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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.

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. numer 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?

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?


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?




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?

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
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?

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
Linklaters£42,000£49,000Up to £90,000£1.57m
Slaughter and May£43,000£48,000£78,000£1.8m

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