Research: 43% of UK partners at magic and silver circle law firms attended Oxbridge

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By Alex Aldridge on

City law preference for Oxford and Cambridge rises at partner level


Approaching half of the UK-based partners at London’s top law firms were educated at Oxbridge, a new survey has found.

44% of partners at the magic circle quintet of Slaughter and May, Linklaters, Allen & Overy, Freshfields and Clifford Chance went to Oxford or Cambridge, while 40% of partners at so-called silver circle firms Herbert Smith Freehills, Ashurst, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Macfarlanes and Travers Smith also studied at this elite pair of institutions.

The combined ratio of 43% is significantly more than the equivalent figure for trainees at these top firms. An average of 34% of magic and silver circle trainees are Oxbridge-educated.

Breakdown of universities attended by magic and silver circle partners


The high proportion of partners who went to Oxford and Cambridge has generated simmering resentment among non-Oxbridge lawyers, according to the recruiter behind the survey, Laurence Simons, which used over 1,200 UK-based partner profiles on LinkedIn and online legal directories as the basis for its research.

58% of the 143 lawyers questioned in a follow-up survey said that they believe colleagues who have studied at Oxford or Cambridge progress quicker than those who have not, regardless of individual merit.

And 44% of surveyed lawyers said that they felt their career progress has been hampered by attitudes towards where they studied, suggesting that academic status can be viewed as more important than achievement.

Of the magic and silver circle partners who didn’t go to Oxbridge, 35% went to Russell Group universities and 22% went to non-Russell Group universities.

For more information about which firms’ favour Oxbridge and Russell Group graduates, and which give non-traditional university students a chance, check out our top 60 law firm profiles and ‘Most List’.