in Legal Profession

What are Magic Circle law firms?

What and Who are Magic Circle Law Firms?

The Magic Circle law firms are all based in London, all massive global operations, and employ well over 5,000 solicitors between them.

The firms are:

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

These firms have a combined turnover of well over £4 billion and are nothing short of ginormous (for want of a better term).

There is a Barrister Magic Circle, but lets face it, no-one really cares too much about that side of things when you look at these sort of figures.

Who invented the term ‘magic circle’? Who knows? Was it a solicitor even? It is not even clear who qualifies to enter it, apart from these five monsters are all in the top 10 largest law firms in the world so this may be why they qualify.

It is important not to confuse the Magic Circle with:

  • The Circle of Life (or the wheel of fortune) – this is in fact a well known song from The Lion King inflicted upon the world by Elton John.
  • The Circle of Trust – something very hard to join if your name is Gaylord Fokker in Meet the Parents.
  • The Burning Ring of Fire – a fine Johnny Cash song or Saturday morning after the consumption of a Phall in your local restaurant the night before.
  • The Silver Circle – Herbert Smith, Ashurst, Berwin Leighton Paisner, SJ Berwin, Macfarlanes and Travers Smith. The Silver Circle was invented by The Lawyer magazine so people didn’t get too bored of saying “The Magic Circle” all the time.

Why would I want to work for a Magic Circle solicitors’ firm?

If you want to work for the creme de la creme, this is the place to be, not working for Smith & Jones Solicitors on the high street in Much Puddle by the Marsh.

Think solicitors earn 6 figure salaries? They do at the Magic Circle firms. They don’t in Much Puddle by the Marsh.

How do I get to work for a Magic Circle law firm?

  • Have 3 straight A grades at A level.
  • Go to Oxford, Cambridge, London or Bristol University.
  • Speak very clearly without any trace of regional accent.
  • Captain your local hockey team at weekends.
  • Enjoy fine wines, theatre, skiing, golf and squash.

Is life a bed of roses at Magic Circle law firms?

Definitely not, although I think the money is greatly appreciated. I regularly coach city lawyers trying to escape from Silver Circle and Magic Circle law firms.

  • You rarely meet clients unless you are very senior.
  • Your working hours are usually pre-industrial revolution standard (unless you are an 11 year old chimney sweep of course).
  • Your love of wine will increase ten fold, particularly at 9pm in the evening when you return home from work.
  • The application forms will take you about 6 months to fill in.
  • Your firm will regularly appear in Private Eye for some dodgy deal involving Middle Eastern oil sheikhs, Russian oligarchs or some tax wheeze or PFI deal involving large amounts of local authority money going to rich lawyers…

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment.







Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at