Types of law firm
US firms in London used to be viewed as a separate category, having offered English law advice only since the mid-1990s. However, there are now around 75 US-born firms in the United Kingdom and around a dozen more hybrid Anglo-US firms. Approximately 40 run training schemes, some with 30-plus trainees and others just a handful. Yet small in London need not equate to small globally: Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, for example, employs some 1,000 lawyers across 13 global offices, but takes on just two UK trainees each year. Staff work long hours in return for top dollar. A trainee’s starting salary could be in the high £30,000s to £40,000s, or even much, much higher if you join a magic circle or US firm. If you join a big London office, you’ll have resources, amenities and peers aplenty. While potential seat options will be abundant, competition for the most popular ones will be stiff. For a profile of a solicitor at an international firm, see Angus Rankin of Hogan Lovells in the “Construction” chapter, p154. UK-focused City firms Exclusively UK-based firms typically offer a broad commercial training, emphasising one or two specialist areas; some will also have a private client practice, reflecting longstanding relationships with wealthy individuals and trusts. Bristows, for example, is a market leader in IP law; meanwhile, Boodle Hatfield LLP has a real estate focus, resulting from its connection to vast landowner The Grosvenor Estate. Most domestic firms cultivate relationships with overseas lawyers and this attracts some multi-jurisdictional work. If you think you would be happiest working in a smaller, less frenetic environment, then there are plenty of firms to choose from. Starting salaries are typically in the low to high £30,000s. For a profile of a solicitor at a UK City firm, see Selina Badiani of Bristows in the “Intellectual property” chapter, p178.
There are many different kinds of law firm and where you train has a significant influence on your career. Consider the following broad categories and think about which type of law firmmight best match your career goals and working style. International firms These are mainly located in the City of London. For the UK-born ‘Anglo’ firms, London is the hub of their international operations, which can range from just a couple of strategically located offices to a sprawling global network – Clifford Chance, for example, has 32 in 21 countries. Here are some of the world’s legal giants, reflecting the fact that English law governs complex, big- ticket transactions across the globe and is the law of choice for high-value disputes. English law is not the only asset for UK firms: they also benefit from the ubiquity of the English language, the City’s status as a key financial centre and the convenience of European time zones for coordinating cross-border deals. A firm’s footprint determines the availability of overseas secondments for trainees, and in the current economic climate these opportunities are more important than ever. Wherever you are based, expect to work mostly on multi- jurisdictional matters for corporate clients. As well as providing a comprehensive commercial offering, each will have its own strong suits; for example, Allen & Overy is dominant in all things finance-related, while Clyde & Co excels in disputes. It’s important to understand the key practice areas and client sectors of the firms you apply to. People sometimes refer to the ‘magic circle’ and ‘silver circle’. These expressions have historical resonance, but no real significance. Themagic circle comprises Allen &Overy, CliffordChance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Slaughter andMay. The so-called silver circle firms are not quite as big as their magic circle peers, although one or two are equally profitable.
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