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International firms

updated on 03 March 2023

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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 30 offices in 20 countries.

Among these Anglo firms 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. The appeal of English law isn’t the only asset for UK firms: they also reap dividends 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’re based, expect to work mostly on multi-jurisdictional matters for either UK or foreign-based corporate clients. As well as providing a comprehensive commercial offering, each will have its own strong suits; for example, Allen & Overy LLP is dominant in all things finance-related, while Clyde & Co LLP 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. The magic circle comprises Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLPLinklaters LLP and Slaughter and May. The so-called silver circle firms aren’t quite as big as their magic circle peers, although one or two are equally profitable.

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 100 US-born firms in the UK and around a dozen more hybrid Anglo-US firms. Approximately 50 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 UK LLP, for example, employs nearly 1,000 lawyers across 14 global offices, but has around 10 places on its work placement scheme and an even smaller number of training contract vacancies.

Staff work long hours in return for top dollar. If you join a big London office, you'll have resources, amenities and peers aplenty, and probably a relatively bureaucratic working environment. While potential seat options will be abundant, competition for the most popular ones will be stiff and you’ll have to spend much of your time in core departments.

Use LCN's training contract search to identify which firms to apply to.