Universities: Russell Group vs non-Russell Group?

How much can a university from where you graduate help shape your career in law? 

A neutral answer would be that it doesn’t matter because recruiters from law firms tend to look at a candidate’s overall performance rather than weighing importance on their university background. But a little research shares something which may or may not surprise you: the more prestige your university holds, the more chances you have in landing a training contract with a City firm. Graduates from the non-Russell Group universities may well land training contracts in city firms but only if they can successfully demonstrate their high competency level in the job market; the harder way around. They clearly have to work ten times hard.​

The advantages of studying at Oxbridge or at a RG university 

Up until 2019, statistics and data collected by Chambers Student revealed that 76.5% of trainees at the leading law firms were Oxbridge and Russell Group graduates. Firms’ favourite picks seem to be graduates from Oxbridge because of the traditional age-old dominance in the field of academia. It may also be because of the links such firms have with these universities. Studying at elite universities allows more students to take advantage of networking events where they’re able to meet the right people. Such events are normally sponsored by big-city law firms and students are therefore able to network well. No wonder such students land training contracts faster than those who are more disadvantaged.

Many students hailing from low-income households and BAME communities face hardships throughout their education which affects their chances of getting into the Russell Group and can make it harder for them to step foot into the city law firms as a trainee solicitor. Most of them turn to non-Russell Group universities for their higher education where they miss their chance of networking with elite senior solicitors or partners.

The gap 

A survey conducted by a recruitment site called Milkround shows a whopping 83% of recent non-Russell Group graduates would require an internship experience to secure first graduate role. Compare that to only 14% of Russell group graduates who wouldn’t need to face that extra hurdle to secure their graduate role. More internships/work experience seem to be required from the non-RG graduates to climb up the ladder of professional success. This gap between graduates from the well-known and the lesser-known universities would take some years to fill in by city law firms.

Attracting and encouraging applicants from a variety of backgrounds for training contracts is the best step taken by recruiters to include diversity in the elite club of the legal sector. The old pattern seems to be changing in terms of offering training contracts.

The difference – although not a significant one, but a promising one – might be around the corner.

Sarah Khan

Sarah Khan is an aspiring solicitor who is soon to be a graduate with LLB (Hons) from the University of London. She lived a significant part of her life in the multicultural environment of Middle East and now works in an Indian law firm as an international legal coordinator. Sarah is the founder of SQE Support, blogger of SarahThinks, blog writer at CORPWR and a believer of legal diversity and BAME representation.

Sarah Khan

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