April 19, 2023

The distinguishing factor between Magic Circle and Silver Circle firms is simple: profit. But there are many aspects of a law firm which accumulate in order to turn out profit, from its size and history to its current clients.
But the prestige of working for a Silver Circle firm is arguably equal to that of its Magic Circle equivalent – and any aspiring trainees should consider them as inspiring options.
The five Silver Circle law firms consist of:

These firms have significantly higher profits per equity partner figures than the UK average. Trainees working at one of these five firms should expect a stimulating atmosphere alongside very high-quality work.
The term was initially coined in 2005 by The Lawyer. Editor Catrin Griffith who advantageously defined the Silver Circle firms as having ‘a disdain for an overtly managerial approach and a horrified avoidance of big firm bureaucracy’. Sounds good? Keep reading for each individual firm’s profile.

Ashurst LLP

Ashurst LLP is a leading multinational law firm who are reputed to specialise in many corporate, financial, and real estate sectors. They have recently been awarded the title of ‘Best Real Estate Law Firm in Europe’ on 23rd March 2018.
With over 1600 partners, Ashurst have 25 offices situated globally. Just to name a few, their firms can be found within the likes of Abu Dhabi, Brisbane, Madrid, and New York. Ashurst have an intake of 45 trainees per year; their trainees and partners alike are regular prize-winners.

Some vital attributes Ashurst look for in trainees include:

  • Analytical ability
  • Commercial awareness
  • Attention to detail

They are also known for maintaining an extremely supportive work environment, meaning teamwork skills for potential trainees are crucial.

Check out our information page on Ashurst.

Herbert Smith Freehills

Herbert Smith Freehills remains one of the world’s top professional service businesses, providing premium quality legal advice, whether that be in terms of corporate and commercial, banking and finance, dispute resolution or real estate.

They combine the best people over their 27 offices worldwide. In 2012 the firm extended into America by introducing an office in New York, Germany in 2013, South Africa in 2015 and Melbourne in 2016.

Herbert Smith Freehills are also known for their commitment to diversity and inclusion. They have been ranked as one of the best employers in the UK for LGBT staff in Stonewell’s annual Top 100 Employers list, for the 10th consecutive year.
With over 460 partners globally and 160 in the UK alone, they aim to recruit the best individuals regarding the training contract and other ways of progression within the firm. Half of Herbert Smith Freehills’ trainees come from non-law related backgrounds; some key traits they look for are:

  • Intellectual agility
  • Individuality
  • Drive and determination

Check out our interview with the firm’s Graduate Recruitment Manager.


Macfarlanes are a leading corporate law firm based in London. They are well recognised for their high-quality work and their supportive environment. They give advice to both international and UK-based clients regarding multi-jurisdictional matters.

The firm specialises in mergers and acquisitions, private clients, and private equity with many international projects in scope. An impressive recognition for Macfarlanes is that Senior Partner Charles Martin was named Management Partner of the Year in 2017 at the Legal Business Awards.

Macfarlanes have a history of supporting refugees and are committed to diversity within the firm. They aim to recruit around 60 trainees per year, and some key traits they look for are:

  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Ambitious and proven commercial approach
  • Resilience

Check out our full profile on Macfarlanes.

Travers Smith

Travers Smith are predominantly a full-service corporate law firm based in London, however it also has a marvellous office in Paris. They specialise in advising both national and international companies regarding the complete range of corporate and commercial matters, while also practising in dispute resolution, employment, finance, tax, and real estate.

Travers Smith are reputed for their remarkable support in terms of training – they are among the best in the City. The firm recruits around 40 trainees per year from diverse backgrounds, and some key traits they look for are:

  • Ambition
  • Dedication to the field of law
  • Responsive to challenges

Mischon de Reya

Mischon de Reya currently have three national offices in London, Cambridge, and Oxford, and two international offices in Singapore and Hong Kong, which opened in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Their areas of practice include commercial litigation, finance and banking. They were recently awarded the UK Trademark Contentious Law Firm of 2022 Award at the Managing Intellectual Property EMEA Awards.

The firm is concerned with having ‘a material positive impact on society and the environment’, with a focus on increasing access to law, creating opportunity and sustainability. As a smaller firm, Mishcon de Reya recruit up to 25 trainees a year. Some key traits they look for are:

  • Creative thinking
  • Adaptability
  • Social awareness

Training at a prestigious law firm, whether it is in the Silver or Magic Circle, is a dream opportunity for anyone looking for a career in law. But getting there requires a lot of work, which is why we strongly recommend checking out our guides and polishing your commercial awareness in advance.

Moreover, choosing a law firm to apply for can be tricky. It requires a good amount of individual research, and a familiarisation with each firm’s training programme and application process. During your research, make sure you also focus on getting to know each firm’s culture, as this is also an essential factor to consider. Take our quiz to find out which Silver Circle law firm is the right one for you!


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