Linklaters isn’t for the faint-hearted. But there are few more prestigious places to begin a legal career. The firm consistently scores well for training in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, but it can be a demanding environment. Such standards are likely why the firm recorded yet another year of solid financial results, with revenues of £1.79 billion and profit per equity partner (PEP) increasing by a steady 5.4% to £1.87 million.
The firm’s healthy numbers come following a period of change across its upper ranks. Charismatic senior partner and deal-maker Charlie Jacobs, who formerly headed the firm’s reputable corporate practice, moved over to banking titan JP Morgan in February 2021. He was replaced by global corporate head Aedamar Comiskey, who in turn became the first woman to lead the firm in its 183-year history. Meanwhile, capital markets partner Paul Lewis was installed as managing partner, succeeding Gideon Moore, who held the role since 2016.
And this stellar team certainly have their work cut out, with the favourable exchange rates making the golden doors of the US firms ever more alluring to aspiring lawyers and NQs alike. Currently, Linklaters is holding tight with raising NQ pay, which currently sits at £107,500. While the firm’s refusal to participate in the City’s pay war may have long-term consequences, it does not appear to be affecting the choices of junior lawyers on the cusp of qualification ― the firm posted a retention rate of 92% in their latest round, and as the City’s second largest TC provider (recruiting around 100 trainees annually), Linklaters can always afford to shed a few newbies who have their heads turned by the bright lights of flashier firms.
This high retention rate becomes somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, with trainees citing it as one of the reasons why the culture at the firm is so good. “Due to the firm’s high retention rates, there is no competitive atmosphere in the firm and trainees are encouraged to work together and help each other,” one rookie explains. Obviously, the larger intake size means there are always going to be a few bad apples, but it also means that “you can easily make new friends”. And a lot of these friendships are formed even before the trainees officially start, during their legal studies ― because what doesn’t bond a group of people together like giving them a crushing workload to complete in a short space of time? But this does do the job of preparing the rookies for life at a magic circle firm, and the bonds formed between the junior lawyers mean that help is always to hand on a late-night slog: “I’ve had chunky late evening work requests where a fellow trainee has volunteered to split the work with me of their own volition, knowing that I will return the favour when they are under the cosh.”
The praise continues when the trainees are questioned about how approachable their superiors are. While many use terms such as “most” and “on the whole”, for an office as big as Linklaters’ London HQ, this is to be expected. Insiders also mention that “there is no strict hierarchical feeling in the office. There is an open door and inclusive culture”.
The culture clearly translates into a positive learning environment for the junior lawyers. “Training is top-class and enables you to do well,” one rookie enthuses. Another gives this detailed breakdown of the training at the firm: “The training here is fantastic, there are weekly training seminars on a variety of topics and each session is recorded for anyone to watch at a later date. The precedents are excellent and always include detailed drafting notes or annexures, as well as extensive memos on a variety of precedents, clauses, issues and legal concepts. Trainees and associates are encouraged to complete pieces of knowhow alongside their chargeable work, so the internal resources are constantly being updated. The associates and partners are very approachable and always prepared to answer question and sit down and run through documents with you. We are also given training on non-legal topics ― such as D&I, which are fantastic.”
Of course, as with anything, the level of training will differ between teams ― as will the type of work afforded to the newbies. However, the latter invokes slightly less praise from the trainees than the former: “The work is generally highly stimulating, but there are definitely administrative tasks that are not, like maintaining trackers or processing billing. There are also tasks given to trainees that should definitely been given to paralegals or LPM teams, so it feels like a waste of time and resources,” one mole tells Legal Cheek.
But whether you’re “researching (and occasionally presenting) advice on a complex and untested legal issue which could influence the outcome of a multi-billion-pound matter” or “slogging away amending billing narratives”, you may as well do it with a view. And come 2026, this will be the case for the Linklaters crew when the firm moves just up the road to a brand new home on Ropemaker Street. Until then, the firm continues to be based right next to the Barbican Centre on Silk Street, which has been its home since 1996. Unfortunately for the current cohort, this shows ― our spies describe the current office as “a bit dated” and “in need of a facelift”. “Let’s just say the move to Ropemaker Street can’t come soon enough!”, another rookie adds. Couldn’t have put it better ourselves ― with an auditorium and not one, but two, roof terraces, we’re certainly looking forward to seeing the new office!
If you’re looking to spend some of your TC in a different office while on secondment, then the stats look promising. The impact of the pandemic on international secondments seems to have eased, with just under a quarter of the junior lawyers surveyed having completed one. Destinations include Dubai, Amsterdam, Shanghai and Madrid. With 30 offices across 20 countries, there’s certainly a lot of choice! Client secondments are less common, but several rookies had the opportunity of completing one at banking heavyweights such as Lloyds Banking Group.
For most firms nowadays, the newest office is the home ― but seemingly not for Linklaters, which is hurrying back to the office as quickly as possible. We are told that trainees are only allowed to work from home 10% of the time ― though this goes up to between 20%-50% for associates. And the offerings from the firm regarding a WFH set-up don’t impress rookies much: “They gave us a £200 budget when we first joined the firm, but have not given any top-up since. Budget was enough just to buy a keyboard, mouse and monitor (we were given free headsets), and we were not allowed to buy printers with the budget,” one insider explains. The tech itself doesn’t inspire much joy either ― the laptops and phones reportedly have “lots of bugs” and even where the firm has “advanced” legal tech, it is “not always used by everyone (probably because they aren’t aware of it)”.
But the biggest drawback of working at a Magic Circle firm is, of course, the work/life balance. The reports of a lack of this are exactly what you’d expect from a firm dishing out an NQ salary of £107.5k. As one mole puts it, “it’s the price you pay for working at a Magic Circle firm”. “Unpredictable” is a term used a lot by the rookies when describing their workload, and it seems the greater flexibility offered to superiors when it comes to working patterns only causes further problems for the juniors: “An unfortunate consequence for many trainees is that they will always be on call right through the evening in order to accommodate the different working styles of their superiors.” Saying that, some teams are apparently better than others, and “where you flag that you have plans in advance, people generally try to respect that”.
Luckily, the firm makes up for its demanding nature with some of the perkiest perks the City has to offer. There’s an in-house gym and fitness centre that is completely free ― though there are reports that “you can hardly ever use it”. If it proves too busy, there’s always a gym membership subsidy too. But if you can get a spot, it’s worth it ― we’ve heard it has boutique hotel standards of towels and toiletries, and even hair straighteners. Speaking of hair, how many offices do you know that have their own onsite salon? Mind you, the Amsterdam office apparently offers massages, so anything less will be a comedown after a secondment there. A firm doctor and dentist, meanwhile, is on hand to see to employees’ health needs. The canteen — called ‘Silks’ — is the sort of upmarket foodhall more usually associated with lunching in Chelsea or Beverly Hills. And if you’re working late, there’s free Deliveroo. Finally, there are always the numerous “office trips and team away days”. So just a few perks, then…