Revealed: the universities which give you the best chance of making it to the top of the magic and silver circle

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By Alex Aldridge on

Oxbridge dominates, but there are some surprises


A list of the universities attended by partners at top City of London law firms has been published.

It shows that a whopping 44% of partners at firms in the magic and silver circle attended Oxbridge, while 34% went to one of the 22 other Russell Group universities, and 22% graduated from a non-Russell Group uni.

Incidentally, Oxford (24%) did better than Cambridge (20%). And by the way, just 1.8% of the UK’s student population of 2,266,075 study at the universities of Oxford or Cambridge.

Still, so far so unsurprising…

But read on and the analysis by recruiter Laurence Simons of 1,147 senior lawyers’ LinkedIn profiles reveals that some Russell Group universities produce massively more leading City firm partners than others.

For example, graduates of Bristol, Nottingham, King’s College London and Durham account for a combined 44% of all Russell Group-educated magic and silver circle partners.

They are way more likely to make it to the top of such firms than graduates of Newcastle, Liverpool, Cardiff, Queen’s Belfast and Queen Mary University of London, which each account for just 1% of Russell Group partners.

Other notable Russell Group unis which perform disappointingly include York (2%), Warwick (3%) and LSE (4%).

Russell Group partners by university attended


As readers will of course know, the magic circle comprises Linklaters, Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Freshfields. The term was coined in the 1990s by The Lawyer magazine and is based on the quintet’s close relationship with the City’s leading banks and stranglehold on the best corporate finance work.

The lesser-used silver circle tag — which has arguably been rendered almost meaningless by the multiple mergers of the last few years as a host of global megafirms have been created — includes Herbert Smith Freehills, Ashurst, Berwin Leighton Paisner, King & Wood Mallesons, Macfarlanes and Travers Smith.