Monday, 14 July 2008

Opinion Post I - Reputation

Iago. "What, are you hurt Lieutenant?"
Cassio. "Aye, past all surgery."
Iago. "Marry, Heaven forbid."
Cassio. "Reputation, reputation, reputation! O! I have lost my Reputation. I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation."
Iago. "As I am an honest man I had thought you had received some bodily wound; there is more offence in that then in reputation. Reputation is an idle, and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving."

Othello, II.iii

It is undeniable that in such a competitive world as law that other factors aside from degree results may play a part in ensuring candidates obtain work experience or jobs. Great emphasis is put on acquiring relevant legal work experience in the form of vacation schemes or mini-pupillages, working as part of a team via sports or other group exercises, and developing other hobbies or interests. Nonetheless, what part of these unquantifiable values is made up of the reputation of the institution that the applicant comes from?

Although it has become rather un-PC in recent years to 'rank' universities above one another, there is undoubtedly a hierarchical academic structure that has remained. Each year broadsheets print league tables, which are of course roundly criticised for various reasons, only for the practice to continue on the following annum, and so on and so forth. For as long as further education has existed in Britain, there has been an understanding that some universities are simply 'better' than others, normally a ruling based partly on how long they have been established and supplemented by how rich the institution is.

When reviewing modern or typical vocational subjects such as media or management studies, rankings become rather farcical, seeing as it is mainly the ex-polytechnics who offer these degrees. However, in viewing them through the filter of legal lens, they do serve an important purpose. It is no secret that a large percentage of the Bar or members of Magic Circle firms are made up of Oxbridge graduates, hence the opportunity to study at one of the best two universities in Britain is not to be missed. The fact that they both offer the two year course is something that should be taken very seriously by those wishing to apply, if they are confident of gaining at least a solid 2.i (Upper Second) degree.

Other respected universities are also available for review - Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter, Leeds, Leicester, Sheffield and QMUL following suit with Senior Status degrees. Although most ask for a "good Honours degree", Birmingham has one of the lowest offers (2.ii) across the board, meaning that for someone who is prepared to dedicate themselves to legal study, even after perhaps achieving less than they would have liked at undergraduate, opportunities to avail themselves of the invisible power that reputation carries are still open.

As mentioned in a prior post, one of the major disadvantages of doing the one year course is that - if taken at the majority of institutions which offer it - candidates are unlikely to be marking themselves out as extra-special, unless they excel during their studies. One must continually remind oneself of the fact that many applicants proceed onto law conversions each year - how will you help yourself stand out amongst the crowd? If the chance comes for you to go to a 'better', more 'established' institution, it would be my advice that you grasp the opportunity with both hands.

This whole concept may seem snobbish, or even ridiculous, but in a sphere where ideas, statutes and codes of speech and dress that were created centuries ago still hold sway, the possibility that reputation (alongside academic ability) may have some impact on a candidates' future options is not at all improbable.

1 comment:

James Smith said...

You write well. Good, very interesting, post.