Magic Circle is an informal term used to describe
collectively what are considered to be either the five, or possibly
six, leading London-based
law firms, all of which employ primarily
It is also used as a
term to describe the top four Commercial Chambers at the Bar.
US, the term used to describe the leading firms is
White shoe firm.
the Magic Circle are:
the first four listed above were in the top six largest law firms in the world by revenue (in 2006 Clifford Chance became the world's highest-grossing law firm).
Slaughter and May only ranked 32nd in the world on this measure,
but it has consistently enjoyed the highest profits per equity partner
of the Magic Circle for a
number of years. Surveys by American business website Vault.com
in 2006, 2007 and 2008 ranked Slaughter and May to be the most
prestigious law firm to work for in the United Kingdom.
One reason for the difference in turnover and profitability rests
in the distinctive international strategy taken by Slaughter and
May from the rest of the Magic Circle, which prefers to maintain
its international capability by relying on a network of so-called
"Best Friends", members of which typically are leading independent
law firms in the relevant jurisdiction. This allows Slaughter and
May to enjoy a higher profitability at the expense of a lower
turnover compared to the rest of the Magic Circle, which has
instead expanded aggressively by establishing many overseas
These firms are generally ranked amongst league tables as the most
prestigious firms by other solicitors in England and Wales
, and have the highest
earnings per-partner and per-lawyer in the United Kingdom. Arguably
however, their dominance of the London legal market has been
challenged in recent years by American "big
" firms operating branch offices in London, which have a
significantly smaller turnover but tend to pay larger salaries.
Those UK firms which are seen as the main competitors and nearest
rivals of the Magic Circle are often referred to as the Silver Circle
The following four Chambers are considered the Bar's Magic