If you decide you want to be a commercial lawyer, your next big decision is what kind of firm you want to work for. Here's our guide to the main types of graduate employer in this sector.
The Magic Circle
The Magic Circle refers to the five largest commercial law firms in the UK by revenue, who are:
- Allen & Overy
- Clifford Chance
- Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
- Slaughter and May
They're focused on international corporate and finance work, mostly for large corporates and investment banks.
Because of their importance, we've compared the Magic Circle firms in a separate article you can find here.
The next biggest UK firms
The firms that rank just below the magic circle in terms of reputation and revenue are similar to them in many ways. If you choose to work at one of these firms, you'll get a similar quality of training.
They don't have quite the same level of prestige attached to them, but you may end up with a better work-life balance. You'll also be part of a smaller start group, can give a more personal feel to the experience. They key firms to know about are:
- CMS Cameron McKenna
- Herbert Smith Freehills
- Simmons & Simmons
At one of these firms, you'll probably end up working on slightly lower-profile matters – although some of the smaller firms have outstanding strengths in particular areas, for example Herbert Smith Freehills in litigation.
UK and US mergers
Firms that have come about through a merger between a top City firm and a similar US one tend to service the same kind of large, international clients as the Magic Circle and other top City firms.
The key firms to know about are:
- Hogan Lovells
- Jones Day
- Mayer Brown
- Norton Rose Fulbright
Thanks to their dual roots, they tend to have a large network of offices across the world.
Many of the leading New York or Chicago firms have large offices in London.
The key firms to know about are:
- Latham & Watkins
- Shearman & Sterling
- White & Case
These firms also focus on international corporate and finance work but, because they haven't been in the London market as long as the homegrown firms, often concentrate on particular areas of expertise.
Large commercial firms with offices across the UK, and sometimes extensive overseas networks.
- DLA Piper
- Pinsent Masons
These firms do a broad spread of commercial work for clients ranging from local businesses to corporates and investment banks.
Between the large City firms and smaller local outfits, you'll find a long list of commercial law firms with London offices and overseas networks that can still offer graduates high-profile work.
- Mishcon de Reya
- Stephenson Harwood
These firms do a wide range of commercial work, often UK-focused, for a diverse range of large to small businesses, and other organisations and individuals.
Professional services firms
Originally accountancy firms, these behemoths now offer a broad range of business advice services, including legal services.
- PwC Legal
The advantage of working as a lawyer in at a professional services firm is that you get to work with their prestigious international clients, alongside other business experts from the firm.
Specialised mid-sized commercial firms.
These firms specialise in one or two areas of law or in particular client sectors, though usually offer a range of other services and/or act for other clients too.
Firms that focus on advising clients in a particular region.
- Burges Salmon
These firms serve local commercial clients and individuals.