Why I regret my magic circle training contract

Career mistakes: Legal Cheek meets a soon-to-be NQ, a paralegal and an LPC student

Studying law is a safe bet. An intellectually stimulating degree is hard currency, and God knows adoring relatives will adore you even more if you so much as entertain a legal career.

The magic circle is the gold standard of this — big money, big deals and unparalleled prestige. Yet, at least one current trainee’s experience was more mistake than magic. He explains:

There are parts of it I don’t regret — I’ve appreciated obtaining a legal education and some of the bits of work I’ve done on the training contract have been interesting. But my two biggest regrets are i) not pursuing something with more of a positive social impact (I’ve done work for some pretty unsavoury companies and it can be very soul destroying at times) and ii) doing something that requires such a huge sacrifice of everything else in my life.

Take stock and consider the word ‘regret’. Personally, it’s not a word that I would use lightly. Did I enjoy my law degree? At times no, at other times not at all, but I wouldn’t go as far as to file it away under ‘mistakes’. Our training contract regretter, on the other hand, would. He is now moving to the United States to pursue more social welfare-oriented things; “I wish I’d done this sooner,” he concludes.

But how did our miffed magic circle trainee — who we will call Sam — even end up on this track to millionaire partner greatness? “Quite honestly, I kind of fell into it,” he says. After studying a humanities degree at university, he began to apply for internships and before long vac scheme interview turned into vac scheme, and vac scheme turned into training contract. Then: “Without really thinking about what I really wanted to do, I accepted the offer as it was a ‘good’ job (i.e. one that my parents would understand and respect…).”

Other once-aspiring lawyers have been more considered in their career choice, yet have still been caught by the regret net. For Rob (again a pseudonym), the overwhelming ‘I shouldn’t have done this’ feeling came when he was just months into an ill-suited paralegal job.

Rob was attracted to legal practice thanks to his lawyer sister. “She warned me that a career in law would be very competitive,” Rob reflects, but that didn’t stop him.

The doubts came early:

I realised I made a mistake when I started to fail a number of exams on the Legal Practice Course (LPC). I spent money on a number of resit examinations and on private tuition.

Passing the LPC and securing a fee-earning paralegal position did little to quell Rob’s reluctance. “I did not enjoy the work I was doing and my chances of securing a training contract were very low,” and that was the end of that.

The LPC scuppered Laura’s chances of legal profession glory, too. It was smooth sailing during her LLB, an “excellent” experience, but then:

The first notable point of regret for me was during work experience with [a high-profile personal injury firm], it really did not interest me at all. I shrugged that off though and just assumed it was due to the fact it was not in the area I wanted to practice.

But the unease persisted. Once enamoured with the law, Laura — again a false name — tells us that just weeks into her LPC: “I quickly discovered that I actually just hate the way in which the legal career operated. As someone who believes everyone deserves the law to be accessible it didn’t sit well.”

The sacrificial nature of a legal career began to dawn; realising how difficult it’d be to settle down and start a family was the final nail in the coffin. Miserable, Laura dropped out after her first term, but assures Legal Cheek she’s much happier as a result.

Law is paraded as the safest, most lucrative degree of all — but it’s far from regret-proof. Sam, Rob and Laura were just three of many who got in touch with Legal Cheek to share their stories — it’s not even the first article we’ve done on the topic.

Are you too living with a law-shaped regret? We’d love to hear from you.

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Banter Commando 5

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


First time pass of all LPC exams, 85% Distinction average, now training at US firm.

Yeah, I’m salty mate.


LPC isn’t that hard anyway, I don’t see why people make such a fuss about it.


This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


You know your problem ? You’re a child, a pathetic idiot with no friends.

Everyone hates you, you know – even more than they occasionally pity you for your ignorance and rather sad attempts to seem alpha, “hard” and with it. Now find some pills and go and “off” yourself maggot !


This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


Best you can do Trumpendick !! Really ?

Pwahahah. Jog on…

So Sad

Everyone knows the Empirical Dodecahedron firms are the platinum standard. Big Bunny Rabbits, Pink Elephants and Delusional prestige.
So many false names and Harry Potter stories………..


I am Rob and Rob is I…. we literally share the same story! But I’m sticking it out just to say I’ve done it but boy is it grueling


Being a paralegal can be quite good. I’m bagging £40 an hour in overtime past 5:30pm ‘erry day, making it rain baby.


Uh, where? Most paralegals are on £26k straight outta the LPC in London?


Most, not all.

All US firms pay £19 an hour + overtime. Will get you £32k easily.


That is no kind of achievement – I was earning more than that, not long out of college, in the early 1990s. That’s without taking account of wage inflation.

If you are only getting £32k on that hourly rate then you are either doing short weeks, or someone is taking you for a ride.


Yeah right you fucko, tell that to the poor sods grinding it out at Pinsents for 27k. Lying hack.


Magic Circle firms pay too little these days.

Prestige can’t mitigate lower pay than the US firms.

It’s a high pressure job with considerable sacrifices combined with living in a very expensive city. MC firms attract a certain type and that’s fair enough. If you’re talented enough to get into the MC than your talented enough to get in anywhere and in that sense, you’re a mug if you settle for MC wages. You’re valuing yourself at half (and sometimes less) of what the market pays.


Salaries are basically the same at trainee level and after tax and student loan you only take home about £1k more at a US firm per month as an NQ. That’s a lot of money but there’s downsides to being in a US firm with their smaller teams and differing cultures, and they take far fewer people and their client roster isn’t as good. It really depends, but for a lot of people the difference between £4K/month and £5k/month isn’t enough to put up with being ruled by Americans, underresourced, and get the drastic cut and ridiculously negative attitude towards holidays.


Tell me which firms have such an attitude.

I’ve worked in two US firms so far, and none of what you said is true.


This sounds like a lot of self justifying as to why you’re not at a US firm.

An MC is on an average of c.80k including their bonus, 54k after tax, 4.5k a month. NQs at the top 15 or so US firms are on a c.115k base, and a min 10% bonus taking total to 126.5k. That’s a 46.5k pre tax difference. That’s 76.5k net, and 6.4k a month. And yet you claim that MC NQs post student loans are earning 4k and US associates are making 5.
Suggest you take some basic maths/reality check.

As far as the rest goes, US firms are not homogenous, but I can tell you that all of the shops which recruit trainees, and most of the US firms in the city, are anglicised. The majority of staff and partners are British, there is no “attitude” towards not taking holiday.

If you knew anything about the market, you’ll know that US firms have stolen the best partners from MC firms and have just as good clients as the MC…US firms dominate PE, finance and high value transactional work…all the money is in the US for these deals and look at the US firms, not at the MC necessarily.


Wholly agreed. I’d just also add that the US firms are increasingly dominant in big ticket litigation and international arbitration – its no accident that two of the three band 1 firms are US based (Skadden and WilmerHale).


I hate to argue over this kind of nonsense at length but you’re wrong:

£125,000/year is £10,417/month. Of this, all is taxable as you lose the personal allowance so it’s £3,608/mo income tax and £502/mo NI. Student loan (which I explicitly included) is £806. That leaves £5,500 on the nose. Don’t know where 6.4 came from.

As you see me self-justifying, I think your hysterical tone suggests you’re the one desperate to explain to yourself why you’re better off at an American than an MC. I’m not suggesting for a second that it’s stupid or wrong to work at a US firm, it’s just comical how people come on here to scream about how US firms are obviously better because they pay more. If you’re so money obsessed, be a banker because even US money isn’t comparable.

As for holiday, last time I checked Latham were offering a pitiful 23 days/year. They’ve now removed it from their grad recruitment site, presumably because they know how woeful it is. I can’t see it on any of the US sites I look at while the MC are all open about offering 28. I know enough senior people who moved from the MC to various US that what you’re saying about holiday attitudes simply isn’t true across the board, even if it is for your firm.

As for the ‘best partners’… Well they’ve certainly stolen a chunk, but it’s funny how the MC still completely dominates FTSE100 and global banking clients if, as you say, all the good ones have left. It might be true for niche specialisms like PE, but for the massive headline deals and the enormously lucrative global advisory work the big players are still instructing the MC every time.

There’s plenty of benefits to working at a US firm. Obviously the money is good, and career progression is faster. The opportunity to work more with the US is also clearly a big draw for many people. I simply don’t understand why embittered juniors rejected from the MC have to trawl out such vitriol as your comment and the one I originally replied to just to satisfy your fragile egos.



6.4k a month.

Problem with using student loans to try to manipulate the numbers are, i) I’m not sure what pay back figures you’re using – for me, and others like me, indeed all current NQs, didn’t pay 9k, and are of the 3k gen, ii) the loans will get paid back anyway – if you’re earning more the faster they get paid back and iii) there is nasty interest on your loans, it’s not just adjusted to inflation – so the longer you take to payback the more money you have to pay out in interest. It’s not tax, it’s a debt you have to pay back.

There’s a huge pay differential between MC and US – and you know that. The other thing is the pay differential gets bigger year by year. The bonuses in the US are much better than the MC – the 10% figure is just for the first year, the % goes up a lot year on year and becomes quite substantial – MC bonuses are a joke in comparison. It also used to be the case that the pension schemes and healthcare benefits in the MC used to be pretty tidy compared to the US firms which were almost non existent about 10 years ago – not the case now, it’s mostly even stevens.

Most US firms allow 25 days holiday. The vast majority. I think Latham and Debs might be the exceptions at 23/24 days. Whoopdedoo. The MC do not all offer 28 days holiday; as far as I’m aware the majority of the MC, Freshfields, A&O and Clifford Chance do 25 days, and Links and Slaughters have only quite recently upped theirs to 27 and 30 respectively in lieu of raising salaries. To repeat, there is no culture of stigma towards taking holidays at US firms compared to the MC. Like most firms, you’re encouraged to take the holiday else it rolls over under company policy – and the firms do not want unhappy employees, it’s bad for morale and business.

You’re referencing the culture in the US and misappropriating it to the UK. In the US, it is a different culture across the country. They might take less holiday. They take something like 3 weeks paid A/L but they have more public holidays than we do, and there’s a culture of taking unpaid leave. We’re not in the US. We’re managed by Brits who have worked in British firms all their careers.

The US firms are doing the headline deals, but you’ll have fewer of them because there are smaller teams and less people. And you’ll have people you can count on one hand doing a billion pound deal whilst the MC firm will have dozens doing the same thing.


Within the profession (and, crucially, within UK industries), MC firms are still more respected.


Bollocks. Absolute bollocks. MC firms have a much larger footprint in London where they’re HQ’ed. US firms in London focus on high value, highly profitable areas. That’s one reason why they are so much more profitable.

In recruitment, top junior jobs all spec MC or US trained, and often include SC. I trained in the MC btw. Never met anyone who moved who has looked back.


And also who cares about slight or non existent subjective perceptions of respect about an entity you work for? It’s like bragging about your dad’s mate’s sports car. All that matters is your job, the work you do, the culture, the ethos, your colleagues, partners, your take home and your exits.

And by the way recruiters are pretty savvy that a big chunk of the MC trainees and juniors aren’t any cop. CC takes 100 odd trainees, chances are many, many of them will be duffers. US firms can be more selective and are known to push trainees and juniors with more responsibility earlier.

mc finance MA

in UK industries do you mean in steel or in agriculture? truly the cetnre of gravity in finance has always been US, sure UK has substantial financial power…but it begs the question: for how long.

idk the brain drain is real, almost everyone in the department is hunting for a jump to US firms. and these US outfits are getting smarter. sure, UK hq banks will still go to mc but US firms are changing tack, they are leveraging their strong r/s with big US banks (JP, GS etc) in the States to get the UK side to work more with US firms.

the strategy is starting to work. we see more US firms on the panel and give it a few years, the balance will truly shift.

now time to jump ship before the rest of my colleagues realize this.


To be honest, that’s what happens when you allow people studying History, Geography or Hospitality degree’s to practice law without obtaining a ‘proper’ legal education. It is sad enough that there are thousands of students reading law who are only motivated by the potential earnings rather than a career itself, let alone those who are doing random degrees and suddenly realizing that they somehow developed a passion for law.


Some of the best lawyers I met in practice were former History or Geography or Philosophy majors from leading British universities. Quit talking smack you salty mullet.

Also, *degrees.


Some of the ‘best’ lawyers were Oxford History grads right? Presumingly practicing in the commercial bar? Oh dear.


Around half of junior barristers have non-law first degrees.


precisely, I think the GDL just misses the point of a proper legal education. the substance is definitely more rigorous in law and missing that appreciation is kinda sad. no wonder elsewhere in the world this doesn’t happen.


Yeah, I definitely need a course in jurisprudence to really *get* that MR01. I frequently find myself being outperformed by colleagues who have an LLB…oh wait nope. I just the firms precedent/PLC like every other person.

* Not saying that an LLB isn’t hella-awesome. It obviously is and I love me some Marxist theory.


This article would have been better and more helpful if you had outlined what each candidate was doing now – although I appreciate the anonymity issue. It’s difficult to know what else to go into for lots of people.


Law isn’t for everyone. A great salary won’t be commensurate to many who value their personal lives.


Legal recruitment for one. We can make as much, if not more, than most city lawyers. Much better hours and perks too.


Mega heh @ chinnies making more than City lawyers. You high mate?


It must be fun spending your day trolling people who aren’t interested in a new job


Show me a 23 year old recruiter on £100k and I’ll eat my grandma’s discharge.


Actually, if you can build the business, it can be quite lucrative. But you need to reach a certain level of turnover to maintain that, and it is really sensitive to the general ups and downs of the economy – so you’ll boom when your clients are doing well, but you’ll go bust quickly if they even tighten their belts a little.

It’s is probably also only worthwhile as a principal, if you are just a junior recruiter you are going to be the first out of a job, and if you’re in that position you won’t walk into another job because the whole industry will be in the same position.

LL and P

Recruiters earn a lot, the bonuses for placing candidates in roles is quite high.

Having said that, most recruiters are C U Next Tuesdays, it is a boring job with no intellectual challenge and if you are junior i.e. a resourcer, then you are in trouble if they make redundancies as it is not a highly skilled job. You can be replaced when junior, less so when you become senior and have a following. Honestly would prefer to work in a charity and feel good about myself than spend my working life wearing sharp suits and selling lies to people.


“Sharp suits” eh?

You mean those ghastly Moss Bros’ polyester three-pieces and vinyl loafers one gets to see around Liverpool Street station?

If you like a laugh, drop by the Dirty Martini nearby, that’s chinny central every Thursday.


Katie King I love your magical way with words. It makes me melt. You make me melt.


Oh poor little middle class white boy with the accidental training contract. Get a grip.

Luke from Facilities

Seriously, we have had numerous complaints about you making popcorn in the kitchen areas. Please stop.


*gets bin, upends it over the floor, takes all the yoghurts and milk from the fridge and tips them up over the work tops, pours tin of baked beans into microwave and puts it on high for 1hour, rubs walls with used tea bags*


Oscar from Surrey

It isn’t easy, you know. When I was growing up I would go away on perhaps 4 or 5 foreign holidays a year. Now I am junior in my career, a proper adult and all that jazz, but I can barely afford 2 or 3. Sometimes I even have to go to a supermarket rather than a proper market. Life is tough for everyone – the measure of happiness is expectation less reality, with a low resulting score being best (preferably in the negative).

Rupert from Esher

I totally agree.

The money that mummy sends me each month barely covers rent, and I live in a very modest 2 bed only in Fulham so nowhere too swish. Once you add in membership at the club, golfing costs, holidays and such, there is barely enough left for a couple of cheeky Vimtos on a Friday night.

Whilst the above may sound a bit ridiculous to some, that is the life that I know and that is what I have always aspired to, and what should be expected of me. If I do not achieve that, I am not happy. Dave or Barry from Sheffield could probably buy a local hut and a 4 pack of Stella and they will be about on a par in terms of expectations vs reality to me.

Corbyn. Sympathiser

Dave and Barry from Sheffield sound like they’d be more fun to be around than you.

Oscar's concerned mother from Surrey

Oscar, my dear, you haven’t visited home in over 3 weeks now. Your lawn tennis membership is up for renewal and you haven’t told Mummy whether you want to continue with the platinum membership package. Please do get in touch, poppet.

Proud always and forever, Mummy and Daddy xx

PS. remember what I said about using sliced cucumber for the dark circles under your eyes. They were most noticeable at the dinner table last Christmas.

Formless Being

What units is prestige measured in?
What is the transfer rate of pounds to prestige?


Failed modules on the LPC..? Think I’ll pick up some life lessons elsewhere – imbecile.


Re MC trainee, tbf hardly anyone ‘loves’ it and most find it tolerable. If you haven’t done a law degree, by no means does it mean you will be a worse lawyer, but you need to know what you’re getting into and most don’t. A geography or construction degree would be better than a law degree if you specialised in e.g real estate. But politics isn’t going to be much use.

I have no sympathy for those who regret. They would have basically lied through the TC interviews to get the gig. A lot of the interview is a tst of motivation and wishy washy answers don’t get you far.


I lied, I lied, I lied, and I continue to lie. I now hate it half the time and enjoy it the other half. I used to hate it 75%. Perhaps I will end up 100% liking it. I think I will most likely continue to lie, quit, and lie about wanting another career. Then I will realise I don’t like it and decide I shouldn’t have left law, and try to lie my way back in, if they’ll have me back.

I love to tell lies, when I tell a successful lie and someone genuinely believes it, I feel powerful. I feel like I have cheated them, and that I am the winner. I have the power to fool them, to throw them off my scent and to trick them.

Most greedy partners deserve to be lied to.


Who hasn’t lied at a TC interview? How many 20 year olds are truly passionate about commercial law?


What I mean specifically is his childlike naivety. The reasons for his regret are mapped out as the job i) not having a positive social impact and ii) requiring him to work long hours.

Cry me a river. You should know this and accept it going in.

No one is passionate about “commercial law” (which doesn’t actually even really exist in any easily definable sense), but you can be interested in e.g. aspects of high value transactional work.

If you go into it knowing you’re generally going to have a bunch of relatively nice, gregarious, smart colleagues, will be doing often challenging, often mundane work for very long hours for a (compared to the rest of the country) generous compensation but won’t be saving the world or doing God’s work… then your expectations will be well met.


So ‘Sam’ got into law without really thinking about it, and ‘Rob’ ended up bemoaning the very aspects of law that his sister warned him about (he ignored her perfectly legitimate warning in other words). It seems to me that they might have avoided those regrets with a bit more thought and consideration before making those choices.

It’s easier to be more sympathetic to someone who has been sold a fundamentally different version of a career in law than what they got. Certainly many of my fellow students thought it was going to be a lot more glamorous and a lot less difficult than it was.


Having earned a healthy income beforehand, I went back to university to do the LPC and LLM, partly out of interest. Having some 10 years of experience on the majority of the other students, I have found it interesting and a little disheartening to hear there plans.
Intersting in the sense of the optimism and self belief, however disheartening as many will not achieve what they intend to…namely secure a training contract let alone in an area they choose. However, the skills learned are invaluable to other careers, which often have salaries on par or better than a legal career..often without taking over your life as much. The challenge is many recruiters think narrowly when you are trying to sell yourself.
Case in point, I have an MBA. I have had recruiters and hiring managers tell me it is useless; however, when asked if they knew what an MBA entailed, they often did not and I have on several occasions used this to my advantage.
One thing I would say to never overlook in your career. Be sociable. By that I mean engage with people you meet. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like them or agree with what they say, sometime being pleasant and engaging can pay dividends. No one wants to employe a person will blistering academics and the social capital of a dried Rivita, unless you intend to spend your career in a darkened room trawling though data.


So many typos lol. For a guy who is acting so superior your writing style is downright awful


Seriously, someone needs to install Grammarly on their device.


“hear there plans.”

That must be some quality MBA you got there mate, is it the one offered by BPP perchance? LOL.


‘An intellectually stimulating degree is hard currency, and God knows adoring relatives will adore you even more if you so much as entertain a legal career.’

I just don’t understand this sentence. Did you miss a word or something?


Articles like this make a career in law almost seem unnatural and socially unacceptable to normal human beings, but I think it’s very possible for a person to enjoy the law for what it is. The issue with these high-paying jobs is not that the legal profession itself is a terrible thing, but that it requires a soft set of skills that most people can bullshit through to begin with but is much harder to master, and so attracts a lot of ambivalent and clueless people who think it’s easy money.

A lot of people seem to “stumble” into law and later find out it’s not as easy as it seemed to begin with. News flash, if you don’t understand your job, you’re not likely to enjoy it. If it turns out to be harder than you anticipated, it might be time to relinquish your sense of entitlement.


This is basically correct – for many one of the hardest parts is managing everything that comes with working in a City firm – you need soft skills (which Ruper and Oscar above will no doubt have picked up at school).


guys, LC’s ploy of stoking emotions and increasing site visits is working!

1. post a controversial title
2. barely say anything substantial about said title
3. let the comments rip


I am shocked by some of the disgusting comments left here. I don’t know why people are so keen to engage in silly school boy style talk.

But also, I left a perfectly reasonable, completely inoffensive comment which was deleted, so I’m not quite sure Legal Cheek you are monitoring these comments effectively.


‘Silly school boy style talk’

Please expand on this point


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