Clifford Chance

This new kid on the Magic Circle block has witnessed a meteoric rise over the past couple of decades; having grabbed internationalisation by the horns, Clifford Chance has established itself as the largest law firm both in the UK and globally.

8.2 / 10 29 reviews Overall Satisfaction

The best people in a Magic Circle firm.

500 employee reviews - read more


  • Very meritocratic – once you’ve proved yourself, good work will come your way
  • Regular direct contact with partners
  • High quality clients and work
  • Excellent, extensive formal training
  • International opportunities – every trainee that wants to do a seat abroad can
  • High level of supervision and support


  • Lack of control over hours, and therefore your social plans
  • Can sometimes feel like a ‘very small fish in a massive pond’
  • A fair bit of repetitive trainee work such as proofreading
  • No guarantee you'll get the seats you want
  • There are no bonuses for trainees

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Clifford Chance is arguably the largest law firm both in the UK and globally, and perhaps the best-known legal brand in the City. The firm employs 3,400 lawyers, with a total of 6,000 staff across 32 offices worldwide. Although best known for its finance department, the past decade has seen the firm’s corporate practice rise to prominence, and in 2006, Clifford Chance became the first law firm to generate revenues totalling over £1 billion.

The origins of Clifford Chance can be traced back to the 1800s, but it was the merger of two London firms in 1987, Coward Chance and Clifford Turner, that created the firm as it is today. This union singlehandedly transformed London’s legal landscape. The alliance created a full-service giant twice the size of the next largest firm and enabled Clifford Chance to expand internationally. Headquartered in London, the structure of the firm was transformed in the 1990s by managing partner Geoffrey Howe, shifting to a more centralised management with less partner independence. In 2000, it merged again, with German firm, Punder Volhard Weber & Axster, and Rogers & Wells from New York, making Clifford Chance the largest firm in the world.

Clifford Chance has two US offices, New York and Washington DC, and many more across Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East. The recent focus of the firm’s international operations is towards the emerging markets, namely China, India, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. In China the firm has offices in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as in Hong Kong. In the Middle East, Clifford Chance has opened outposts in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and an office in Istanbul. Additionally, a capital markets group was formed in Singapore in 2008, to focus on the firm's Indian clients.

Although Clifford Chance is best known as a top banking and finance firm, revered for its work in banking with top financial institutions, it has more than just fiscal strings to its mighty bow. The firm's operations are broken into six global practice areas: banking and finance, capital markets, corporate/M&A, litigation and dispute resolution, real estate and tax, pensions and employment. In corporate, Clifford Chance is one of the best firms for private equity work, dispute resolution and real estate, in addition to excelling in M&A. Corporate clients include the Canary Wharf Group, Siemens, Shell, Barclays, Merrill Lynch and UBS.

The firm takes diversity seriously and because it has a strong international reach, that filters down into recruiting. Women, minorities and LGBT groups are all well represented and employees remark that as long as you can handle the work, no one cares about colour, background, or sexual orientation.

Clifford Chance also strongly encourages pro bono work and represents individuals, NGOs and charities to ensure that everyone has access to justice, finance, and education. Employees at Clifford Chance are given ten hours a year for community initiatives and can participate in drop-in legal clinics and literacy schemes, helping children with special needs and aiding young refugees.

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Clifford Chance expects a 2:1 minimum from all its applicants, and ‘while a substantial portion of trainees are from Oxbridge, going to any other university does not mean you can’t get in’. The hiring process is extremely competitive though, but what else would you expect from one of the world’s most prestigious law firms? Clifford Chance looks for a mix of candidates that possess ‘intelligence’, ‘a willingness to learn’, ‘potential’, ‘confidence’, and the ‘ability to make small talk with a wide variety of people’. These traits are important for the firm’s trainees as a great deal of responsibility is levied from the off.

The process is fairly straightforward: following an online application and verbal reasoning test, successful candidates will be asked to attend an assessment day. This will consist of a tour and quick introduction to the firm, a group exercise, a commercial awareness test, a verbal reasoning test and a partner interview.

For the commercial awareness test, while you need to be aware of key topical issues affecting law, you are not expected to already know the ins and outs of the UK legal system. You’ll be given a short amount of time before your interview to look at a business scenario question and prepare your response. Interviewers’ questions will instead focus on whether you can draw logical conclusions and if you are able to explain yourself clearly – both skills required of any good solicitor.

In the group exercise you will be divided into smaller groups and given a business scenario to read, analyse and discuss in your group. It is important that everyone in your group talks. The better your team works together, the better each of you will be judged individually as ‘they look at how you interact within the group’. Remember to always explain yourself and justify your thinking.

Candidates will typically be interviewed by a partner and senior associate. You’ll be asked to talk through your CV, explaining your choice of subjects and degree discipline, previous work experience, and be confronted with the usual ‘why law?’, ‘why Clifford Chance?’ questioning. Bear in mind, you’re applying to one of the best law firms out there, so it should come as no surprise that you’ll need to put your best foot forward.

Successful applicants will sit four six-month seats throughout the training contract, two of which must be in corporate and finance. Trainees are also required to do a contentious seat, or instead complete a two week course at the College of Law. The music to many a trainee’s ear is that Clifford Chance recruits are ‘positively encouraged’ to do a seat abroad, with around 85% taking the international plunge and ‘some people even do two seats abroad’. Either way, trainees have a wide choice of seats, with numerous sub-departments to choose from within corporate, finance, capital markets, tax, pensions and employment, real estate and dispute resolution. The firm may not be able to accommodate everyone all of the time, but ‘if you are realistic about your choices and make it clear which departments you particularly want to gain experience in, HR will usually be able to accommodate’ you.


Clifford Chance Graduate Recruitment Info

Graduate Recruitment
Tel: +44 (0)20 7006 3003

Application Deadlines:

Training contracts: 31st July 2013 (Law), 31st January 2013 (non Law)
Vacation Schemes: Spring and Summer 2013
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No. of lawyers firm-wide: 2,360 (not including partners)
No. of lawyers in London: 730 (not including partners)
London partners: 190
London trainee intake: 100 per year
London trainees retained: 80% (July 2013)


# 5 in Top 50 Law Firms (8.51/10)
# 1 in Offices & Dress (9.31/10)
# 2 in Formal Training (8.92/10)
# 2 in Pro Bono (8.69/10)
# 5 in Green Initiatives (7.42/10)
# 8 in Diversity (8.04/10)
# 8 in Diversity (8.04/10)
# 9 in Interview Process (7.75/10)
# 10 in Satisfaction with Work (8.03/10)
# 12 in Informal Training & Mentoring (7.81/10)
# 12 in Overall Satisfaction (8.21/10)
# 13 in Trainee Retention (7.12/10)


1st year trainee: £39,000
2nd year trainee: £44,000
Newly qualified: £63,500

Compare 2014 Law Firm Salaries


Banking & Finance
Capital Markets
Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Real Estate
Tax, Pensions & Employment

Self motivated, highly academic and commercially savvy. The firm expects that all of its trainees will have outstanding and blemish-free academic records, so it is crucial that you demonstrate other skills to make you stand out - commercial awareness, pro bono work or non-law based extra-curricular activities.

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Excellent. Lots of practical training on the key issues and how these may affect your work.

Read all reviews in Formal Training

Very good mentoring system - good work is recognised and areas for improvement are highlighted in a constructive manner.

Read all reviews in Informal Training & Mentoring

Good balance of administrative/process tasks and complex legal/commercial tasks.

Read all reviews in Satisfaction with Work


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London Office:
10 Upper Bank Street
London E14 5JJ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7006 1000

No. of worldwide offices: 33
Abu Dhabi
Hong Kong
New York
São Paulo
Washington DC

*Co-operation agreement with Al-Jadaan & Partners Law Firm.