as a soldier, 15 years later    rose to become a captain I think it was.

got a place at Sheffield and obtained the highest first , anyone of the staff had ever seen in decades . Trained and qualified at Slaughter and May.

i suspect the challenge is getting through the HR sift. I remain unconvinced how much of the applications these people read .

I am not convinced that practicing law at a US firm is the best career choice if you suffer anxiety and depression, tbh, but it’s your call.

Ok, so I did this. Extenuating circumstances. Repeated a year. Got a TC in a large national firm with LPC and living costs covered.

  • Provide all the info they ask for
  • Touch on extenuating circumstances in the narrative section. Spin! How did they make you a better person/lawyer. Resilience blah blah blah. Be positive and own your shit. Box it off.
  • Apply, apply, apply
  • Vac schemes, vac schemes, vac schemes
  • Also apply early. Rec teams have fewer applications to look at in the early stages and may be more sympathetic to this kinda stuff than when they have a thousand to get through in a few weeks.

Don't mean to be a negative Nancy but I think applying to only 10 firms if your grades aren't top notch is probably a bit of a mistake. Sure, I got my TC 12 years ago so what do I know, but even then they had almost 2000 applications for 25 spots. The odds aren't in your favour. Sure, you'll probably get a TC somewhere but it's unlikely to be easy.


Goose I couldn't really care less about your view tbh. Don't ever go into human resources

It wasn't meant as a dig. US firms are not healthy environments at the best of times but, as I said, it's your call and I know nothing about you or your circumstances. Feel free to be as defensively aggressive as you like. You can rest assured I shall never go into human resources.

ebitda yes the sift is my biggest concern. Hence why I'd personally rather focus on ~10 and make them as perfect as poss rather than just adding to the piles of apps that are doomed to fail

Also I think maintaining a good line of communication with the grad recruiters can't hurt

Goose okay I misread, apologies. My anxiety was largely unrelated to my work ability... in fact whenever I am in the workplace I am a completely different person... hell, I can't wait for those 16 hour shifts!!

Yeah, sorry. It was meant to be helpful. These places are machines that chew people up and spit them out but if you love 16 hour shifts and are actually interested in what you're doing then knock yourself out! 

Jammo - couple tips here from someone who has been on the recruiting side at firms. 

1. Your application gets 30 seconds of my time on my initial sift (assuming it’s survived the HR gimp sift at all). Max. Hint  I wasn’t looking for “perfection” in those 30 seconds.

2. You might wanna think about the way you come across. 



Mainly wot Lady P said. Be honest and put the grades down if they ask for them.

But also what Pete said. Many of the people who are on here wish that they had gone down another career path because law can be really crap, particularly in private practice.

"About 8 people read ROF and none of them are in positions of any influence"

HEH! This ^

Useful to know - thanks. So you're suggesting that given it's a bit of a numbers game, I should max my chances by applying to more firms?

Hey Jammo. Thanks for the thoughtful response. I've actually already done a postgrad (as I've said in my original post), but thanks for the insight. I think I'll also focus on getting 10-15 high quality applications done. Hope it all goes well! 

The more applications you make the more chance you have of getting a TC. But at the same time, there's a fine balance.  e.g. you will get binned straight away if you copy paste an answer and include details about another firm (easily done).  If you don't have a goldden ticket CV, I think 10-20 is reasonable in the current climate.  

Basically all applications are identical (more or less) save for the paragraph on why X firm.  Even that question you can blag pretty quickly to get past the sift as they normally only require c250 words.  "I think Bloodbath Sweat and Tears LLP have a very distinctive CSR policy, I note that they gave some pro bono time to an owl sanctuary in Surrey and that speaks volumes about how they care for the local community.  I also care for the local community and wish to help in a CSR function as a trainee".  

Put your grade down as ٣.

When, if, HR asks what that means, say that you'll explain it at interview

Seeing as mental health issues seem to be a compulsory accessory item for the Woke Generation, why are you worried about disclosing them...?

It is becoming quite a big thing - how many people are mentally ill. I think they all need to consider what kind of work and pressure is suitable to go along side their mental health issues rather than rushing in to careers in law. If you work long hours yo don't get much sleep and that is not good for mental heal;th which is bad in the first place. I have just about always been as happy as Larry and never seem to get sick either and I suspect that has been just as important for my legal career long term as my law prizes etc.


Do keep trying however. I applied to 139 firms and had 25 interviews before getting a TC in London in 1982. We had the worst unemployment as a nation in 1982 for 50 years and the figures were still higher than in 2020 despite population increases since then. Just keep at it.


As someone mentioned above if you might tick a diversity box - Sunderland working class, black or whatever else they are most after (trans even?) that might help too so I suppose people put down on the form that they were in charge of the BAME or gay society at university or slip in that you have one leg

Wow, Lydia. Re: your last paragraph, what a ridiculously uneducated thing to say. Yeah, it's super easy to get a TC if you're black or gay!!!! Affirmative action basically means you don't even have to try! 

Suzie. In reality no one is interested in hearing about your tedious menkle issues.

But in this absurdly Woke/PC world, let it all hang out baby and you will have a wonderful career (despite the fact that you are not actually robust enough to hack it).

Its all absolute bollix, and I am personally thankful that I will have retired by the time in 5-10 years when the lunatics have truly taken charge of the asylum.

Lydia impressive achievements and striving but curious do you have some of that text saved as think I've seen you post it before?