Biggest Law Firms UK

| Career Insights

Across the UK there are many top law firms that make up the biggest law firms in the UK, all these firms share similar qualities, such that they operate in the corporate world and work as ‘full-service law firms’ meaning they offer a very wide range of different areas of law and specialisms that are likely to meet any needs of their clients. What makes these firms the biggest law firms UK is that they bring in the most revenue, have the largest client bases and a large influence and reputation.

Biggest Law Firms UK

Across the UK there are many top law firms that make up the biggest law firms in the UK, all these firms share similar qualities, such that they operate in the corporate world and work as ‘full-service law firms’ meaning they offer a very wide range of different areas of law and specialisms that are likely to meet any needs of their clients. What makes these firms the biggest law firms in the UK is that they bring in the most revenue, have the largest client bases and a large influence and reputation.

Magic Circle:

The biggest and most prestigious of these firms are known as the ‘Magic Circle’ firms, these are:

  • Allen & Overy
  • Clifford Chance
  • Linklaters
  • Slaughter and May
  • Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

What puts these law firms into the biggest law firms in the UK is that they are consistently at the top of the rankings for their revenue per lawyer and partner, the large number of lawyers they have working for them, their reputation and their large client base made up of the biggest companies in the world. Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Freshfields make up four of the six highest-earning law firms in the UK, with the five firms earning a combined total revenue of over £6 billion in 2019/20!

All these law firms have their headquarters in the UK but operate offices all around the world. These law firms tend to specialise in areas such as banking, finance, mergers and acquisitions and many other corporate areas of law. They all have a very wide-ranging workload and only have the best lawyers working for them, hence why they are the UK’s biggest law firms.

Silver Circle:

Silver Circle firms also make up some of the biggest law firms in the UK, these are firms that have significantly higher revenue per lawyer and partner than the average UK law firm does, these firms fall just short of the Magic Circle in terms of size and turnover however are still some of the best law firms in the UK. The Silver Circle is made up of:

  • Ashurst
  • Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP)
  • Herbert Smith Freehills
  • Macfarlanes
  • Travers Smith

These firms also have clients with household names and work on some of the largest cases and deals in the UK. Furthermore, these firms also have their headquarters in London with offices across the world.

Despite all these firms making up the ‘Silver Circle’, they all vary in size and prestige. Herbert Smith Freehills and Ashurst rank amongst the biggest and best law firms in the UK due to their massive revenue and overseas presence. Although these two are larger the other three, Macfarlanes, Travers Smith and BCLP all still hold a very large presence in the legal sector and boast a wide range of clients and jurisdictions. They all hold very strong practices in many areas of law; however, each firm does have their specialisms, i.e., Ashurt has a very strong finance presence while BCLP does very well in the real estate sectors. Overall, the Silver Circle firms make up a large part of the biggest law firms in the UK and have a very strong presence in the UK legal sector.

National Firms:

A national law firm is regarded as a firm that has three or more offices across different regions of the UK. The biggest law firm in the UK is a national firm despite not being a part of the ‘Magic Circle’

The biggest law firm in the UK is DLA Piper, a full-service law firm with seven offices across the UK. In 2019/20, it was the UK’s highest-earning law firm, with a revenue of over £2 billion, they employ hundreds of solicitors and operate in many different sectors, they are an extremely dominant force in the UK legal sector!

The other domestic firms that operate nationwide are CMS and Eversheds Sutherland, these two firms round off the ten highest-earning UK law firms and have a large amount and offices across the UK in locations such as London, Birmingham, and Manchester with hundreds of lawyers. They are all corporate full-service law firms that dominate the legal sector outside of London. There are also other large firms that operate in the UK such as Clyde & Co and Pinsent Masons, however, despite their large success, only DLA Piper, CMS and Eversheds Sutherland make up the three largest national firms in the UK.

US firms:

There are two US firms that hold a very large presence in the UK, these are Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins, despite being US firms they boast revenues, practice sizes and client bases that compare with the UK’s ‘Magic Circle’ firms. These firms tend to only operate in London and not any other parts of the UK. Like UK firms, they are full-service firms, however, have their own specialisms.

Latham & Watkins and Kirkland & Ellis dominate in the UK in comparison to the other US firms, by having the largest revenues by around £100 million when compared to the third-highest US earner in the UK which is White & Case. It is important to note that these firms are international and primarily operate in the US, however, their UK offices are so large and successful they can be compared to UK firms.

Other Firms:

There are two other large firms that do not fit into any of the categories, these are Hogan Lovells and Norton Rose Fulbright with some of the biggest revenues in the UK, they take up the third and seventh spots in the highest earners in the UK respectively with a combined total revenue of over £3 billion in 2019/20. These are both US/UK firms with a very large corporate presence in both jurisdictions. Both firms have very large finance and banking sectors, however, Norton Rose Fulbright also dominate in unique sectors such as aviation and climate change. Both firms have hundreds of lawyers across the UK and the world.

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