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Nearly a third of magic circle trainees went to Oxbridge

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This despite making up less than 1% of each year’s graduating class

Nearly a third of magic circle rookies went to Oxbridge, new research has revealed.

The findings, based on interviews with 2,500 trainees over the past three years, show that 31% of trainee solicitors at the elite fivesome — Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Linklaters and Slaughter and May — completed an undergraduate degree at Oxford or Cambridge. This comes despite Oxbridge students making up less than 1% of each year’s graduating class.

Russell Group grads, excluding Oxbridge, made up 47% of magic circle trainees, while 13% came from other UK institutions and 9% studied overseas.

The research, compiled by Chambers Student Guide, also highlights the superduo’s dominance across the City’s mega-paying US firms, with 24% of trainees boasting Oxbridge credentials. Fifty percent of US trainees attended a Russell Group uni, 17% studied at another UK institution, while 9% completed their undergrad degree overseas.

The 2019 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

The new (and perhaps unsurprising) stats, come amid a mini-summer pay war which has seen all five magic circle players up junior lawyer pay packages to over £100,000. Despite hefty uplifts, US firms, however, continue to dominate pay proceedings, Legal Cheek‘s Firms Most List showing the likes of Akin Gump, Debevoise & Plimpton and Kirkland & Ellis, dishing out salaries northwards of £143,000 a year.

Elsewhere, the findings show that Oxford supplied the most trainee solicitors between 2016-2018 (7.9%), with Cambridge (7.5%) and Durham (6.2%) in second and third spot, respectively. Bristol placed fourth with 5.5%.

Commenting on the findings, Sal Francis Morton, senior research analyst at Chambers Student Guide, said:

“Law firms lock their gaze on graduates from these prestigious universities, knowing they don’t have to look far for the brightest and most driven candidates. Since employability is a factor in a university’s status and funding, this is a convenient relationship for both the firms and the universities, so it’s hard to break.”

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80 Comments

Anonymous

So

They’re just the best grads, selected from exam after exam after exam since the age of 11

Bovvered

Red brick Criminal Bod

Surprised it’s not more, frankly.

Anonymous

The results might chance now that Oxbridge are diluting intake quality even more in favour of tickbox PC pandering to candidates with poorer academics but a sob story. Slowly applications are turning in X factor auditions.

Anonymous

Too true. I cancelled by annual college fund donation when I read about the appalling new policies adopted by Oxford.

Anonymous

In other news water is wet, bears sh*t in the woods and the pope is catholic

Anonymous

Can’t really fault them to be honest. After hearing about all the work Oxbridge student have to do and the accompanying tutoring, it’s no wonder why employers would prefer students with this background.
And I say this as someone who didn’t go there to study. And if for whatever reason I ever have to do recruiting work, chances are, I’ll look into Oxbridge students first.

Anonymous

But they dont do coursework and their essays are always done to a lower standard as a result

yeah, you've no idea...

Lolz “coursework” – cute.

Try getting through an hour/hour and half long tutorial/supervision with an academic and a tute/supo. partner with an essay done to a “lower standard” and then come back to me brah.

Anonymous

I think you’re referring to Warwick undergrads.

Future L&W trainee

The most well paying grad roles have lots of grads from the two best universities in the country shock. So silly to make this out as just an oxbridge thing. UCL/LSE/Kings grads as the next most desirable grads will probably make up the next most well represented unis amongst new trainees. This is an article just saying that well qualified people are getting high paid jobs…

Pedant

From experience, Durham and Warwick outnumber those from London.

Anonymous

Durham I could understand, but I never thought Warwick to be up there(?)

Anonymous

I’d consider the cohort size. Bristol has about 500 students in each year. Compare that to LSE that has around 150.

Anonymous

LSE is a top, top institution.

Anonymous

Warwick are surprisingly good these days. Think they must have a decent and realistic careers service. Durham grads tend to have a quite old-fashioned attitude, not very commercial – still think the MC is the only place to go and US firms are a flash in the pan. UCL/LSE/Kings, much more focused and ime better in interviews – maybe because being in London gives them more contact with firms in the run up to applications.

Childish Gambino

As someone who didn’t go to Durham and find the students from there to be a tad arrogant and posh, the idea that they are not commercial but UCL students are because one is in London and one isn’t, demonstrates perfectly why 16 year olds should ignore careers advice from 22 years. Go to the best University that you can get into and can afford to go to. And ignore the Guardian league tables.

Anonymous

Childish, life is too short to try to work out delineations other than the only one that matters, Oxbridge or not.

Anonymous

Warwick is a terrible university, packed with chippy, state school plebs.

Anonymous

Never would’ve thought there’d be something wrong coming from a state school.

Anonymous

But you use the word “would’ve” in written text. So what do you know?

Couldn't resist

Uhm, I went to state schools, Oxford, trained at and am now a Senior Associate at one of these firms and I use “would’ve” in written text.

There’s a time and a place for it, love. Pleadings = no. Chippy little internet forum = yes.

Anonymous

What about the likes of QMUL? I would’ve thought they’re just behind King’s / Durham.

Anonymous

Best firms want best educated candidates. I am shocked.

Anonymous

It’s true tbh people shouldn’t feel shocked or jealous as a recruiter it’s logical to think that way. If there minds it makes their jobs easier in some respects.

Anonymous

Is this really news? It’s common knowledge that people who go to better, highly ranked universities will go on to get better jobs and pay.

Grad Wreck

On the topic of diversity, grad recruiters are often now asked the question ‘how many students from non – Russell Group universities do you recruit?’

That’s too simplistic.

You can recruit diverse candidates from Oxbridge. You can recruit non-diverse candidates from non – Russell Group universities.

Anonymous

Bullsh*t. It’s about diversity of education just as much as it about ethnic, sex and background diversity.

Anonymous

Much better to have a upper middle class Asian women who went to Durham than a white working class man who went to Oxford.

Diversity? Done. Boxes? Ticked.

Anonymous

That’s how they appoint judges and silks. So why not be consistent?

Grad Wreck

Do you really think there is diversity in education at university? I don’t see that.

Most law degrees follow the same curriculum. Same text books. Very limited teaching time (excluding Oxbridge).

To think that someone will think differently because of the teaching at London Met compared to the teaching at KCL doesn’t really hold up I’m afraid.

Anonymous

What, so you’re telling me that the top law firms prefer recruiting from two of the best universities in the world rather than people with thirds from Southampton Solent? That’s what we call a scoop Tom, well done!

Anonymous

Guardian Top 3 Uni mate. Grad Rec is all over this.

Anonymous

Unsurprising. Recruiters don’t have magic powers that lets them see the true character and potential of applicants as some people seem to think. As far as their concerned, Oxbridge has the highest standards and statistically, are more likely to provide better recruits. Yes this is not perfect and there could be many factors in play such that a poly grad is better than an oxbridge grad but recruiters can’t tell and as it is statistically unlikely, going for the Oxbridge grad is simply the logical choice

Cantab

Firms look for smart, personable, charming people who can stand pressure and are willing to work hard. They can find these qualities, of course, in an ex-poly student; however if you take a hundred such students then perhaps 4 or 5 will demonstrate these qualities. By contrast, the number will be 20 – 30 amongst Oxbridge grads. So obviously more Oxbridge grads will receive offers; however the correlation isn’t indicative of a causal relationship.

Anonymous

Going to Oxbridge =/= becoming a good lawyer.

Anonymous

True, but it’s still a safer bet than some bum from City University, etc.

CITYBumMC

Well this City bum made it to CC so I guess we’re not all bad? Maybe it was good marks and a decent personality, didn’t crap the bed at the assessment centre? On second thought, it’s probably my Dad’s stellar connections. Lolololll

Anonymous

I went to Oxbridge but didn’t get a TC. Where’s my story?

(Now working in engineering)

Anonymous

Twist: he was an engineering student who never applied for TCs

Anonymous

Reality: Has a BA in art history and is generally unqualified for everything, yet British nepotism lets him waltz in to pretty much any role. Give it 5-10 years, he will be head of the BoE.

Anonymous

That’s not how engineering works. Suggest you think before commenting

Anonymous

Lol. I’m the original commentator:

Did an engineering degree, for some reason decided to go into law. Did GDL and LPC, couldn’t get a TC. Paralegalled for a few years (I’m now in my early thirties) before going back to engineering. I’m an aerospace engineer for a well-known European company. I enjoy my job and on a decent wage – just above 50k. Not as much as if I was a corporate lawyer, but then I also leave the office at 5 every day.

Bored City Friday

Let’s be honest, you had the academics but couldn’t compete. Applications or interview skills must have been lacking. I’m redbrick law, got 4 vac schemes at decent city firms and two TC offers. I didn’t get offers from top firms (no US or magic circle firms), but ended up at a decent shop and have a decent career. My experience of Oxbridge students who don’t get TCs have been either: public school and so firms actively discriminated against them (no judgement whether this is right or wrong btw); very socially awkward and low EQ; only apply for the very top firms and then miss the boat; not that much brighter than the competition. I had a trainee recently with an LLB from Exeter who ran rings around a Cambridge languages grad. Their CVs were basically the same, but of course to some Oxbridge carries so much weight it doesn’t matter they studied different subjects. So much of the job is practical and people based, you really do need all rounders.

The bar is entirely different, particularly the commercial bar. I want my barrister to be a complete nerd, and the commercial bar is not advocacy heavy. It is in fact research and drafting intense. Oxbridge is the best preparation for that, but there are of course exceptions.

Anonymous

Why as an engineer are you reading legal cheek?

Anonymous

That’s not a lot tho lol.

Anonymous

Shocking.

Should be closer to 90%..

(Speaking as someone who taught at London unis)

Anonymous

In my experience, there is ZERO discernible difference in abilities, intelligence and conscientiousness between those lawyers (and indeed any other profession) who are Oxbridge grads compared to those who didn’t study at Oxbridge.

Anonymous

Probably a fair point for the bottom 50% of Oxbridge who are reasonably fungible with the top 50% at the top tier Russell Groups. I was surprised how ordinary academically many of the students were at college. It is the top 15-25% at Oxbridge that are the real cream that cannot be matched.

Anonymous

I can spot the aut’s a mile off from Oxbridge

Anonymous

If you are Oxbridge, you are by definition brighter and better educated than a non-Oxbridge graduate.

Anonymous

And there was me thinking the majority went to Coventry or Wolverhampton

Anonymous

And? Add Durham, London and Bristol to the mix and the figure might be 60%. Firms like good unis. This is a desperate and attention seeking article.

Big Dolla

I wonder why Oxbridge grads are less prevalent amongst the ‘mega-paying US firms’?

Thoughts?

Uncertain

Not sure, maybe they are already choc-full of Harvard, Yale and Stanford stiffs?

Anonymous

Yes – I’m sure they’re all desperate to come and complete a training contract after those years of law school. Muppet

Anonymous

Because the UK Magic Circle has more class and longevity.

Big Dolla

You forgot the “/sarcasm”.

Anonymous

They’re not. I know of at least one largish firm (10-20 trainees p.a.) where the most recent intake is about 60% Oxbridge and nearly all of the rest are from Durham and London.

Bob the goat manager

You all sound like people who are not lawyers but would like to be.

I went to a university with a terrible reputation. Couldn’t go anywhere else because the good universities dont really like mature students. I left school with no GCSEs and did an access course after working as a builder for a bit. Now I’m in a decent chambers and regularity instructed by large national firms.

I mix with solicitors and barristers who went to good universities all the time. They are human beings. They have different qualities. It doesn’t matter where you went to university in the end (might at the beginning).

If you’re determined and clever you can make it. Dont rely on where you went to university as meaning you are owed something. You might be disappointed. You’re just a person who spent 3 short years somewhere or other. What you do next is what matters..

Posh liberal

Thanks Bob. Now could you remind me of your chambers please, just so I never instruct you for anything. I also prefer herbal tea to that rubbish with milk and two sugars thanks.
That’s a good lad.

Bob the goat manager

You cant instruct me. You’re a student.

Anonymous

What are the exit options like for a projects lawyer?

Anonymous

In-house at a big oil/gas firm in the Middle East for ten years. Zero tax, accomodation provided, get back to England and you’ll have enough money for a nice house in the Home Counties with minimal mortgage.

Anonymous

But you have to live in a cultural void with a bunch other second raters.

Eager Beaver

The idea that earning £300k as an inhouse lawyer at 10 years pqe, with zero tax makes you second rate, then sign me up. I personally can’t wait to hit that level of pqe and go offshore.

Anonymous

You are by definition a failure if you go offshore. Only passed-over associates and hopeless junior barristers leave practice in London. And you have to cope with the knowledge that everyone who matters looks down on you. The money you earn is out of all proportion to your professional standing and abilities.

Eager Beaver

“And you have to cope with the knowledge that everyone who matters looks down on you. ”

I’m sure the cash will help. You think I do this job for the crappy “prestige”, or to get the respect of people who don’t like me anyway? Muppet.

Anonymous

Enjoy that prestige as you commute from Clapham to the City every rainy morning to earn a pittance and then have Philip Hammond take 40 pence in the pound of it away. I’ll take a flat in Abu Dhabi, easy work, and a great expat lifestyle any day.

Oh and unless you’re one of the lucky few (by which I mean less than 5%) who ends up making partner at an MC/SC/US shop, you too are going to become a ‘failure’ when you inevitably move in-house or get sidelined into a of counsel job. If I’m going to fail, I’d rather make a good living from it.

Anonymous

At least you acknowledge you are a failure if you work somewhere like Abu Dhabi.

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