The 2020 Firms Most List goes live

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Your ultimate, must-read guide to lawyer life at over 90 law firms

The definitive student guide to life as a lawyer at the leading corporate law firms in the UK has gone live with its 2020 edition.

The latest Legal Cheek Firms Most List features over 90 law firms, including all the magic circle, the major US MoneyLaw firms in London, UK-based global elite players and top mid-tier outfits.

Now in its fifth year, the list can be arranged by many different criteria: from the number of training contracts offered to trainee and newly qualified (NQ) solicitor salaries; from diversity statistics to latest trainee retention scores; from average arrive and leave the office times (data exclusive to Legal Cheek) to client and international secondment opportunities. If it’s not on the list, then it’s probably not worth knowing.

NEW: The 2020 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Each firm in the list has a detailed profile, containing a unique ‘The Legal Cheek View’ analysis of what they’re really like as a place to work (chock-full with fun and informative titbits from our anonymous trainee insiders) and how they have been performing recently. They each have an ‘Insider Scorecard’, too, with the grades (ranging from A* to D) they received in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2019-20. This year’s survey — the largest to date — received over 2,000 responses.

The Scorecards feed into our annual Awards ceremony, the next of which is being held at Sea Containers House, the swish riverside building located on London’s South Bank, on 26 March 2020.

The enhanced profiles include a breakdown of the universities current trainees attended, a short ‘The Firm in its Own Words’ highlights clip as well as easy access to firms’ social media and graduate recruitment pages.

There are a handful of new additions to the list. These include London-based US outfits Orrick, Paul Hastings and Vinson & Elkins, and national players Thrings and VWV. Media and tech firm Wiggin has also been added to the roster, making this year’s list our most comprehensive so far.

Whilst you’re browsing be sure to check out the recently-refreshed Legal Cheek Key Deadlines Calendar, which contains all the major firms’ graduate recruitment deadlines. You can download the Legal Cheek iPhone and Android apps to get key deadline notifications delivered straight to your phone.

Two current undergraduate students explain why they use the Firms Most List:

Holly Hill, second year law and Spanish student at the University of Bristol

“I find Legal Cheek’s Firm Most List extremely helpful and use it as a comparison tool for firms that I am interested in applying to. It makes it very easy to compare diversity and inclusion statistics such as ‘Most UK female associates’ and ‘Most UK BME partners’ to get an idea of the culture of a firm and how they embrace difference, without having to individually search on each firm’s website and scour through pages of material.”

Tilly Morgan, final year law student at London Metropolitan University

“As a disabled student I find the Firms Most List useful for understanding the culture at different firms. The hours section is particularly useful for understanding what’s normal and expected and how that can fit in to a work/life balance or managing work as someone with a disability. It’s also incredibly useful to see grant and salary information and all the open applications in one place. It’s so much simpler than looking through the individual firm’s pages and gives a more holistic view of each firm including ratings. It’s very simple to read and an excellent resource for researching different firms.”

Other Legal Cheek law careers resources include the Chambers Most List, GDL Most List, LPC Most List and BPTC Most List.

NEW: The 2020 Legal Cheek Firms Most List


Tempa T










This is the kind of content we are (not) paying for!



Good effort, but incomplete and wrong. Orrick now pays £105k NQ, NRF are now on £80k NQ and WFW upped to £73,700. Paul Hastings also pays way more than £111k, try £130k base.


Orrick Astley

Never gonna give you up…


Rolling eyes

Also the guesses of magic circle base pay is misleading (“93k is a estimate” -if you don’t know don’t state any figures at all)


Norton Fanatic

NRF only rose to 80k???? Did they even state a bonus package


Penis Pump

Can I just point out that the A&O profile hasn’t been updated with the fact that the A&OM merger failed

Despite Legal Cheek reporting on it weeks ago

Well done lads


Overworked trainee

Another hard day at the office. Now off to the pub



NQ Associate

Stop bragging, I once spent 2.5 days without sleep filing a case in a court


K&E Phatman



Robert F Kennedy

Are Kennedys really paying just 53k to their NQs? Seems very low for a City firm.


Are you speaking about Kennedy’s of Gospel Oak or Barbican? They serve decent fist and chips.


Former Bazza

Kennedys are mainly a a pile it high defendant Insurance outfit .YOY, downward pressure on fees, much of which is done on a fixed fee model.
So 53k in London is about as much as they can pay without partners taking a massive haircut


Robert F Kennedy

Even DAC are paying more. Time to move to Clydes.



Why are firms like Fried Frank not mentioned? The have trainees in London, hire associates laterally. Firms like STB too – no trainees but quite big in London now.


Anonymous (why do I have to enter this now?)

fried frank with chips a shet office but pay is FAT $$$$


Angus, Exeter University LL.B.

Elite firm…stella whack and nice London offices by the BoE


Tolstoy's harmonica

F*ck off Angus, no one cares


Trainee above

Just to expand (wasn’t sure if my comment would be moderated) I am at a US firm mentioned. Trainee salaries are nearly a year out of date and the associate salaries are about 30k out. The trainee quotes look made up and most of the material looks like it was appropriated from Chambers. There are some minor inaccuracies and no mention of the substantial new stuff which has happened in the last two years.

Other than that, great work guys



What firm?



Presumably somewhere of the O Melvenie ilk


Cod Bite

Salmon didn’t retain 100%


Shearman 2PQE

How can someone make themselves work City firm hours for less than £100k NQ is unbelievable.


CMS 4th Seat Trainee

No wonder everyone is leaving my team.



I’ll be lucky to have half of that when I qualify… and I’m in M&A/Private Equity :/



Lmao private equity, in the regions? Pull another one gonzo



Seems like a joke, but actually completely the opposite….

Deals are very high profile, the problem is that the focus is not the London market.


Angus, Exeter University LL.B.

What are you working on chap? LBOs of fish and chip shops?


Tolstoy's bicycle

Told you to f*ck off Angus, yet you’re still here.


Angus, Exeter University LL.B.

Chap! Take it easy and watch the rugger.


Can we see a photo please? What are the dimensions?



Mishcon can’t be paying a measly 72k to NQ’s surely. That’s would mean they’re paying less than 2Birds hahahaha



Too busy sending millions to pannick, fuck trainees.



They aren’t. 75k NQ but beasty for the dolla.?


US firm

Latham is higher than £130k base



They need to keep up with the pay rises



Listen, I want to know Top 3 salary as a NQ. I’m guessing Kirkland will be no 1? This is purely money. If I want to earn as much money as possible, which firm is the best? Don’t give a shit about quality of work, work life balance etc. Although attractive secretaries would be a bonus (look but don’t touch). Tell me practice area and firm. Cheers.


No full stops

You sound like a complete tool

Partly because you’re trying to be funny but don’t really have a clue

Secretaries in the city are all basically middle aged Essex housewives for example

You talk about work life balance but clearly are still a student and have never really worked a day in your life

I was like that too 10 years ago so fair enough

There is no top 3 salary

US firms pay what is market otherwise they lose associates

So the idea that US firms pay 45/50k still (maybe there are one or two but there those US firms listed in LC paying that including mine which definitely don’t

Associate salaries are around 135-145 everywhere, bonuses become a significant part of salary and they vary

Not many people last more than 3-5 years in US firms and the amount saved in that time given progressive tax (which you probably don’t even understand properly), living fairly close to the office and paying a little bit over what you might ordinarily because you don’t have time to shop around or because you urgently need something etc means most people aren’t rich

Partners have average shabby mid terraces in north London, associates live in ordinary 2 bed flats

It’s a middle class lifestyle and you won’t be strapped for cash like teachers but equally stress and lack of time means you pay more for things

On balance probably better to forget law if you want money, you might make nearly as much or as much doing something else working half the hours

Law firms have a business model of taking young people, working then 24/7 and chucking them out when they become too expensive



This is true, but I’m at a US firm and probably have a better lifestyle and more disposable cash for holidays etc throughout the year than I would otherwise. I also save a decent amount each month and am not in a rush to buy. Not that bad.


Legal Recruiter

Work in legal recruitment! I earn what these US associates earn, and more! And do bare minimum! I trained and qualified at a Top 100 firm in 2013, no looking back now.



You’re also hated more than estate agents.


Person above

One thing I also forgot to mention: law ages you. It ages you really badly. I definitely think most associates add about 5 years their face. And pretty much everyone is either skinny fat, fat or very fat. Can’t move all day. Stuck on the 24th floor in an air con office with minimal sunlight developing a Vit D deficiency. So it takes like 10 minutes to leave and get back in the building even if you had time to have fresh air. Then you have tiredness, fatigue and lack of sleep together with high stress and high cortisol. Very few eat healthy and very difficult to be able. You never will have time to cook and it’s novel maybe at first ordering from Deliveroo and getting dinner from restaurants being charged on the client, but pretty much everything is dosed with sodium and sugar and the calories get atmospheric. It makes the food taste better. And you rarely have any time to work out.

Just an FYI.


Angus, Exeter University LL.B.

Chap! That’s so depressing. You should keep the rugger going at the weekend!



Highly underrated comment and shows the real life effects other than money and billables.



Deleting comments again. Cucks.


Lady Hale

No wonder they can’t even get a couple of court bundles right.


Comments are closed.

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