Magic Circle (law firms)

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The Magic Circle is an informal term for what are generally considered the five leading law firms headquartered in the United Kingdom,[1][2][3] and the four or five leading London-based commercial barristers' chambers.

Law firms[edit]

The five law firms generally regarded as constituting the Magic Circle are:[2][4]

These firms are generally regarded as being the most prestigious law firms headquartered in the UK,[citation needed] and consistently have among the highest earnings per-partner and earnings per-lawyer of UK-headquartered law firms.[citation needed]

In 2016 four members of the Magic Circle were among the ten largest law firms in the world measured by revenues, with Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Allen & Overy, and Linklaters respectively the sixth-largest, seventh-largest, ninth-largest and tenth-largest by this measurement.[5] In 2016 Slaughter and May was the 48th-largest law firm in the world by this measure, with revenues of $793.2m.[5]

10 largest law firms in the world measured by 2015 revenue
Rank Firm Revenues Location of headquarters
1 Latham & Watkins $2.65b United States
2 Baker & McKenzie $2.62b United States
3 DLA Piper $2.54b United States/United Kingdom
4 Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom $2.41b United States
5 Kirkland & Ellis $2.3b United States
6 Clifford Chance $2.11b United Kingdom
7 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer $2.03b United Kingdom
8 Dentons $2.03b United States/United Kingdom
9 Allen & Overy $2.02b United Kingdom
10 Linklaters $2.01b United Kingdom

Those UK-headquartered firms commonly regarded as the main competitors of the Magic Circle are sometimes referred to as the "Silver Circle"; these firms are generally smaller than the members of the Magic Circle in revenues, but also have a level of earnings per-partner and earnings per-lawyer which are far above the average for UK-based law firms.[6][7]

10 largest UK-based law firms measured by 2013 worldwide revenues[8]
Rank Firm Revenues
1 DLA Piper £1,566,300,000
2 Clifford Chance £1,359,000,000
3 Linklaters £1,255,100,000
4 Allen & Overy £1,234,300,000
5 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer £1,232,000,000
6 Norton Rose Fulbright £1,152,000,000
7 Hogan Lovells £1,098,000,000
8 Herbert Smith Freehills £800,000,000
9 Dentons £807,300,000
10 CMS £710,400,000

Barristers' chambers[edit]

The following barristers' chambers in the United Kingdom are occasionally, by analogy, described by commentators as the Bar's Magic Circle:[9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ 'Different types of law firm'
  2. ^ a b "Clifford Chance Is Top U.K. Law Firm as Revenue Falls". Bloomberg Businessweek. 8 July 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  3. ^ "It's a kind of magic". The Law Gazette. 21 May 2004. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  4. ^ LawBritannia Legal Glossary: Online UK Law Careers Counselling
  5. ^ a b "Global 100 2016". Legal Business. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 
  6. ^ "Silver Circle". The Lawyer. 3 September 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2010. 
  7. ^ "'Silver circle' firms upset the legal order". The Times. 28 August 2005. Retrieved 25 October 2010. 
  8. ^ "LB100 2014: The Main Table". Legal Business. 2 September 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  9. ^ Bar Magic Circle, AllAboutLaw; Glossary of Law Terminology, University of Exeter; "Set Point", The Lawyer, 30 October 2000; The Modern Bar: diverse and open to all, fn 7.