Choosing a firm by location

Choosing a law firm

Choosing a firm based on its location is a rewarding way to go. We list the principal firms which offer training in the major cities in England and Wales, as well as Scotland.

 

View all firms featured in the True Picture on a map

 

Overview of firms by size and location

 

London

Individuals employed in legal services: 106,800 (source: TheCityUK)
LPC providers: BPPCity Law SchoolUniversity of Law • University of West LondonWestminster

If you want to be a London-based lawyer you're spoilt for choice. London is the UK's – and the world's – primary legal hub. It's home to lawyers of all different stripes, from high-street asylum justice crusaders to corporate City hot-shots.

You could consider working for one of the magic circle firms – Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Linklaters, and Slaughter and May – who recruit more trainees than anyone else each year. But there are commercial firms of all different shapes and sizes, ranging from US outfits like Weil (known for its private equity prowess) to West End ones like Boodle Hatfield (known for its links to the Duke of Westminster's property empire).

There’s something for everyone in London, so have a read of Different types of law firm, which should help you figure out what you want.

You might want to read up on...
magic circle firmslarge commercial firmsmid-size commercial firmssmaller commercial firmsUS firmsniche/specialist firmshigh-street firms

  

Manchester

Individuals employed in legal services: 11,100
LPC providers: BPP Manchester Metropolitan UniversityUniversity of Central Lancashire • University of Law

The Manchester legal market is the second most important in England after London. It has, however, been quite unsettled in the past five years. Three major Mancs-headquartered firms have gone into administration or ceased to exist in that period as the result of economic and financial woes: HalliwellsCobbetts and Pannone.

Manchester's biggest legal success story is DWF. Just a few years ago it was a mid-size regional firm; now it's a national biggie. It still has around 25 trainees in Manchester though – the city's biggest single cohort. Other North West firms include Brabners – the result of a 2002 Manchester-Liverpool merger – and Forbes, a Blackburn headquartered firm with a Manchester office and a focus on crime and family law.

A large number of national firms have sizeable trainee cohorts in Manchester, including Addleshaw GoddardDLA PiperEversheds SutherlandIrwin MitchellSquire Patton Boggs and Pinsent Masons and GateleyTrowers & HamlinsWard HadawayTLTShoosmithsKennedysFreeths and Mills & Reeve also offer a couple of Manchester-based traineeships.

You might want to read up on...
Addleshaw Goddard • BLM  Brabners • Clyde & Co • DLA Piper • DWF • Eversheds Sutherland • Freeths • Gateley • Hill Dickinson  Irwin Mitchell • Kennedys • Mills & Reeve • Pinsent Masons • Shoosmiths • Squire Patton Boggs • TLT • Trowers & Hamlins • Ward Hadaway

Find out more: Lawyering in the North West

 

Birmingham

Individuals employed in legal services: 8,100
LPC providers: Birmingham City UniversityBPP University of Law • University of Wolverhampton

In case you were tossing up between Birmingham and Venice and the extra miles of canals in Brum didn’t seal the deal, then consider this: the city wins hands down for the number of national and international law firms it hosts. DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland, Squire Patton BoggsPinsent Masons and Gateley all hire grads in large numbers.

Other nationals to look out for in Birmingham are BLMDWF, Irwin Mitchell, Kennedys, Mills & Reeve and Shoosmiths. It's also possible to train in Birmingham with ambitious Midlands firms Freeths and Browne Jacobson. And Trowers & Hamlins took on its first Birmingham trainee in 2014.

Birmingham's two biggest native firms are Gowling WLG and Shakespeare Martineau, the result of a 2015 merger between Midlanders Shakespeares and SGH Martineau.

You might want to read up on...
Bevan Brittan • BLM  Browne Jacobson • DLA Piper • DWF • Eversheds Sutherland • Freeths Gateley • Irwin Mitchell • Kennedys • Mills & Reeve • Pinsent Masons • Shakespeare Martineau  Shoosmiths • Squire Patton Boggs • Trowers & Hamlins

Find out more: The Birmingham legal scene

 

Leeds

Individuals employed in legal services: 8,000
LPC providers: BPP Leeds Beckett UniversityUniversity of Law

Many major national commercial firms have a presence in Leeds and conduct both national and international work from here, as well as regional assignments.

The city is home to an elite 'Big Six' of firms – Leeds' answer to the magic circle. Five of the six are national or international operations: Addleshaw GoddardDLA PiperEversheds SutherlandSquire Patton Boggs and Pinsent Masons. The sixth – Walker Morris – remains a firmly Leeds-based operation, but the quality of its work and the training on offer remains on a par with its Big Six peers in the Leeds market.

Other firms with a significant presence in Leeds include national outfits DWF, GateleyIrwin MitchellMills & Reeve and Bond Dickinson.

You might want to read up on...
Addleshaw Goddard • Bevan Brittan  Bond Dickinson • DLA Piper • DWF • Eversheds Sutherland • Freeths • Gateley   Irwin Mitchell • Pinsent Masons • Squire Patton Boggs • Walker Morris  Ward Hadaway

Find out more: The Yorkshire legal market

 

Bristol

Individuals employed in legal services: 6,900
LPC providers: BPP University of Law • University of the West of England

Bristol is home to an oligarchy of successful and innovative law firms. It's a relatively wealthy city: after London, Bristol has the second highest 'Gross Value Add' (GVA – the regional equivalent of GDP) of any major UK city.

Burges Salmon is the leader of the Bristol pack and the city's biggest independent firm. Osborne Clarke, TLT,, Veale Wasborough Vizards and Bevan Brittan are the other main native Bristol firms. Bond Dickinson can also claim local roots as it's the result of a 2013 merger between Bristol/Southampton firm Bond Pearce and North Easterner Dickinson Dees.

London firms CMS and Simmons & Simmons have all launched low-cost 'nearshoring' offices in Bristol. CMS has had Bristol trainees for a while, while Simmons will do so in 2016. National firms Irwin Mitchell and DWF also recruit a small number of Bristol trainees, as do Exeter-headquartered Ashfords, Foot Anstey and Michelmores.

You might want to read up on...
Ashfords • Bevan Brittan  Bond Dickinson • Burges Salmon • CMS Foot Anstey • Irwin Mitchell • Michelmores • Osborne Clarke • Simmons & Simmons • TLT • Veale Wasborough Vizards

Find out more: A rough guide to Bristol

 

Liverpool

Individuals employed in legal services: 6,300
LPC providers: BPPLiverpool John Moores University

Relative to the size of the city, Liverpool's legal market is small. Scouse native Hill Dickinson has more trainees in the city than any other firm, closely followed by BLMDWF and DLA Piper. Brabners’ 12 trainees are evenly split between Liverpool and Manchester.

You might want to read up on...
BLM  Brabners • DLA Piper • DWF  Hill Dickinson

Find out moreLawyering in the North West

 

Newcastle

Individuals employed in legal services: 6,700
LPC provider: Northumbria University

Dickinson Dees, the largest and oldest firm in Newcastle, underwent a 2013 merger with southern firm Bond Pearce to become Bond Dickinson. The merged firm remains at the top of the North East legal market, and also offers traineeships in Stockton-on-Tees.

BD is closely followed by Ward Hadaway – a firm with notable strengths in public sector areas like education and healthcare – and Muckle, which presents itself as the small, friendly, commercial alternative to Newcastle's larger firms.

National firms DWF, Eversheds Sutherland and Irwin Mitchell also offer traineeships on Tyneside, as do small local commercial outfits Watson Burton and Hay & Kilner.

You might want to read up on...
Bond Dickinson DWF Eversheds Sutherland • Irwin Mitchell • Muckle • Ward Hadaway

Find out more: The Newcastle legal scene

 

Nottingham

Individuals employed in legal services:  13,100 (East Midlands)
LPC provider: Nottingham Law School

The Nottingham legal market is home to two major native firms: Browne Jacobson and Freeths. Both mix commercial work with insurance/personal injury, and have sizeable Birmingham offices. Freeths also has trainees in Derby, Leicester, Oxford and Milton Keynes.

National firms Eversheds SutherlandGateley and Shoosmiths also recruit trainees in Nottingham, as does Anglo-Welsh firm Geldards.

You might want to read up on...
Browne Jacobson • Eversheds Sutherland • Freeths • Gateley • Geldards • Shakespeare Martineau  Shoosmiths 

Find out more: Living and working in Nottingham

 

Sheffield

Individuals employed in legal services: 3,700
LPC provider: University of Sheffield

Like Liverpool, Sheffield isn't home to a huge number of commercial firms, but it's notable for being the nascent office of two major national outfits: DLA Piper and Irwin Mitchell, which were home to 16 and 17 Sheffield trainees respectively at the time of our 2014 research.

London firm Nabarro also recruits a handful of Sheffield trainees – in the dim and distant past the office used to be the in-house legal team of British Coal.

You might want to read up on...
DLA Piper • Freeths • Irwin Mitchell • Nabarro

Find out moreThe Yorkshire legal market

 

Southampton

Individuals employed in legal services (South East): 39,900
LPC providers: Bournemouth University

National firms Shoosmiths and Bond Dickinson both recruit trainees in Southampton, being home to six and seven respectively at the time of our research. Other recruiters in the city include BLMIrwin MitchellBlake Morgan and Coffin Mew.

Lester Aldridge has a few trainees in Southampton but most are based in its Bournemouth headquarters. Trethowans has equal-sized small trainee groups in Southampton and Salisbury.

You might want to read up on...
Blake Morgan • BLM • Bond Dickinson • Irwin Mitchell • Lester Aldridge • Shoosmiths • Trethowans

 

Cambridge

Individuals employed in legal services (East of England): 20,900
LPC providers: Anglia Ruskin University • BPP

National firm Eversheds Sutherland offers traineeships in Cambridge (it closed its Norwich base in 2008, but retains a small trainee-free office in Ipswich). Mills & Reeve is now pretty much a national firm but still has its roots firmly in East Anglian soil and at the time of our 2016 research had 14 trainees in Cambridge and eight in Norwich.

Two other firms with a strong presence in Cambridge are Taylor Vinters and Hewitsons. The former has recently been expanding its London base while the latter is split between Cambridge and Northampton. 

Agriculture and rural affairs make up a good chunk of the commercial work done by law firms in Norwich, while education and technology predominate in Cambridge.

You might want to read up on...
Eversheds Sutherland • Hewitsons • Irwin Mitchell • Kennedys • Mills & Reeve • Penningtons Manches • Taylor Vinters

Find out more: Living and working in Cambridge

 

Milton Keynes/Northampton

Individuals employed in legal services (South East): 39,900

FreethsDentons and Shoosmiths all offer traineeships in Milton Keynes, with the cohorts at the latter two firms being the largest – both had nine trainees at the time of our 2014 research. Hewitsons recruits into its Northampton office with seats sometimes offered in MK.

You might want to read up on...
Dentons • Freeths • Hewitsons • Shoosmiths 

 

Reading

Individuals employed in legal services (South East): 39,900
LPC providers: University of Hertfordshire • University of Law Guildford

Reading was home to a cohort of eight trainees at Shoosmiths during our reasearch this year while both Bristol firm Osborne Clarke and London/Guildford outfit Penningtons Manches have a handful of trainees here.

You might want to read up on...
Blake Morgan • Blandy & Blandy Gateley Osborne Clarke Penningtons Manches • Shoosmiths

Find out more: To be a lawyer in the Thames Valley

 

Cardiff

Individuals employed in legal services: 4,900
LPC providers: Cardiff Law School • Swansea University • University of South Wales (Glamorgan)

Wales' commercial legal market is petite, reflecting the principality's small population of just three million, and a GVA which is over 25% below the UK average.

Eversheds Sutherland is the only major national firm to offer training in Cardiff with particular strengths in energy, environment and climate change.

Other firms recruiting trainees are natives Hugh JamesCapital Law and Acuity Legal, and Anglo-Welsh firms Blake Morgan and Geldards.

You might want to read up on...
Blake Morgan • Eversheds Sutherland • Geldards

Find out more: The Welsh legal scene

 

Exeter

Individuals employed in legal services: 18,400 (South West)
LPC provider: University of Law

Three mid-size commercial firms dominate the Exeter market: AshfordsFoot Anstey and Michelmores. All three are natives of the city and have been around for decades. Ashfords and Foot Anstey both have trainees in Taunton and Plymouth too. Smaller South West firm Stephens Scown doesn't quite square up to the local 'big three' but does score top rankings for family law and property and is a big noise in Cornwall.

Tourism, farming and the environment are all big business in the South West so expect work at these firms to involve issues like waste management, leisure centre construction, yacht building, and mushroom farming (honestly!).

International firm Trowers & Hamlins has recruited trainees into its Exeter offices for a fair few years now, while Browne Jacobson's new office here may soon also have trainees.

You might want to read up on...
Ashfords • Foot Anstey • Michelmores • Stephens Scown • Trowers & Hamlins

Find out more: Doing business in the South West

 

 

Plymouth

Individuals employed in legal services: 18,400 (South West)

Plymouth is a bigger city than you might expect: it has 250,00 inhabitants and when it comes to business and lawyers is mainly notable for its marine work – think yachts rather than supertankers.

You might want to read up on...
Ashfords • Bond Dickinson • Foot Anstey 

Find out moreDoing business in the South West

 

Leicester

Individuals employed in legal services: 13,100 (East Midlands)
LPC provider: De Montfort University

Leicester is a city noted by firms and lawyers for the quality of its university's LLB course. Its professional legal scene is tiny. Two native firms are Spearing Waite and eight-partner outfit BHW Solicitors.

A couple of regional firms have an office here and recruit trainees; they include FreethsGateleyShakespeare Martineau and Weightmans.

You might want to read up on...
Freeths • Gateley • Shakespeare Martineau

 

Oxford

Private client work for wealthy Oxfordshire folk is the name of the game here: all the Oxford offices of firms we cover in the Student Guide work in this field, except Clyde & Co which does professional liability work.

Both Freeths and Penningtons Manches are here because of mergers with smaller local firms: Freeths merged with local private client firm Hemans in 2013 while Penningtons Manches shacked up with eminent family bods Manches in 2014.

You might want to read up on...
Blake Morgan • Clyde & Co • Freeths • Penningtons Manches

 

Guildford

Individuals employed in legal services (South East): 39,900
LPC providers: University of Law Guildford

Wealthy Guildford is your stereotypical Southern commuter town, but it's a nice place to live and work in its own right too – so our Guildford sources tell us every year. Or if you want, London is just a 35-minute train journey away.

Partners at top local firms Penningtons Manches and Stevens & Bolton are often ex-City types who want to lead the hectic lifestyle and surrounding of London behind them, but still want to do high-quality commercial work.

A couple of London firms want a piece of the Guildford action too: Charles Russell Speechlys takes trainees here, and although Clyde & Co doesn’t hire into its Surrey base, it does offer Guildford secondments to London trainees.

You might want to read up on...

Charles Russell Speechlys Clyde & Co Penningtons Manches • Stevens & Bolton

Find out more: A beginner's guide to Guildford

 

Other cities and towns

The UK's smaller cities and market towns are littered with law firms left right and centre. Many of these will be high-street firms catering for local individuals and undertaking work like conveyancing, personal injury, family law and crime; some of their work may be funded by legal aid.

But smaller cities and towns also have a surprising number of commercial firms in them – or outposts of commercial firms headquartered in a larger city in the region. There is a direct relationship between the economic health and wealth of a city and the presence of (small) commercial law firms. Case in point: Salisbury. This small wealthy city of 40,000 people supports two independent firms: Trethowans and Wilsons. Likewise the small, sleepy town of Gerrards Cross is home to B P Collins – the Buckingham town is the third wealthiest postcode in the countryBut you'll find commercial firms dotted up and down the country: from Truro on Cornwall's Atlantic coast to Grimsby on the Humber in the North East, via such places as Bournemouth, Henley, the Black CountryStoke and Derby.

You might want to read up on..

Ashfords  Blake Morgan • Blandy & Blandy  Blaser Mills B P Collins  Charles Russell Speechlys Cripps • Dentons  Foot Anstey  Freeths • Geldards  Higgs & Sons Irwin Mitchel • Kennedys • Lester Aldridge Mills & Reeve  Stephens Scown  Trethowans  Veale Wasborough Vizards  Wilkin Chapman  Wilsons

 

Scotland

Individuals employed in legal services: 20,200

As Scotland is a separate jurisdiction to England and Wales, the Scottish legal recruitment market is not covered by the Chambers Student Guide. To become a solicitor north of the border, you must first complete a four-year Scottish LLB followed by the Scottish LPC-equivalent – the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice (or PEAT 1) – and then a traineeship (PEAT 2). 'PEAT' stands for Professional Education And Training and is the Scottish Law Society's new name for the two main steps in the process of becoming a Scottish solicitor. Note that English LLBs and LPCs are not valid, and that there is no equivalent to the GDL in Scotland. To become a Scots lawyer you essentially must study a degree in Scots law.

The Scottish Law Society's website has more details on the standard route into the profession, an alternative route for those not doing the LLB (the skinny: it's complicated), and how England-and-Wales qualified solicitors can cross-qualify in Scotland.

Scotland historically had an elite 'Big Four' of commercial firms: Dundas & Wilsons, McGrigors, Shepherd and Wedderburn and Maclay Murray & Spens. The first two have now merged with CMS and Pinsent & Masons respectively and their names have disappeared from the legal market. The latter two still exist as independent firms and also offer London-based traineeships. Other major native Scottish firms include Brodies, Burness Paull, Harper Macleod and Dickson Minto.

Find out more: Becoming a lawyer in Scotland

While the Student Guide does not cover the experience of Scottish trainees this website does feature a number of firms which offers Scottish traineeships:

You might want to read up on...
BLM  Bond Dickinson • CMS • DLA Piper • DWF • Maclay Murray & Spens • Pinsent Masons • Shoosmiths  TLT