What the private school/state school divide at Magic Circle Law firms looks like

Yes, a lot of them went to fee-paying schools

Law is not reputed for being especially diverse.

Many of those who make it at top firms take a standard route: from private school to top university, onto law school and a training contract.

The “Magic Circle” comprises five of the UK’s leading law firms: Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Slaughter and May. Together, the firms have a combined turnover of well over £4 billion.

The Circle also consistently has the highest earnings per lawyer and per partner in the country. In fact, four out of five members are placed in the top 10 law firms by revenue globally. The exception is Slaughter and May.

Certainly, you’d be proud to work there. But who does? We’ve compared diversity figures to see which firms hire the most staff who went to fee-paying schools.

The numbers come from the most recent diversity reports commissioned by the Magic Circle firms. Each is dominated by staff who attended private schools. This is disproportionate: according to figures from the Independent Schools Council, the independent sector educates just 6.5 per cent of school children in the UK, and 7 per cent of the total number in England. This figure rises to 18 per cent of pupils over the age of 16, but the representation in law firms still does not reflect the British education system.

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One notable pattern is the marked divide between ‘legal’ staff at the firms (partners, associates and trainees) and ‘non-legal’ staff (business services or support staff). The former were more likely to have been privately-educated.

The firm that employs the most privately-educated partners was Slaughter and May: just under half of the partners attended an independent school. The firm also employs more privately-educated staff as solicitors, trainees and in other legal roles than any of the other Magic Circle firms.

Clifford Chance employs the most state school employees across the board.

Allen & Overy

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Clifford Chance

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Freshfields Bruckhaus Derginer*

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*36 per cent of the workforce at Freshfields Bruckhaus Derginer did not respond to their workplace survey. We have only included stats on those who did.


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*23 per cent per cent of the workforce at Linklaters did not respond to their workplace survey. We have only included stats on those who did.

Slaughter and May

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