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Magic Circle Law Firms: The Ultimate Guide

If you’re an aspiring solicitor, you’ve almost certainly heard of the Magic Circle law firms.

But who are the Magic Circle law firms? What sets them apart from other firms? And how can you get to work for them? You can find all of the answers to these questions using our free guide – start reading below!

magic circle law firms

What are the Magic Circle Law Firms?

The Magic Circle law firms are five UK-based firms considered to be amongst the most prestigious in the world.

Their elite status in a competitive industry comes from various factors, including their client base, their revenue per lawyer, their revenue per partner and the number of lawyers they have working for them.

With this intriguing, informal nickname comes an increasingly high reputation; described by The Guardian writer Laura Paddison, they’re the firms that promise “top graduates a glittering name on their CV, A-list corporate clients and excellent training”.

The five consist of:

Although a rather old-fashioned term, the phrase ‘the Magic Circle’ has only been used since the late 1990s; before then, the prestigious law firms were called the “Club of Nine”, and included Lovells (now Hogan Lovells), Norton Rose (now Norton Rose Fulbright), Herbert Smith (now Herbert Smith Freehills) and Stephenson Harwood.

This group fragmented at the beginning of the 2000s, and now comprises the five that now make up the “Magic Circle”, a term coined by legal journalists.

Want a more specific insight into each of these firms? Read one of these interviews with Magic Circle employees!

You’ve heard of the Magic Circle, but did you know that there’s also a Silver Circle? Find out about the prestigious firms that make up this elite group below
Who are the Silver Circle Law Firms?


Average Magic Circle Law Firms Salary

Wondering what the salary is like for a Magic Circle trainee? Or a Magic Circle partner salary? Just take a look at our table below:

Law Firm First Year Trainee Second Year Trainee Newly Qualified Lawyer Equity Partner
Allen & Overy £44,000 £49,000 £100,000 (including bonus) Between £1.6m -£1.7m
Clifford Chance £44,800 £50,500 £100,000 (including bonus) Between £1.6m -£1.7m
Freshfields £43,000 £48,000 £100,000 (excluding bonus) £1.8m
Linklaters £42,000 £49,000 £100,000 (including bonus) £1.7m
Slaughter and May £43,000 £48,000 £92,000 (excluding bonus) £1.8m

Who are the Magic Circle Law Firms?

  allen & overy

Allen & Overy

Founded: 1930, by George Allen and Thomas Overy
Based: Bishops Square, London E1
Senior Partner: Wim Dejonghe
Managing Partner: Andrew Ballheimer
Approx. number of partners: 554
Approx. number of lawyers: 2800
Number of offices: 44
Number of countries with offices: 31
Revenue: £1.52 billion
Number of trainees per year: 90 seats
Retention rate of trainees: 85%
Number of vacation schemes: 60
Specified GDL provider: BPP Law School
GDL funding: £8000
Specified LPC/LLM provider: BPP Law School
LPC/LLM funding: £7000

 

Defining moments:

What do they look for in Allen & Overy training contract candidates?

Allen & Overy Expert Insights:

Allen & Overy Application Timeline:

Opportunity For Opens Closes Scheme runs
Training contract Students currently in their penultimate year of study, finalists and graduates of all degree disciplines 1 August 2019 22 December 2019 2021/2022/2023 (March & September intakes)
Summer Vacation Scheme Penultimate or final year students; graduates 1 September 2019 1st January 2020 (HK and UK applicants

1st March (AU based applicants)
Summer 2020

 

Is Allen & Overy the law firm for you? Take our new Which Magic Circle Law Firm is Right For Me? Quiz now!

Take the quiz!

clifford chance

Clifford Chance

Founded: 1987, by merger of Clifford Turner and Coward Chance
Based: Upper Bank Street, London E14
Senior Partner: Malcolm Sweeting
Managing Partner: Matthew Layton
Approx. number of partners: 570
Approx. number of lawyers: 3300
Number of offices: 36
Number of countries with offices: 26
Revenue: £1.54 billion
Number of trainees per year: 80 seats
Retention rate of trainees: 81%
GDL funding: £8000 (London), £7000 (outside of London)
Specified GDL provider: BPP University, any branch
LLM CLP funding: £10,000
Specified LLM CLP provider: BPP University, Holborn

 

Defining moments:

What do they look for in Clifford Chance training contract candidates?

Clifford Chance Expert Insights:

Clifford Chance Application Timeline:

Opportunity For Opens Closes Assessment Centres Scheme runs
Summer Vacation Scheme Penultimate year students, any degree 1 August 2019 12 December 2019 Week commencing 20 January 2020 29 June - 10 July 2020
Training Contract 1 August 2019 12 December 2019 Week commencing 6 January 2020 For 2022
IGNITE Training Contract 1 August 2019 12 December 2019 Weeks commencing 13 January and 27 January 2020 For 2022
SPARK You can only apply for SPARK if you are in your first year or the second year of a four year course 1 August 2019 12 December 2019 Week commencing 27 January 2020 Scheme one: 22-26 June 2020

Scheme two: 13-17 July 2020
PRIME London 1 August 2019


1 August 2019
22 March 2020


12 July 2020
N/S


N/S
Scheme One: 6-9 April 2020

3-6 August 2020
PRIME Newcastle 1 August 2019 5 July 2020 N/S 27-29 July 2020

 

Is Clifford Chance the law firm for you? Take our new Which Magic Circle Law Firm is Right For Me? Quiz now!

Take the quiz!

freshfields

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Founded: 1743, formed by Samuel Dodd.
Based: Fleet Street, London EC4Y
Senior Partner: Edward Braham
Managing Partner: Julian Long
Approx. number of partners: 427
Approx. numer of lawyers: 2800
Number of offices: 28
Number of countries with offices: 16
Revenue: £1.33 billion
Number of trainees per year: 80
Retention rate of trainees: 66%
GDL funding: £7250
Specified GDL provider: BPP University, any branch
LPC funding: £7000
Specified LPC provider: BPP University, London
Annual leave: 25 days

 

Defining moments:

What do they look for in Freshfields training contract candidates?

Freshfields Expert Insights:

Freshfields Application Timeline:

Opportunity For Opens Closes Assessment Centres Scheme runs
Summer Vacation Scheme First year undergraduates 1 October 2019 6 January 2020 Beginning of 2020 Scheme one: 22 June - 10 July 2020

Scheme two: 13 July 2020 - 31 July 2020
Summer Training Contract (Law Only) Penultimate and final year law students; law graduates; GDL graduates 1 June 2020 16 July 2020 August 2020 N/S
Winter Training Contract (Law and Non-Law) Final year law students; law graduates; final year non-law students; non-law graduates 1 October 2019 6 January 2020 March 2020 N/S

 

If you’re looking for firsthand interview tips from a Magic Circle partner, make sure to look at our blog post 12 Pro Interview Tips from a Magic Circle Partner – with all the practical advice you need to have your best interview yet!

Read the pro tips now

linklaters

Linklaters

 

Founded: 1838, by John Linklater and Julius Dods
Based: Silk Street, London, EC2
Senior Partner: Charles Jacobs
Managing Partner: Gideon Moore
Approx. number of partners: 470
Approx. numer of lawyers: 2300
Number of offices: 29
Number of countries with offices: 20
Revenue: £1.31 billion
Number of trainees per year: 110
Retention rate of trainees: 94%
GDL funding: £8000 (in London), £7000 (outside of London)
Specified GDL provider: University of Law, any branch
LPC funding: £7000
Specified LPC provider: University of Law, Moorgate

 

Defining moments:

What do they look for in Linklaters training contract candidates?

Linklaters Expert Insights:

Linklaters Application Timeline:

Opportunity For Opens Closes Assessment Centres Scheme runs
Spring Vacation Scheme Penultimate and final year law or non-law students; law or non-law graduates; law or non-law postgraduates Beginning of October 2019 Beginning of January 2020 N/S 30 March - 9 April 2020
Summer Vacation Scheme Penultimate and final year law or non-law students; law or non-law graduates; law or non-law postgraduates Beginning of October 2019 Beginning of January 2020 N/A 29 June - 24 July 2020
3 August - 28 August 2020
Training Contract (March/Sep Intake) Penultimate and final year law students; law graduates; GDL graduates Beginning of October 2019 Beginning of January 2020

 

Is Linklaters the law firm for you? Take our new Which Magic Circle Law Firm is Right For Me? Quiz now!

Take the quiz!

slaughter and may

Slaughter and May

Founded: 1889, by William Capel Slaughter and William May
Based: Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y
Senior Partner: Steve Cooke
Executive Partner: Paul Stacey
Practice Partner: David Wittmann
Approx. number of partners: 115
Approx. numer of lawyers: 560
Number of offices: 4
Number of countries with offices: 4
Revenue: N/S
Number of trainees per year: 80
Retention rate of trainees: 91%
Number of vacation schemes: 80
Specified GDL provider: BPP University, London Waterloo + GDL Extra Programme
Specified LPC provider: BPP Law School, Holborn
Annual leave: 30 days

 

Defining moments:

What do they look for in Slaughter and May training contract candidates?

Slaughter and May Application Timeline:

Opportunity For Opens Closes Scheme runs
Spring Vacation scheme Penultimate law or non-law students 1 October 2019 13 December 2019 30 March - 3 April 2020
Summer Work Experience Scheme Law students in the penultimate year of their undergraduate degree and law students in the second year of a four year course who will be going abroad in their third year 1 October 2 January 2020 Scheme one: 22 June - 10 July 2020

Scheme two: 13 July - 31 July 2020

Scheme three: 1 September - 18 September 2020
Training Contract Finalists and graduates 2 September 2019 31 January 2020 2022
Winter two-day workshop 2019 Law and non-law finalists and graduates 1 October 2019 8 November 2019 Scheme one: 9-10 December 2019

Scheme two: 16-17 December 2019
First Year Open Day 2020 First Year law and non-law students 1 October 2019 31 January 2020 Scheme one: 2 April 2020

Scheme two: 7 April 2020

Scheme three: 15 April 2020

Author: Isabella Ford

Next: How to choose your perfect law firm >>

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