Different Types Of Law Firms In The UK

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Different Types Of Law Firms In The UK

Whether you are seeking work in the legal industry or you are a client looking for a firm to act on your behalf, you should be aware of the different types of law firms that are out there. Firms vary from their size to their area of law in which they specialise in. Continue reading this article to find out what law firms can be found in the UK.

Overview of Firms mentioned in this article.

  • International Firms
  • National Firms
  • Regional Firms
  • High Street Firms
  • Magic Circle
  • Silver Circle
  • American firms
  • Legal Advice and Aid Centres
  • Niche Firms/Boutique firms

International Firms

International firms have a global presence, with multiple firms internationally. Their UK office is typically located in London. They have clients all over the world, and large global organisations may find them appealing when they are faced with a legal matter, perhaps in different countries where they may operate. Whilst they tend to offer high pay, they also have quite late working hours.

Typical areas they tend to be concerned with are:

  • Corporate and mergers & acquisitions
  • Litigation and dispute resolution
  • Capital markets
  • Real estate
  • Finance and banking

National Firms

National firms have multiple firms operating across the region, located in several cities. They tend to focus on commercial work, although they may also be involved with private client and local matters, whilst also dealing with some high-profile clients.

The number of Training Contracts offered by these firms varies, however, as they cover a range of legal areas across multiple locations, they may be attractive to those who perhaps want to work at a top Law Firm without having to work in London. Many National Firms in the UK tend to be active amongst Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, and Nottingham, but there may be other less common areas of the UK with National Firms. One example of a National Firm is Eversheds Sutherland, with 9 breaches across England and Wales, with some also overseas.

Other examples of National Firms are:

  • Pinsent Masons
  • DLA Piper
  • Addleshaw Goddard
  • Clyde & Co


Regional Firms have a few firms operating across a region. They are much smaller than national and international firms, with a smaller community of clients. They still offer Training Contracts, but similarly to Training Contracts from National and International Firms, these are also very competitive.

Some examples of Regional Firms are:

  • Midlands: Browne Jacobson, Gateley, Freeths and Shakespeare Martineau
  • The North: Brabners, DWF, Hill Dickinson and Walker Morris
  • East of England: Mills & Reeve, Birketts, Howes Percival
  • Wales: Blake Morgan, Geralds, Capital Law, David & Main

High Street Firms

High Street firms are in a city, based on the high street. Whilst these are very small firms, there are thousands of different high street firms across the country. They have much less employees in comparison to regional, national, and international firms, and they are very unlikely to offer Training Contracts. They play an important role in advising local individuals and are also appealing to small local businesses who may also need legal support.

High Street firms tend to specialise in all kinds of areas, from drafting contracts for landlords and wills to conveyancing. Other examples of some of the many areas they specialise in are:

  • Private client tax
  • Personal injury
  • Employment law
  • Crime
  • Family law
  • Housing

Magic Circle

Magic Circle firms are known as the most prestigious, top law firms in the UK, with very big clients. All the Magic Circle firms are London based and are large corporate and financial firms. They take on around 100 trainees each year, therefore, there is a lot of competition, and whilst they may be very demanding and require long hours, they offer a lot of responsibility.

Examples of the Magic Circle Firms are:

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

Silver Circle

Silver Circle firms are also very reputable, top firms. Again, they offer Training Contracts, yet they are very competitive. However, they are very wide in terms of the work they offer, working across a range of sectors and operating in many areas.

Firms falling into this category can change but are typically recognised as:

  • Ashurst
  • Herbert Smith Freehills
  • Macfarlanes
  • Travers Smith

American Firms

Over the last 50 years, the number of American firms in the UK has been increasing, with roughly 100 American firms existing in the UK today. Just like Magic Circle Firms, American Firms also focus on corporate and financial work.

Some examples of American Firms are:

  • Latham & Watkins
  • Baker McKenzie
  • Reed Smith

General Practice, Legal Aid, And Advice Centres

These firms offer a wide range of support in local communities and typically offer free advice and support due to them being government funded or funded by charities.

These firms may offer you with support for all kinds of needs, such as housing issues, general advice on how to proceed with a claim and recommendations on what your best course of action may be in a matter. They may also advise you when you are unhappy with a decision and want to seek a review.

Niche Firms/Boutique Firms

Niche Firms, also known as Boutique firms, tend to specialise in niche areas of law which typically are not focused on. Whilst these types of firms are very small and made up of small numbers of employees, these firms may appeal to you if you wish to practice in a very specific and niche area of law.

Some examples of niche areas include:

  • Fashion
  • Sports
  • Energy
  • Shipping
  • Marine Law
  • Pensions
  • Gambling

The Legists Content Team


[1] Chambers Student – Different types of Law Firms

[2] All About – Types of Law Firm

[3] Studying UK Law – Knowing the Types of Law Firms in the UK

[4] James Bosson – Training Contract Guide: Different types of Law firms, Flex Legal

[5] Lawcareers.net – Types of Law Firm



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