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Is working at a Magic Circle Law firm as bad as it sounds?

I heard if you work in an MC you work long hours and you wont have any freedom or independance? Has anyone worked in an MC before and what would be some advantages and disadvantages working there? Do they care about your mental health or do you always work long hours or does it depend on the day? Do you have time for family or anything else?

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I am a barrister and I work with magic circle law firms. The hours are long, the pressure to meet billing targets is high, and the junior lawyers are at the beck and call of the partners, who are at the beck and call of the clients.

The advantages are high salary, high level clients, the potential to become the big cheese partner eventually, and a platform from which to apply for jobs in smaller law firms, as in house counsel or in other business roles.

The disadvantages are relentless hard work, some of which can be boring, and being a small part of a vast machine. Partners work mega hard as well as Associates.

TV law shows never show the amount of documents involved in big ticket law, or the long hours in stuffy rooms drinking terrible coffee.
Reply 2
Original post by Stiffy Byng
I am a barrister and I work with magic circle law firms. The hours are long, the pressure to meet billing targets is high, and the junior lawyers are at the beck and call of the partners, who are at the beck and call of the clients.
The advantages are high salary, high level clients, the potential to become the big cheese partner eventually, and a platform from which to apply for jobs in smaller law firms, as in house counsel or in other business roles.
The disadvantages are relentless hard work, some of which can be boring, and being a small part of a vast machine. Partners work mega hard as well as Associates.
TV law shows never show the amount of documents involved in big ticket law, or the long hours in stuffy rooms drinking terrible coffee.

What's your day to day routine like for most days?

Is it mainly corporate that has these long hours or other fields?

What would you advise someone if they do want to work in a magic circle law firm?

Is there days you would finish early?

Is there any departments that are quiet and you finish early?

Does the partners or associates throw work at the trainees and make them stay until the work is complete?
Original post by DannyGTR
What's your day to day routine like for most days?
Is it mainly corporate that has these long hours or other fields?
What would you advise someone if they do want to work in a magic circle law firm?
Is there days you would finish early?
Is there any departments that are quiet and you finish early?
Does the partners or associates throw work at the trainees and make them stay until the work is complete?

I am a barrister. I do commercial litigation. I have no routine - every day is different. I choose when I work and what I do, subject of course to client demands. I have also been a partner in a medium sized international law firm.

Do not even think of working for a magic circle law firm unless you are prepared to work as much as each assignment requires. The big salary is not given out for free. There are no soft landings.

The law firm is a machine that exists to create wealth for its equity partners by maximising billings in the service of very demanding clients who want everything done yesterday and will go elsewhere if not pleased. Workload varies according to how busy the firm or any one department within the firm is. There can be quieter days which approach the 8 to 6 pattern, but when the heat is on sixteen to eighteen hours days and weekend working can be a thing. Each day you are expected to record something like seven billable hours. It is harder than people think it is to extract billable hours from working hours. Seven hours on the timesheet may be ten hours at your desk.

All departments work hard. Every lawyer, from Managing Partner to junior trainee, works hard. Partners are rewarded on the origination of work and team performance. Associates are rewarded on billing.

As the US Marines say: everybody marches, everybody fights. As well as working on paid client matters, there are on-boarding and matter management, billing and debt recovery, marketing work, professional development, compliance tasks, pro bono work, and, as you ascend the ladder, management and training duties.

Working in the magic circle and silver circle pays well and exposes you to big ticket work. It can be fun. But it's not easy. You can earn less but have fun in a smaller firm in London or a big provincial city. I am a consultant to a City of London litigation boutique which does white collar crime, regulatory work and high end commercial litigation. The Associates are happy, motivated, have meaningful client contact, are paid enough, and have a home life.

I work often with a medium sized firm in Birmingham. It has industrials as clients. It's a happy ship.

Go for magic circle if you want to. There are good rewards. But do it with your eyes open. Success comes at a price.
(edited 3 weeks ago)
Original post by Stiffy Byng
I am a barrister. I do commercial litigation. I have no routine - every day if different. I choose when I work and what I do, subject of course to client demands. I have also been a partner in a medium sized international law firm.
Do not even think of working for a magic circle law firm unless you are prepared to work as much as each assignment requires. The big salary is not given out for free. There are no soft landings.
The law firm is a machine that exists to create wealth for its equity partners by maximising billings in the service of very demanding clients who want everything done yesterday and will go elsewhere if not pleased. Workload varies according to how busy the firm or any one department within the firm is. There can be quieter days which approach the 8 to 6 pattern, but when the heat is on sixteen to eighteen hours days and weekend working can be a thing. Each day you are expected to record something like seven billable hours. It is harder than people think it is to extract billable hours from working hours. Seven hours on the timesheet may be ten hours at your desk.
All departments work hard. Every lawyer, from Manging Partner to junior trainee, works hard. Partners are rewarded on the origination of work and team perfomance. Associates are rewarded on billing.
As the US Marines say: everybody marches, everybody fights. As well as working on paid client matters, there are on-boarding and matter management, billing and debt recovery, marketing work, professional development, compliance tasks, pro bono work, and, as you ascend the ladder, management and training duties.
Working in the magic circle and silver circle pays well and exposes you to big ticket work. It can be fun. But it's not easy. You can earn less but have fun in a smaller firm in London or a big provincial city. I am a consultant to a City of London litigation boutique which does white collar crime, regulatory work and high end commercial litigation. The Associates are happy, motivated, have meaningful client contact, are paid enough, and have a home life.
I work often with a medium sized firm in Birmingham. It has industrials as clients. It's a happy ship.
Go for magic circle if you want to. There are good rewards. But do it with your eyes open. Success comes at a price.


I spent several years working at Magic Circle (although I think this expression is redundant today) and White Shoe US law firms. If you are not willing to work hard and are mentally tough enough to do it, I would avoid. On the flip side you will be well compensated and it is much easier to “step down” to to a lower tier firm in a few years than to to do the opposite. To be honest, I have little sympathy for people in their early 20s who are not willing to work hard but expect to achieve career success. Even if you don’t go to a top tier firm you will be expected to work hard in ANY commercial law firm that pays its new qualified solicitors 6 figures. If you want the money, the prestige and a strong entry to your CV you can expect to work long hours and your work-life balance will be skewed towards work.
Anecdote:

A Friday evening in February. Three commercial barristers and one solicitor at a top firm are on the Heathrow Express. They are heading to Chamonix for a weekend of hardcore skiing and hardcore partying. The solicitor, a rising Associate, gets a message from the Partner. **** is going down. Get back to the office. The solicitor gets off at Heathrow and straight back onto the next train to London. The three barristers go to Chamonix and have to drink for four - poor them!

OK, this can happen to anybody in a high pressure job, but be aware of the demands.
Another anecdote. A trainee told me he wanted to qualify into my team and would appreciate the chance to work with me. A client called me last Friday afternoon to instruct me on a major piece of work which required an initial complex contractual analysis to be carried out. I organised an internal team meeting to get things rolling on the Monday but in anticipation of that, I needed an initial analysis of some of the key agreements. I asked the trainees if he could do this analysis over the weekend and he jumped at the chance. The trainee sent me an initial review at 2.30 am on Sunday morning. I provided comments on Sunday afternoon and asked home to reorganise/ refocus the analysis and he sent this to me at 3.30 am on Monday. He did this voluntarily and without complaint and is now a key member of the transaction team . This is what you need to do at a top law firm to succeed.
Reply 7
Original post by Stiffy Byng
I am a barrister. I do commercial litigation. I have no routine - every day is different. I choose when I work and what I do, subject of course to client demands. I have also been a partner in a medium sized international law firm.
Do not even think of working for a magic circle law firm unless you are prepared to work as much as each assignment requires. The big salary is not given out for free. There are no soft landings.
The law firm is a machine that exists to create wealth for its equity partners by maximising billings in the service of very demanding clients who want everything done yesterday and will go elsewhere if not pleased. Workload varies according to how busy the firm or any one department within the firm is. There can be quieter days which approach the 8 to 6 pattern, but when the heat is on sixteen to eighteen hours days and weekend working can be a thing. Each day you are expected to record something like seven billable hours. It is harder than people think it is to extract billable hours from working hours. Seven hours on the timesheet may be ten hours at your desk.
All departments work hard. Every lawyer, from Managing Partner to junior trainee, works hard. Partners are rewarded on the origination of work and team performance. Associates are rewarded on billing.
As the US Marines say: everybody marches, everybody fights. As well as working on paid client matters, there are on-boarding and matter management, billing and debt recovery, marketing work, professional development, compliance tasks, pro bono work, and, as you ascend the ladder, management and training duties.
Working in the magic circle and silver circle pays well and exposes you to big ticket work. It can be fun. But it's not easy. You can earn less but have fun in a smaller firm in London or a big provincial city. I am a consultant to a City of London litigation boutique which does white collar crime, regulatory work and high end commercial litigation. The Associates are happy, motivated, have meaningful client contact, are paid enough, and have a home life.
I work often with a medium sized firm in Birmingham. It has industrials as clients. It's a happy ship.
Go for magic circle if you want to. There are good rewards. But do it with your eyes open. Success comes at a price.

Thank you for sharing your perspective on the legal profession, particularly the challenges and rewards of working in different types of law firms.

Do you know any solicitors that have quit after 1 day or find the work boring and leave after a few years or is that not common?

As the work is intellectually stimulating, does anything happen if the work isn't completed for the client at a good standard or the solicitors just become lazy?

How do you manage to balance client demands with maintaining a fulfilling personal life?
Reply 8
Original post by katana10000
I spent several years working at Magic Circle (although I think this expression is redundant today) and White Shoe US law firms. If you are not willing to work hard and are mentally tough enough to do it, I would avoid. On the flip side you will be well compensated and it is much easier to “step down” to to a lower tier firm in a few years than to to do the opposite. To be honest, I have little sympathy for people in their early 20s who are not willing to work hard but expect to achieve career success. Even if you don’t go to a top tier firm you will be expected to work hard in ANY commercial law firm that pays its new qualified solicitors 6 figures. If you want the money, the prestige and a strong entry to your CV you can expect to work long hours and your work-life balance will be skewed towards work.

Is it just magic circles or are silver circles like this too?

How was your experience working in a magic circle and what did u hate/like?

If magic circle lawyers tend to work hard and stay up late do they end up having a dry personality and not see anyone including family or friends and have no emotions?

Did you like speak to anyone and have a good relationship with any of the solicitors or do they all not care about anyone?
Reply 9
Original post by Stiffy Byng
Anecdote:
A Friday evening in February. Three commercial barristers and one solicitor at a top firm are on the Heathrow Express. They are heading to Chamonix for a weekend of hardcore skiing and hardcore partying. The solicitor, a rising Associate, gets a message from the Partner. **** is going down. Get back to the office. The solicitor gets off at Heathrow and straight back onto the next train to London. The three barristers go to Chamonix and have to drink for four - poor them!
OK, this can happen to anybody in a high pressure job, but be aware of the demands.

wait what that can actually happen so if for example you are lets say hanging out with friends or doing something exciting and you recieve a phone call about a specific client, do you have to like stop what you are doing and focus on the client instead? ☠️
Reply 10
Original post by katana10000
Another anecdote. A trainee told me he wanted to qualify into my team and would appreciate the chance to work with me. A client called me last Friday afternoon to instruct me on a major piece of work which required an initial complex contractual analysis to be carried out. I organised an internal team meeting to get things rolling on the Monday but in anticipation of that, I needed an initial analysis of some of the key agreements. I asked the trainees if he could do this analysis over the weekend and he jumped at the chance. The trainee sent me an initial review at 2.30 am on Sunday morning. I provided comments on Sunday afternoon and asked home to reorganise/ refocus the analysis and he sent this to me at 3.30 am on Monday. He did this voluntarily and without complaint and is now a key member of the transaction team . This is what you need to do at a top law firm to succeed.

Is it mainly transactional department as they have demanding clients?

So like the main takeaway for this job is if you are willing to sacrifice your life for this job and not see anyone and just focus on the clients mainly?
Reply 11
Sorry if im asking stupid question im just curious
Original post by DannyGTR
Is it just magic circles or are silver circles like this too?
How was your experience working in a magic circle and what did u hate/like?
If magic circle lawyers tend to work hard and stay up late do they end up having a dry personality and not see anyone including family or friends and have no emotions?
Did you like speak to anyone and have a good relationship with any of the solicitors or do they all not care about anyone?


This can happen in any commercial law firm - the frequency will vary depending on the firm.

Lawyers are normal people. Just because they work hard doesn’t make them robots!

I have perfectly healthy relationships with my colleagues and a good family life.
Original post by DannyGTR
wait what that can actually happen so if for example you are lets say hanging out with friends or doing something exciting and you recieve a phone call about a specific client, do you have to like stop what you are doing and focus on the client instead? ☠️


You can choose not to but it may be career limiting. Working in this sort of environment is a choice not a prison sentence.
Reply 14
Original post by katana10000
You can choose not to but it may be career limiting. Working in this sort of environment is a choice not a prison sentence.

oh wow thats crazy and if u dont do it then will the client like hate you and you will like lose money? ☠️

but like would you say some lawyers dont have a good family life or is it just everyone cuz arent some of them not settled yet for a family as its hard for them to manage?
Lawyers are normal people. Some get divorced, some have alcohol issues, some suffer from depression but so do people on all walks of life.

24 year old newly qualified lawyers don’t earn up to £180k per annum without expecting to work a lot of hours and sacrificing elements of their personal lives.

If you are not willing to make the sacrifices in your personal life to provide the service that firms and their clients expect, then query whether it is the right career for you.
Reply 16
Original post by katana10000
Lawyers are normal people. Some get divorced, some have alcohol issues, some suffer from depression but so do people on all walks of life.
24 year old newly qualified lawyers don’t earn up to £180k per annum without expecting to work a lot of hours and sacrificing elements of their personal lives.
If you are not willing to make the sacrifices in your personal life to provide the service that firms and their clients expect, then query whether it is the right career for you.

can i ask what firms you worked at and what did you like/dislike about working there?
It’s a bit too specific a question and I’m not inclined to doxx myself here. They all had their pluses and minuses but the work was always good and I was well compensated. The most important thing is that I enjoy the substance of what I do which is why I have done it for so long and I don’t mind working the hours.
Reply 18
Original post by katana10000
It’s a bit too specific a question and I’m not inclined to doxx myself here. They all had their pluses and minuses but the work was always good and I was well compensated. The most important thing is that I enjoy the substance of what I do which is why I have done it for so long and I don’t mind working the hours.

sorry again for asking im just the type to ask alot of questions as I dont understand stuff quickly. were there times u felt bored or didnt feel like doing much work or you got stressed?
Of course. That’s life.

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