What Is the Magic Circle?

Whereas “the Magic Circle” may not be the official name of the group of UK law firms that the term denotes, there is definitely some magic surrounding the firms. The Magic Circle are a group of five firms that are considered to be the leading law firms in the UK. All five are headquartered within the UK itself with offices around the world. Although some of the firms traditionally rank among the top earners in the world each year, all of them command the respect of clients around the world.

Here are the five members of the Magic Circle, as well as some information on what makes each one so special.

Allen & Overy

Founded in 1930, Allen & Overy is the youngest firm in the Magic Circle that didn’t result from a merger. With 43 offices located in 30 countries and over 2,800 Lawyers in its employ (including over 500 partners), Allen & Overy has the largest overall coverage of any Magic Circle firm. This coverage has helped Allen & Overy consistently rank in the top ten law firms in the world by earnings.


Clifford Chance

Created in 1987 when the firms Clifford Turner and Coward Chance merged, Clifford Chance has 35 offices around the world in 25 countries. With approximately 3,600 Lawyers, Clifford Chance is the largest employer of Lawyers in the Magic Circle. This size definitely works to the firm’s benefit, as Clifford Chance was the third-highest-grossing law firm in the world in 2012 and has recorded £1.360 billion in earnings for the 2013/2014 fiscal year.


Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Another merged firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was created in 2000 when the UK law firm Freshfields merged with the German firm Deringer Tessin Herrmann & Sedemund and the German-Austrian firm Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber. With 28 offices around the world, including offices in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer employs over 2,500 Lawyers and has approximately 5,500 total employees. The firm represents a number of different interests, including financial institutions, governments and a variety of corporations (both national and international).


Linklaters LLP

The oldest member of the Magic Circle that’s still in its original form, Linklaters was founded in 1838 under the name of Dods & Linklaters. The firm has 29 offices in 20 countries around the world, and has over 2,600 Lawyers on its books. Another consistent top earner, Linklaters has ranked in the top five law firms in the world by earnings in several recent years and counts more FTSE 100 companies among its clientele than any other firm in the UK. This makes sense, as the firm’s largest areas of focus are corporate law (including mergers and acquisitions), banking, finance and capital markets.


Slaughter and May

Originally founded in 1889 by William Capel Slaughter and William May, Slaughter and May is the smallest member of the Magic Circle. Unlike other firms that employ thousands of Lawyers at dozens of offices around the world, Slaughter and May has only 560 legal advisors spread across only four offices – in London, Brussels, Hong Kong and Singapore (a previous Singapore office, as well as offices in New York and Paris, were closed in the early 2000s). Instead of running offices directly in other countries, Slaughter and May relies on a network of “friendly” local law firms to represent its international interests. This allows the firm to focus on its core clients in its main offices while ensuring that any international issues will be handled by seasoned firms that are well respected in their respective localities.


If you are interested in working for one of these prestigious firms, take a look at the “Careers” sections on their websites.