Top Law Firms in the UK

Top Law Firms in the UK

city of london, uk

What you consider to be a top law firm can be very subjective. A firm could be could be considered the best because of their turnover or because of their working environment.

It all depends exactly what you’re looking for in the firm you want to take your training contract. Here are several potential ways firms can be defined as the best or most prestigious.

Magic Circle firms

This is what most people think of when considering the most successful firms. Magic Circle is an informal term used to describe the five leading law firms who have their HQ in the UK (it’s also the premier magical society in the fascinating world of mystery and illusion, but surely you’re not here for that). They will be the hardest to get into – you will have to go through a rigorous testing and interview process. The following firms are usually defined as Magic Circle:

  • Allen & Overy
  • Clifford Chance
  • Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
  • Linklaters
  • Slaughter and May

Silver Circle firms

Silver Circle firms usually specialise in commercial law. While their turnover isn’t quite as high as Magic Circle firms, it’s still higher than the majority of other firms in the UK. The Silver Circle firms tend to work in matters which could be described as less international than those in the Magic Circle.

  • Ashurst
  • Berwin Leighton Paisner
  • Herbert Smith
  • Macfarlanes
  • SJ Berwin
  • Travers Smith

Other large UK firms

Here are some more firms with their HQ based in London. They all have high turnover and can be considered some of the best in the UK. This is not an exhaustive list, just a few of the top earning firms not in the Magic or Silver Circle.

  • DLA Piper International
  • Hogan Lovells
  • Norton Rose
  • Eversheds
  • Simmons & Simmons
  • CMS Cameron McKenna
  • Bird & Bird
  • Pinsent Masons

US firms

Some of the largest firms in the world are based in the US. However a lot of these firms have offices in London. These firms often pay trainee solicitors very well. However just because a firm is a big player in the US, doesn’t mean the same is the case in the UK. The London office will usually be smaller than the HQ of the firm based in the US. Here are a few US firms who have an office in London:

  • Baker & McKenzie
  • Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
  • Latham & Watkins
  • Jones Day
  • White & Case
  • Weil Gotshal & Manges
  • Mayer Brown

Best employers

Perhaps a better gauge of a top law firm is how good it is to work there. The Times release a list of the best companies to work for in the UK. This goes off factors like their managers, benefits, colleagues, well being  and personal growth. Let’s look at where law firms come in the list:

  • Lewis Silkin LLP (19th)
  • Mishcon de Reya (23rd)
  • Baker & McKenzie LLP (70th)
  • Withers LLP (77th)
  • Reed Smith LLP (88th)
  • Mills & Reeve LLP (90th
As you can see only one of the top firms mentioned above (Baker & McKenzie LLP) makes it into this list. This could mean that a high salary and firm turnover alone don’t make a firm a good place to work. Regional or local firms may be a better choice if the work balance is important to you. It all depends where your priorities lie. Best isn’t always best paid.

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