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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!

Which of these Magic Circle law firms is right for you? Find out with our new quiz now!

Take the quiz!

Or 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

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 just one of these interviews with Magic Circle employees!


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:

OpportunityForOpensClosesAssessment Centres
Winter Vacation SchemePenultimate or final year students; graduates1 October 201831 October 2018N/S
Summer Vacation SchemePenultimate or final year students; graduates1 October 201831 December 2018N/S
Training Contract (March/September intake)Penultimate or final year students; graduates1 October 201831 December 2018November 2018; January - mid-February 2019

 

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:

OpportunityForOpensClosesAssessment Centres
Summer Vacation SchemePenultimate year students, any degreeEnd of September 2018 (25 Sep in 2017)Beginning of January 2019 (3 January in 2018)Mid-January 2019 (w/c 15 Jan in 2018)
Training ContractEnd of September 2018 (25 Sep in 2017)Beginning of January 2019 (3 January in 2018)Beginning of February 2019 (w/c 5 Feb in 2018)

 

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:

OpportunityForOpensClosesAssessment Centres
Summer Vacation Scheme (Law and Non-Law)Penultimate year at university; second year of a four-year course; Beginning of October 2018 (2 Oct in 2017)Beginning of January 2019 (4 Jan in 2018)
Summer Training Contract (Law Only)Penultimate and final year law students; law graduates; GDL graduatesBeginning of June 2018 (1 June in 2017)Mid-July 2018 (17 July in 2017)Early August 2019
Winter Training Contract (Law and Non-Law)Final year law students; law graduates; final year non-law students; non-law graduatesBeginning of October 2018 (2 Oct in 2017)Beginning of January 2019 (4 Jan in 2018)February 2019

 

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

Take the quiz!

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:

OpportunityForOpensClosesAssessment Centres
Winter Vacation SchemePenultimate and final year law or non-law students; law or non-law graduates; law or non-law postgraduatesSeptember 2018 (11 Sep in 2017)End of October 2018 (23 Oct in 2017)
Spring Vacation SchemePenultimate and final year law or non-law students; law or non-law graduates; law or non-law postgraduatesBeginning of October 2018 (2 Oct in 2017)Beginning of January 2019 (4 January in 2018)
Summer Vacation SchemePenultimate and final year law or non-law students; law or non-law graduates; law or non-law postgraduatesBeginning of October 2018 (2 Oct in 2017)Beginning of January 2019 (4 January in 2018)
Training Contract (March/Sep Intake)Penultimate and final year law students; law graduates; GDL graduatesBeginning of October 2018 (2 Oct in 2017)Beginning of January 2019 (4 January in 2018)

 

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:

OpportunityForOpensClosesAssessment Centres
Easter Work Experience SchemePenultimate and final year law or non-law studentsMid-October (16 Oct in 2017)Mid-December (15 Dec in 2017)
Summer Work Experience SchemePenultimate year law studentsMid-October (16 Oct in 2017) Beginning of January (4 January in 2018)
Training Contract (Law - 2020)Penultimate and final year law students; law graduatesBeginning of June 201831 July 2018July - mid-September 2018
Training Contract (Law & Non-Law - 2021)Final year non-law students;Mid-October 2018 (16 Oct in 2017)N/SNovember - December 2018

 

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

Take the quiz!

Average Salary for Magic Circle Law Firms

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 FirmFirst Year TraineeSecond Year TraineeQualified LawyerEquity Partner
Allen & Overy£44,000£49,000£81,000£1.51m
Clifford Chance£44,800£50,500Up to £87,300£1.38m
Freshfields£43,000£48,000£85,000£1.56m
Linklaters£42,000£49,000Up to £90,000£1.57m
Slaughter and May£43,000£48,000£78,000£1.8m

 

Author: Isabella Ford

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