Hoo boy. I am sure that no one ever advised me to sail straight ahead into the trouble that I see brewing. However, I have been asked (by ‘Anonymous’ – it’s all right for him/her) to give a list of good universities. I am doing so because it may help. As will become clear, the sooner this list is assembled on different criteria to peoples’ current prejudices the better.
Can I make it clear that this is not a judgement on the Universities. Nor is it a judgement on the students. It is simply a list of what most pupillage committees would, in my view, think was a good university. I may be wrong. I have left out Oxbridge as being self-evident. They are in no particular order.
Sheffield (in Yorkshire anyway)
To which Martin (who has his ear close to the academic ground) adds:
And removes York. I certainly agree with the Scots and Irish choices although you don’t see too many Scots law degrees in England.
I ought to add that, personally, I always rated Keele as well. They teach law slightly differently and I always found that the people from there had independent minds.
And, after further representations:
Cardiff (better in Wales I suspect)
This is clearly what people would expect. It takes almost no account of non Russell-Group institutions and no account of new universities. But that is how it is.
There are two things that make a difference. Firstly, if you are applying to provincial Chambers then local is almost always a help, even if it is a new university. Secondly, if you have a first I would regard that as more important than where you went. That may not be true of the ‘top’ commercial sets, although it should be. And I think that a 1st is a 1st, regardless of the breakdown of marks. If that’s what your degree certificate says, then that’s what you’ve got. Anywhere that says, ‘Not a very good 1st’ is to be avoided because the people are likely to be deficient as people.
This list will, hopefully, be out of date soon. As a new generation comes to the Bar I suspect that they will change the perceptions and be on pupillage committees which have different priorities. Where you went to University reflects your A level results. Your A level results reflect your school. Your school reflects the advantages you started off with. We do not, in other words, yet have a reliable method of measuring raw talent. But the sooner we (and indeed Universities) start to look at distance travelled rather than current point, the better the profession will become.
One last point. This list, in my experience, indirectly discriminates against one particular category of applicant, namely Asian women. For reasons that my Mother and her parents would understand perfectly, traditional Asian families are less than keen for their daughters to go away from home. Thus a disproportionate number of good female Asian candidates seem to attend universities (new or old) close to home. Comment from those who really know would, as ever, be helpful.
Scribbler, in an excellent comment which I entirely accept, and urge you all to read, points out that mature students are discriminated against in the same way, often having ties which limit their movements. I agree.