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17 City firms offering hungry vac schemers and law student liggers the best and worst of nosh

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Our correspondent and his friends rank the law firm food they sampled during work experience and open days

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The recent pheasant fiasco at City law firm Fieldfisher proved a couple of things: that law firm partners need to keep their offspring away from internal memos; and that even in the modern era of the Pret sandwich and the M&S ready-made salad, some lawyers and their firms still know how to lunch like it was 1963.

Fieldfisher’s penchant for traditional game luncheons triggered thoughts around the Legal Cheek offices about what students on the vac scheme treadmill really care about — which law firms offer the best food?

I’m not just talking about your standard crisps and peanuts at an introductory evening — far more important is the nosh firms dish up day in day out at their offices for their worker bees.

Law students and young lawyers from across the country have been in touch over recent months, so Legal Cheek is now able to countdown the top 17 firms in order of their culinary offerings.

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We expected more from this global mega-firm, whose multi-jurisdictional presence promises exotic cuisine possibilities aplenty. But it seems that the UK offices of the Anglo-US giant don’t offer much more than your usual sandwich and crisps spread. Shame on the firm’s catering partner.

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Legal Cheek spies were impressed with the free bar on the opening night of the SGH vac scheme, as well as the “frequent availability of rump steak”. However, the quality of said steak has not been vouched for, and with the overall in-house provision of food said to be “weak” SGH were in the end lucky to creep into our list.

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The Birmingham branch of one of the world’s biggest franchised law firms attempts to go the extra mile, offering their vac scheme students meals to suit personal requirements; still, the overall quality is just not high enough to move the Nandos of the law further up the table.

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Reports of the standard of cooking vary, although given the firm’s canteen has its own Twitter account, at least there is transparency.

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It may come as a surprise to all those budding trainees, but vac schemers who we spoke to say that Clifford Chance has the least to offer of all the magic circle firms in terms of culinary satisfaction — with forgettable school dinner-like dishes the order of the day. The contractors who the firm have been accused of excluding from some canteen and bar areas are not missing much.

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Another magic circle player finds itself pretty far down our pecking order. While reports suggest it occasionally produces a reasonable three-course meal, the day-to-day offering is apparently disappointing. And while the Freshfields canteen Christmas dinner looks OK, the buffet-style serving arrangement is more motorway services restaurant than magic circle.

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Now the SJ Berwin brand has been completely ditched, the question on hungry vac schemers’ lips is whether the cuisine has elevated beyond stodgy City fare to global elite dining. Day to day, the meals are described as good, but nothing special. However, some have suggested that taste buds can be set alight when kitchen staff step up to the plate to produce the occasional Aussie-style BBQ — firing our picture editor’s imagination.

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Reports have reached us of a hot buffet served to vac schemers on rather fancy trays. Like eating a McDonald’s while wearing a dinner jacket, it’s a case of all style and little substance.

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One expects the roast beef of old England followed by Eton Mess at this bluest of blue-blood magic circle law firms. And indeed, the partners keep their own wine cellar, as well as benefit from personalised napkins. Nonetheless, reports suggest that the cuisine dished out to vac schemers and trainees is mediocre at best.

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Multiple reports of a “pretty spectacular hot buffet” on vac scheme welcome days dovetail with journalists’ fond memories of the nosh (and general ambiance) at Allen & Overy’s summer press party — leaving the firm sitting pretty at number eight.

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Legal Cheek is disappointed to learn that this west country firm fails to grasp a branding opportunity by wheeling out plates of deluxe wild salmon for staff lunches. But Burges Salmon doesn’t do that badly. Every Friday sees high quality traditional fish (at least there is some fish association) and chips on the menu.

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The second global franchised firm in our league table narrowly misses out on a place in the top five. The three-course meal at the London office of the firm we mustn’t describe as American has been known to include steak and fishcakes, combining both quality and quantity — which, let’s face it, is the ideal result for all struggling vac schemers.

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Staying on the steak theme, this recently-merged Anglo-US giant cracks the top five largely because vac schemers report they are treated to several trips to the local steakhouse for a three-course lunch.

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Another firm that plays down its Yankee roots, in culinary terms it remains a personal favourite. Look out for the three-course meal, including beef bourguignon (more France than stateside) served on the 11th floor of the firm’s Bishopsgate offices, followed by a delightful fruit compote.

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The partners may have a worldwide reputation for being raw meat eating litigators, but Herbies sets itself apart from the competition by laying on both champagne and lobster in a carefree manner that shouts: “Go on, then, call us fat cats.” Buffet breakfasts are also available every morning, offering a wide selection of warm pastries. That’s certainly enough to get me into the office on a Monday morning.

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Narrowly missing out on the top spot, Linklaters saves the magic circle’s blushes with its wide culinary offering, including a special oriental section. If that’s not enough to impress hungry vac schemers, the firm also whips the pancake mix every Thursday morning. And to take taste bud teasing to another level, Links fires up its own pizza oven on Fridays.

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It was a tricky choice for the number one slot. But this transatlantic giant not only laid on a jolly to London’s Ivy restaurant for summer vac schemers, but plied them throughout the placement with some of the best cookies in the business (apparently baked on site in the firm’s kitchens).

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