Magic circle: Distinguishing fact from fiction.

As you begin applying for training contracts, you'll hear a range of different stereotypes about each law firm - none more so than with the 'Magic Circle'.

  • Last updated Aug 3, 2020 5:01:31 PM
  • By Raphael Jucobin

The ‘Magic Circle’ refers to a group of five London-based law firms, considered the most prestigious in the industry. These are Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Slaughter and May, Allen and Overy, and Freshfields. Although these firms are considered the ‘elite’, it would be reductive to consider these as the definitive best in the country, but as you begin applying for training contracts it’s important to keep in mind why these five are considered separately from the others.

These are the City firms which specialise in banking, finance and corporate legal work as practice areas, meaning they work with some of the biggest London-based corporations on significant deals and have a large workforce of lawyers to advise either side of a large-scale project.

As a result, trainees at these firms are able to play a part in some important projects which involve major businesses - which feeds into the prestige that the Magic circle has gained.

How long really are the hours?

It’s no secret that as a trainee you’ll be expected to put the hours in and stay at the office well into the evenings to meet a client’s upcoming deadlines. While it’s undeniably the case that as you start out you’ll see yourself sacrificing evening to get work done, it’s worth bearing in mind that firms are also trying to sell themselves to you as a graduate, and as such will look to sweeten the deal by putting an emphasis on their work-life balance.

Will I have to act the part?

Many trainees will feel they have to conform to the stereotype associated with pursuing a career in law. However, you shouldn’t feel that you have to completely change yourself in order to fit with this, especially as firms look to hire from a more diverse pool of candidates There’s no set combination of interest and social background that makes you a shoo-in for a training contract.

This includes efforts to increase social mobility, as well as accessibility for different ethnic backgrounds and gender. Ultimately, firms will want a diverse workforce that can provide them with a range of different perspectives that are representative of the society they work in.

Where can I find out more about training contracts?

On the search for a training contract? You can check out the latest opportunities and useful information on the dedicated section of our website!

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