Lawyers’ academic transcripts seem to stay with them for their entire career. Legal recruiters often have to ask lawyers to retrieve their transcripts, regardless of their level of experience.
One often gets asked whether it is important after a considerable amount of time in practice. Sometimes, depending on the firm, it is not - the request for the transcript can be administrative, a mere box to tick. However, grades can be closely scrutinised, particularly for junior and mid-level lawyers. The particular grades that are given the highest level of consideration are the ‘Priestley 11’.
For whatever reason, if you are now looking to move to a new role your marks will probably count, unless of course you are a partner with a portable practice. The state of play is as follows: if you are looking to move to a top-tier firm your grades will need to be very good, this often means a distinction average. If mid tier is your preference then a high-credit average often suffices, the odd distinction doesn’t do any harm and a few passes are forgiven; if it is high-end boutique then top-tier standards will apply, however, if it’s a suburban practice then sometimes your transcript will be irrelevant.
It is not necessarily career hindering to have failed subjects. What can be damaging is trying to hide this fact. Fails result from a plethora of reasons, ranging from an illness in the family to having other priorities like sport, part-time work or socialising. The best thing to do is be up front and honest with your recruiter when asked for the reasons.
There is always an exception to every rule and there are many lawyers who have ‘made it’ without a blazing academic transcript. I have found these lawyers often have a unique skill set including: specialist language skills, a deep understanding of a niche area of law, and/or a charismatic personality. Undertaking a Masters of Law can also be another opportunity to prove your academic capabilities to potential employers.