Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhouse Deringer, Linklaters, and Slaughter and May are the names of the top five law firms headquartered in the UK that are informally recognised as the Magic Circle.
They are generally considered as the most prestigious law firms in the UK and, with revenues reaching into the billions, they make enough money to consistently put them in the top ten highest earning law firms in the world. Making it to partner at one of these firms will guarantee some of the largest pay-cheques in the legal field in the world.
Here is a brief overview of each of these firms.
Founded in London, England, in 1930 by two lawyers, George Allen and Thomas Overy; today Allen & Overy is one the largest and most elite law firms in the world.
The firm started out as a small commercial practice, and through landmark legal cases and expansion has morphed into an organisation with offices worldwide, over five thousand staff, five hundred partners, and an increasing annual revenue of over a billion pounds. Their domain of expertise is expansive and covers all legal issues national and multinational companies, financial institutions and governments might find themselves facing; notably litigation, arbitration and dispute resolution, and intellectual property.
Clifford Chance is a relatively newer law firm, founded in 1987 as a result of a merger between two low-ranked firms at the time, Clifford Turner and Coward Chance.
Nowadays, it is the market leader for legal advice with offices worldwide, over three thousand lawyers, and revenues topping 1.3 billion pounds. Their clients include corporations from all commercial and industrial sectors, governments, regulators, trade bodies and not-for-profit organisations. The major areas they work in include banking and finance, corporate governance and conflict resolution.
Freshfields Bruckhouse Deringer began life as the official advisor to the Bank of England and is the oldest law firm in the Magic Circle, having been founded in 1743.
FBD is also suspected to vie for position as the oldest law firm in the world. Currently, they count governments as their clients who ask for guidance through global financial crises, and are capable of brokering deals in the hundreds of billions. FBD advises national and multinational companies across all major industry sectors around the world. Notable services include all manner of transactional negotiation, regulatory services, and risk advice.
Linklaters was founded in London, England, in 1838, where it is headquartered to this day.
Nowadays, Linklaters is a hugely profitable firm with offices worldwide and over two thousand lawyers in its employ. They rank very highly in specialist areas of law including corporate/M&A, capital markets, and banking and finance. With revenue topping £1.2 billion, Linklaters is a legal force to be reckoned with, and certainly a destination for aspiring legal partners.
Slaughter and May was founded in London, England, in 1889, by William Capel Slaughter and William May.
Nowadays, the firm employs over five hundred lawyers in offices in London, Brussels, Hong Kong and Beijing. Though significantly smaller than other firms in the Magic Circle, pulling in revenues of around half a billion pounds, the firm tops Profit per Equity Partner (PEP) payments in the city of London at over £2.2 million. Slaughter and May counts more FTSE 100 companies as clients than any other Magic Circle firm, and is considered by UK solicitors as possibly the most prestigious firm in the UK.
If you are an aspiring lawyer, eventually becoming a partner at a Magic Circle firm is to reach the highest level in your profession.
Start your journey today with an i-LLB Qualifying Law Degree, or boost your professional legal skills with an LLM in Legal Practice, or with any of our professional certificates in law and ethics, governance, or business law. Here’s to your first million-pound pay-cheque as the newest wizard in the Magic Circle.