Moving from a silver circle to a US firm? Watch

skanta479
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All,

I hope to be training with a silver circle firm (think HSF, Ashurst) to be confirmed after the VS this winter.

Has anyone here trained at a similar firm and moved to a US firm as an NQ? Broadly, what was the experience like? Was it easy/hard? How long before you qualified did you know/start preparing for your move etc?
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JohanGRK
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I know a couple of people at Macfarlanes and Travers who moved to high-paying US PE-oriented shops (Debevoise, Weil) as associates. They either left the profession soon thereafter or returned to their original firm to make partner (!)

jacketpotato may have some insights
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jacketpotato
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I trained at one of the firms you mentioned and found it pretty easy to secure interviews with US firms around qualification time as the market was pretty buoyant and I qualified into a practice area that was in demand.

The easiest time to move as an associate is about 2-5 PQE when recruiters message you constantly. Though it is possible to move as an NQ - the market right now seems fairly buoyant.

I started thinking about a possible move before qualification, though I did not end up actually moving until a few years post-qualification. Though I ended up moving to a UK firm rather than a US firm.

There is no harm in talking to recruiters about what your options are and what roles are available. I would suggest just responding to a few ads on places like the jobs board on thelawyer.com and going from there. The recruitment market is very opaque, they don't give many details in public ads - you only really get the low-down when you actually speak to recruiters.

US firms have a certain stereotype, but there are a lot of US firms in the market now and many of them are quite different. You still get the very high paying PE shops where you get beasted to within an inch of your life (e.g. Weil, K&E). But you also firms with a more reasonable approach to work life balance albeit with lower salaries. And you get US firms (e.g. places like Reed Smith) which sit somewhere in the middle and I imagine have a similar approach to places like Ashurst and HSF.

K&E often seems to be recruiting - they seem to have a high turnover.

The area in which you qualify is critical if you want to move to a US firm. If you have somewhere like Weil or K&E in mind, their practice areas are extremely focussed on PE - so they have corporate/banking/competition capability, but don't have English law capability in areas like real estate or IP, so you couldn't move to those firms if you qualified into those areas.
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flatlined
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Waste of time thinking too much about it.

Turnover at US firms is c.2 years. I feel like a broken record, but the turnover is very high and for a reason.

So most people who train in a US firm either leave on qualification or soon after - like within a year. And most people stay in the US market for a couple more, maybe changing firms once or twice. Often silver circle or magic circle come on board for a couple of years and then leave. It's just about the money and after tax, for the time you're there, given the stress and the hours, it's just not worth it.

My experience is most people are out of private practice by 3-5 PQE anyway. As you get older, you realise it's not about the money anyway - don't waste your youth like me.

It's true the above re practice areas although US firms aren't homogenous...but don't bother thinking about US firms etc. as your end goal in mind. Unless you're a sadistic sociopath, I'd avoid US firms - plenty of people like that here.
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skanta479
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Thanks both. Do appreciate the honesty - by no means am I set on it I just wanted to make sure I wasn't somehow closing doors by opting to (or at least attempting to) train with a UK/SC firm. Seems like I'm not. Am no stranger to the industry and the ups and downs it provides at various times.

flatlined out of interest (if you are speaking from experience), where do you see most people go when they leave private practice? In-house or to other careers/businsess endeavours?
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flatlined
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It depends on your practice area and it isn't bespoke to US firms.

MC and US have moved from US firms to UK firms or small London firms. More than you might think. Where you go in house is completely practice area dependent, but some leave for banks and financial institutions like asset managers without much better hours. Restructuring might go to distressed fund. Generally funds. Feedback from those working in them is that it blows hard. Really hard. And high turnover. Quite a few random companies; tech people go to tech companies, quelle surprise. Some mining, some energy. It's all boring form filling, doesn't really matter, matters more on company culture and salary.
Some go to corporate services providers. Some move to a 'business' role doing something sort of legal and earning about 50-70k a year but leaving at 5 on the dot.
Some people are doing stints in law overseas, very few. Few people leave for the regions. Some leave altogether with very individual destinations. Few leave for family businesses.

Just anecdotal somewhat incoherent ramblings. Takeaway should be is that most people realise during their TCs or shortly thereafter that they need work life balance that isn't to be found in PP. They might experiment with another law firm or two. Maybe downsize to a UK firm or whatever. In time, most just leave.
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jacketpotato
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It sounds like you may be putting far too much weight on the "Magic Circle" label. The Magic Circle was a fairly random label that was made up off the cuff by a legal journalist a few decades ago and stuck because it sounds cool.

There is very little difference between the large international Magic Circle firms and HSF/Ashurst. They both have a good argument to be called Magic Circle firms. HSF calls itself a Magic Circle firm.

There would be more of a difference in terms of the trainee experience between training at say a UK only firm like Slaughter & May as compared to an international firm like A&O, than there would be between A&O and HSF/Ashurst (all of which are top level international firms).
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skanta479
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This is all invaluable guys, thank you. I do wish the landscape of the legal career path/industry in general was explained more pragmatically to students of law and those thinking about going into it. So many misguided assumptions are made without any real substantiation from people like you who have clearly been there and done that, as it were.

I do hope the winter VS goes well. Seems like the top SC/International firms are some of the best places to train, all things considered.

S
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jacketpotato
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No worries, glad its helpful.

I would say there is not much difference in terms of reputation, opportunities, training, type of clients etc. between the top SC firms like HSF and Ashurst and the MC.

Firms like MacFarlanes and Travers Smith are also great, and also considered "top" firms, but don't have anything like the network of international offices that firms like CC/A&O/Links/HSF have, so training there can be a slightly different proposition, particularly if you would like to have the opportunity to spend some time working overseas. Slaughters is the "odd one out" in the Magic Circle as they do not have a big network of international offices.
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ProfHealth
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(Original post by jacketpotato)
No worries, glad its helpful.

I would say there is not much difference in terms of reputation, opportunities, training, type of clients etc. between the top SC firms like HSF and Ashurst and the MC.

Firms like MacFarlanes and Travers Smith are also great, and also considered "top" firms, but don't have anything like the network of international offices that firms like CC/A&O/Links/HSF have, so training there can be a slightly different proposition, particularly if you would like to have the opportunity to spend some time working overseas. Slaughters is the "odd one out" in the Magic Circle as they do not have a big network of international offices.
How would you rate firms like Clyde & Co. or CMS in terms of level of training and experience gained? How hard do they work you? Are their exit opportunities very good?
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The West Wing
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Completely possible but will be easier at 1-3 PQE (generally one of the easiest points to make any move), and if you do private equity / funds / leveraged finance (and other areas like arbitration, you can do your own research on this), which are the main focuses for the US firms in London.
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The West Wing
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(Original post by ProfHealth)
How would you rate firms like Clyde & Co. or CMS in terms of level of training and experience gained? How hard do they work you? Are their exit opportunities very good?
Umm not sure about what it's like on the ground but those are firmly 'mid-market' firms

Broadly speaking of the UK firms in my opinion (though there are nuances depending on practice area, e.g Herbert Smith would be top tier for litigation)

Tier 1 - Magic Circle
Tier 2 - Herbert Smith, Ashurst, NRF, Macfarlanes
Tier 3 - Hogan Lovells, BCLP, Travers
Tier 4 - CMS, Simmons, Bakers, Taylor Wessing
Tier 5 - Clyde, Addleshaws, Eversheds, Dentons, DLA and others
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Palmyra
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(Original post by flatlined)
Just anecdotal somewhat incoherent ramblings. Takeaway should be is that most people realise during their TCs or shortly thereafter that they need work life balance that isn't to be found in PP. They might experiment with another law firm or two. Maybe downsize to a UK firm or whatever. In time, most just leave.
(Original post by jacketpotato)
There is very little difference between the large international Magic Circle firms and HSF/Ashurst. They both have a good argument to be called Magic Circle firms. HSF calls itself a Magic Circle firm.
You guys both seem to know your stuff so I had a few random queries you might be able to share some insight into if you don't mind.

Firstly, how common is it to move from SC to MC post-NQ? (I get your point and agree that the boundaries between MC/SC firms are ambiguous at best, but I was wondering if the reason for SC NQs/PQs being able to move to US firms is the US firms' extremely high turnover of associates - given the MC firms have a much lower turnover does this translate into SC NQs/PQs being less likely/able to move to MC firms?)

Secondly, do you know anything about how common/possible it is to at least semi-permanently move to another jurisdiction (either within the same firm or otherwise)?

Thanks
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The West Wing
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(Original post by Palmyra)
You guys both seem to know your stuff so I had a few random queries you might be able to share some insight into if you don't mind.

Firstly, how common is it to move from SC to MC post-NQ? (I get your point and agree that the boundaries between MC/SC firms are ambiguous at best, but I was wondering if the reason for SC NQs/PQs being able to move to US firms is the US firms' extremely high turnover of associates - given the MC firms have a much lower turnover does this effect how feasible/common it is for SC NQs/PQs to move to MC firms?)

Secondly, do you know anything about how common/possible it is to at least semi-permanently move to another jurisdiction (either within the same firm or otherwise)?

Thanks
It's not that hard to move SC (especially HSF or Ashurst type) to MC at 1-3 PQE provided you can pass an interview, the drop out rate is immense that that level making it a lot less competitive than getting a TC or an NQ place. The MC has an extremely high turnover, no idea where you got a contrary idea from.

Not that hard to move to another jurisdiction either. Middle East has a constant churn, as do offshore firms and Hong Kong/Singapore. Some practice areas will facilitate this more than others, e.g. funds, general corporate, banking
Last edited by The West Wing; 3 months ago
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Palmyra
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(Original post by The West Wing)
It's not that hard to move SC (especially HSF or Ashurst type) to MC at 1-3 PQE provided you can pass an interview, the drop out rate is immense that that level making it a lot less competitive than getting a TC or an NQ place. The MC has an extremely high turnover, no idea where you got a contrary idea from.

Not that hard to move to another jurisdiction either. Middle East has a constant churn, as do offshore firms and Hong Kong/Singapore. Some practice areas will facilitate this more than others, e.g. funds, general corporate, banking
I assumed the MC has a lower turnover rate than US firms (as opposed to just a low turnover rate), hence I was wondering if they would be as open to SCs transferring to them as US firms (apparently) are. Given the US NQ intakes will be around 3-20 compared to 40-80 for MC firms the turnover % at US firms can obviously be much higher (that was my logic at least).

Good to know about the other jurisdictions (I assume you mean within the same firm), thanks. Would those be just short-term moves or more permanent moves if that is what someone wants?

NB. I definitely wouldn't classify HL as below Ashurst/NRF - what's the basis for that? My perception was HSF and HL as the top of the 'SC' hierarchy (to the extent a hierarchy can be said to exist and generalised in such a way).
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JohanGRK
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(Original post by The West Wing)
Umm not sure about what it's like on the ground but those are firmly 'mid-market' firms

Broadly speaking of the UK firms in my opinion (though there are nuances depending on practice area, e.g Herbert Smith would be top tier for litigation)

Tier 1 - Magic Circle
Tier 2 - Herbert Smith, Ashurst, NRF, Macfarlanes
Tier 3 - Hogan Lovells, BCLP, Travers
Tier 4 - CMS, Simmons, Bakers, Taylor Wessing
Tier 5 - Clyde, Addleshaws, Eversheds, Dentons, DLA and others
Without wanting to spark off a massive argument, a lot of associates/partners I've spoken to would think of Macs and Travers as 'top' tier (and therefore tier 2), with Ashurst and BCLP being somewhere in tier 3. Not sure about Hogan - some equate it to HSF, others to NRF, others yet to Bakers (?). But, as you say, for an actual associate who's looking to move, the department + the deal experience it has offered you matters above all else. The rest is the adult equivalent of all those 'my definitive ranking of UK universities' threads you see pop up on TSR.
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The West Wing
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(Original post by Palmyra)
I assumed the MC has a lower turnover rate than US firms (as opposed to just a low turnover rate), hence I was wondering if they would be as open to SCs transferring to them as US firms (apparently) are. Given the US NQ intakes will be around 3-20 compared to 40-80 for MC firms the turnover % at US firms can obviously be much higher (that was my logic at least).

Good to know about the other jurisdictions - I assume you mean within the same firm. Would those be just short-term moves or more permanent moves if that is what someone wants?

NB. I definitely wouldn't classify HL as below Ashurst/NRF - what's the basis for that? My perception was HSF and HL as the top of the 'SC' hierarchy (to the extent a hierarchy can be said to exist and generalised in such a way).
If you are 1-3 PQE and trained at a silver circle firm and were kept on, and have a pulse you can probably get into a magic circle firm if that's what you truly want. In reality I don't think many people try and make that move (as the on the ground experience isn't going to be that difference and the pay is only a tiny amount higher)

It's not that hard to move within the same firm if you insist on it and they want to keep you, either short term or permanently. If you want to move laterally you'll have to demonstrate a commitment to the jurisdiction you are moving to.

HL is not well respected for corporate or finance work. I've worked at two magic circle firms across different practice areas and hardly come across them - much less than the four I listed in the tier above.
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The West Wing
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(Original post by JohanGRK)
Without wanting to spark off a massive argument, a lot of associates/partners I've spoken to would think of Macs and Travers as 'top' tier (and therefore tier 2), with Ashurst and BCLP being somewhere in tier 3. Not sure about Hogan - some equate it to HSF, others to NRF, others yet to Bakers (?). But, as you say, for an actual associate who's looking to move, the department + the deal experience it has offered you matters above all else. The rest is the adult equivalent of all those 'my definitive ranking of UK universities' threads you see pop up on TSR.
Can definitely see the argument for Travers as tier 2 but I think you'd struggle to make the case for HL

Have a glance at Legal 500 - mostly tier 3 and below other than for litigation https://www.legal500.com/firms/2116-...london-england

Compare against CC for example - nearly all tier 1 and 2 https://www.legal500.com/firms/679/offices/104
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Palmyra
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(Original post by The West Wing)
If you are 1-3 PQE and trained at a silver circle firm and were kept on, and have a pulse you can probably get into a magic circle firm if that's what you truly want. In reality I don't think many people try and make that move (as the on the ground experience isn't going to be that difference and the pay is only a tiny amount higher)

It's not that hard to move within the same firm if you insist on it and they want to keep you, either short term or permanently. If you want to move laterally you'll have to demonstrate a commitment to the jurisdiction you are moving to.

HL is not well respected for corporate or finance work. I've worked at two magic circle firms across different practice areas and hardly come across them - much less than the four I listed in the tier above.
I also see the appeal of staying at a SC firm with a good balance between salary-work life, so I can understand that.

What about those trainees at SC firms (such as HSF/HL/NRF/etc) who don't get retained PQ - how are their prospects and do they tend to move to other SC firms or can they also move to MC/US firms?

I take your point on corporate and finance but HL are very strong on antitrust, public law, IP and litigation - so I still think they'd be tier 2 on your hierarchy (not that it matters).
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The West Wing
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(Original post by Palmyra)
I also see the appeal of staying at a SC firm with a good balance between salary-work life, so I can understand that.

What about those trainees at SC firms (such as HSF/HL/NRF/etc) who don't get retained PQ - how are their prospects and do they tend to move to other SC firms or can they also move to MC/US firms?

I take your point on corporate and finance but HL are very strong on antitrust, public law, IP and litigation - so I still think they'd be tier 2 on your hierarchy (not that it matters).
Unlikely to go from SC to MC at NQ level if you weren't kept on. Don't think I've ever seen that happen. MC don't tend to recruit much laterally for NQs unless something has gone wrong internally but do recruit laterally from 1 PQE onwards. You'd probably have a chance at the US firms that don't have trainees of their own or going down a tier but then you'd compete with that firm's own trainees (who unless they're truly **** will have priority over laterals)
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