Linklaters - True Picture

With a “sophisticated training system” and strong “‘be yourself’ mentality,” there’s no such thing as a weak link at Links. Sorry Anne Robinson.   

Linklaters training contract review 2022

The Firm 

“Well, there’s the prestige element of it being a magic circle firm,” reflected one trainee when recounting why they joined Links. It’s understandable that this prestige factor drew our sources in, especially those with the long road in sight: “I know the connections I make here will open doors for me, whether I stay in law or not.” These are things that can be said for all magic circle firms, so what makes Links stand out? For one interviewee, Links was “way more engaged in the application process than other firms. Even in my first year at uni, they were visible on campus, engaging with students.”

Given its perception as one of the most prestigious firms in the UK, you may have assumed that Links focuses its campus outreach solely on Oxbridge. However, only a third of Links’ cohort came from those universities: “I don’t come from a traditional City law background, but Linklaters has been a great fit,” said one. The firm’s been on a social mobility drive lately: building on its ‘Making Links’ (great pun) initiative, which helps university students from low-income backgrounds, the firm recently launched ‘Making Links Discovery’, which is targeted at 16 to 18-year-olds from ethnically diverse and financially disadvantaged backgrounds. The firm also announced it will soon start funding SQE prep courses for refugees. “I’ve been to so many events where other firms are almost defensive about their D&I record,”one source observed, “but Links really has committed to doing better, which encouraged me to join this firm.”

"We work with lots of fintech companies – that’s an up-and-coming thing at the firm.”

Speaking of recognition in publications, Links has raked in more than 50 Chambers UKrankings – and that’s just the domestic ones. Like most City firms, Links comes out on top for litigation and all things finance-y, but it’s also top-tier for more niche practices, like retail and environment (no other magic circle firm is ranked in the latter categories). It’s something that wannabe trainees picked up on: “I didn’t know which practice I wanted to eventually specialise in, so I needed a firm that was market-leading in a wide range of practices, which is why I chose Links.” The firm has a network of 31 offices across 21countries. 

The Seats 

Rather than ranking seat preferences, newbies allocate each seat a score out of ten indicating how much they want to do it: “If you’ve scored a seat ten, you’re likely to get it at some point in your training contract.” Incidentally, our interviewees got their first choice 85% of the time.

Capital markets at Linklaters is split into structured finance, equity and debt markets and derivatives subgroups, with a seat available in each. Those who’d sat in derivatives were quick to highlight its reputation: “Links has the best derivatives group in Europe.” In fact, Chambers Europe rates Links as cream of the crop in every single capital markets category across the continent. Much of the regulatory work sees rookies research EU law: “With Brexit, our clients had lots of questions about onshoring and how banks could meet their regulatory obligations.”Our sources had worked on a number of Over The Counter’ (OTC) derivative structures, which are not as heavily regulated as listed derivatives. Speaking of which, the group advised on the impact of interest rate reform on SwapAgent, a platform that centralises and standardises the processing of OTC derivatives. On such matters, trainees put legal opinions and memos together and tackle the first drafts of documents: “We also work with lots of fintech companies – that’s an up-and-coming thing at the firm.” On the structured finance side, trainees are responsible for due diligence, marking up documents, liaising with the other side and either running or taking notes on client calls: “There are so many documents involved with this sort of work, so trainees usually take the first crack at drafting. We’re not just here to do the filing.”  Over in the equities practice, you’ll find Unilever, BNP Paribas and UBS on the books.

Sources reckoned there’s less responsibility on offer in corporate: “Those deals go on a lot longer than structured finance deals, which trainees need to quickly jump on.” The good news is rookies can get involved in all sorts of transactions. Trainees sit in one of four subgroups that cover a broad range of private and public M&A, private equity and sector-focused corporate matters – “but if you want work for a different team, you can just reach out to the resource allocation manager who handles workflow across the whole corporate group.”Newbies start off by compiling ‘The Bible’. It’s not an exercise in religious studies, but a compilation of all the main transaction documents. Due diligence usually gets a bad rep, but our sources enjoyed nosing through all the different elements of clients’ businesses. It also means trainees get to liaise with the firm’s more specialist teams: “Say for example that our client wants to acquire a telecoms company. I’d discuss it with the lawyers in the TMT group. It’s a great way to build a network in the firm.”Links advised Hong Kong-based conglomerate CK Hutchison on the €10 billion sale of its telecoms towers in Europe to Cellnex, a Spanish telecoms infrastructure company. 

Other corporate deal highlights include advising on the $12.2 billion leveraged buyout of Visma (which was the largest ever software buyout recorded globally), as well as private equity firm Carlyle on its acquisition of a minority stake in Spanish oil and gas company Cepsa (which was valued to be worth $12 billion). Drafting can come in the form of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs): “Associates and trainees lead those. They’re a staple in this group.” We did hear, however, that this seat isn’t strong on the client contact front: “I think it’s a bit weird that trainees, and sometimes associates, are expected to lay low on client calls, although I did get to liaise with them towards the end of my seat,” one interviewee commented.

"My supervisor was heavily involved in my dealings with clients initially, which helped me build my confidence.”

Banking, on the other hand, was a favourite among our sources given the high levels of client interaction available: “My supervisor was heavily involved in my dealings with clients initially, which helped me build my confidence.” It must be nerve-wracking, as some of the finance industry’s biggest players are on the books. J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Barclays and Citibank are just some of the institutions Links works with. The folks here advised a consortium of banks – including Santander, Barclays and BNP Paribas – on the financing of the first public-to-private leveraged buyout of a large company in Europe since the pandemic took hold. Links also advised another large group of lenders on the structure of a $3 billion loan made to giant steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal. Trainees focus on one of three subgroups: structured lending, leveraged finance and restructuring and insolvency, though trainees told us that tasks are similar across all three. Rookies dealt with facility and inter-creditor agreements, “which I saw in my corporate seat but didn’t have the expertise to examine them in depth. In this seat, I’m being upskilled so I can understand them better.” Trainees had also coordinated local counsel in different jurisdictions: “I was the one answering the questions, which was great as a first-seater.” Leading the conditions precedent checklist is a typical junior task, “which people often dread because it’s so long and involves so many documents, but it also means you’re heavily involved in the transaction. It’s a chance to spread your wings.”

The disputes department handles the kind of big-ticket corporate and financial cases you’d expect. You’ll find big businesses, banks and government bodies on the client roster: a few examples include AXA, PwC and Bank of New York Mellon (BNYM). The firm’s litigators recently represented the latter during the first fully virtual trial in the UK (as a result of the lockdown); it was live streamed on YouTube and revolved around a dispute over the freezing of more than $22 billion worth of funds connected with the Republic of Kazakhstan. Links picks up a couple of Chambers UK rankings for its international arbitration work and recently represented Pakistan during its attempt to annul a $6 billion International Centre of Settlement of Investment Disputes award tied to mining activities in the country – the award was the second largest in the ICSID’s history. Our interviewees had handled everything from competition litigation to sports law disputes, which is handy for “getting a holistic view of the practice.”Preparing seminars and client memos, as well as attending client calls are common trainee duties. However, sources did cite the lack of direct client contact as a drawback of this seat. Interviewees also explained that “the seat is 'law-heavy' in that your ability to summarise your research clearly is crucial. It can be daunting at first, and you wonder if you are getting it right, but you often find that you are, and you realise that they hired you for a reason!”This group got a shout-out for having “a great family-like atmosphere – despite having more than 200 people – and for being so wellbeing-focused.”

Trainee Life

Although “mental health awareness is better in some departments than others, there are ongoing frank and informal discussions about mental health between lawyers.”With free in-house counselling and virtual yoga, trainees scored Links highly for its efforts in promoting mental health, both pre- and post-lockdown. Of course, “longer hours inevitably affect wellbeing, especially when working remotely.” Several sources cited work/life balance as the primary area Links could improve upon. 

Our survey respondents had put in on average 52 working hoursin the previous week. This source captured the overall picture well: “I usually do ten-hour days, so expect to log on at 9.30am and work until 7.30pm, but there are peaks and troughs. There are quiet times when you can go for a walk or cook a nice dinner, and then there are times when it’s so busy.”Yes, it would be remiss of us not to mention that there will be occasions at Links where the hours really do ramp up, as they do elsewhere at City firms. At the extreme end, we heard from a trainee who had “worked past midnight consistently for three months” in the second half of a transactional seat. Another source said: “When you’re working late, you can pick up the phone at 2am and chances are someone else is up and working – there's always someone on hand to answer questions.”We were told that when the long hours come around “the development team reaches out to make sure you’re okay and not burning out.”

Links recently increased its NQ salary(to £100,000) after making a Covid-mandated pay cut. Our interviewees generally had “no complaints” on salaries: “It would be difficult to say we don’t earn enough! The US firms pay more but there’s a sacrifice for the extra salary – my friends at US firms work weekends, but here there’s absolutely no expectation to log in at the weekend.”Trainees were pleased to report that Links handled the transition to remote working seamlessly. The firm provided all the necessary equipment and gave everyone £200 to buy any additional tech: “They even sent me an ergonomic chair!” To keep the culture going remotely, each department hosted social events like terrarium-making workshops: “Everyone tries to translate the office environment to home working. It’s been so easy to get in touch with people if I have questions. Even when things are intense, you aren’t left to fend for yourself.”

"I feel like I can ring up anybody, irrespective of their seniority.” 

The firm’s multi-level supervision system was held in high regard by our interviewees: “It’s very sophisticated, and only possible in a firm as established as this.” Trainees are assigned one or two supervisors per seat – either a partner or managing associate – plus a buddy: “They’re usually junior associates who are closer to trainees career-wise and can answer the ‘silly’ questions.” Closing off the seat supervision quadrant is the trainee supervising partner: “They look after our general interests, like wellbeing. From day one, my supervisors have been unbelievable.” Naturally, trainees can reach out to the wider firm for support, too: “Everyone takes the time to ensure you know what you’re doing, even though everyone is so busy. I feel like I can ring up anybody, irrespective of their seniority.”

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, “Links strongly encourages a ‘be yourself’ mentality and is determined to embrace diversity.” Trainees highlighted that Links had elected its first-ever female senior partner and chair, Aedamar Comiskey, in May 2021. “I’ve seen the firm make a lot of progress since I started my training contract,”one source commented. “Almost half of the latest promotions went to diverse lawyers, which is extremely comforting.” Sources were keen to highlight Links’ efforts to promote inclusion in various daily situations: “There are halal options in our canteen, which might not seem like a big deal, but it makes a difference when you’re working long hours.” Links was also the first magic circle firm to adopt the Halo Code in March 2021, which is the UK’s first Black hair code and seeks to end hair discrimination.


The qualification process kicks off in the final seat, when trainees speak with their preferred groups to find out if there’s an NQ role available. “After we’ve formally submitted our preferences, the chosen groups and HR will have a conversation and if everything aligns, you get the job.” Over two thirds of our interviewees intended to stay at Links indefinitely, so it’s handy that retention rates have increased year-on-year since 2018. In 2021, 92 of 98 qualifiers were retained.


How to get a Linklaters training contract


Training contract deadline: 10 December 2021

Vac scheme deadline: spring & summer: 10 December 2021; winter: 14 October 2021


Linklaters recruits from a wide range of universities and accepts applications from both law and non-law students: the proportion of law to non-law graduates is 60:40. Alongside visits to many UK universities, recruiters are also sent to Africa, India and Australia to interview overseas candidates. To apply, candidates fill in their basic information, academic record and contextual data, before taking the online assessment based on the Linklaters agile mindset framework. The process is not timed, and the modules cover scenarios such as global transactions and critical thinking. This should take between 70-90 minutes to complete and helps the firm to understand more about you and your skillset. The assessment also helps applicants to find out more about what life is like as a Linklaters trainee and gives a personalised feedback report. The online assessment for a vac scheme is the same as the one for the training contract.  

Alongside the online assessment, applicants will be invited to complete an online Watson Glaser critical thinking test. You'll be doing yourself a favour by having a stab at a practice test, which can be found online. 

Assessments and interviews 

Successful applicants – for training contracts and vac scheme places alike – attend one of many assessment days held each year. The day involves a case study and two interviews. The case study is a hypothetical example of work a trainee might face. Candidates will have time to read and review the material and are then asked to write about some of the issues they spotted.  

The first interview takes place with graduate recruitment, who will be looking for examples from interviewees which demonstrate you have the qualities in their 'mindset framework' such as leadership and excellence. Recruiters say “you can use examples from work, your hobbies and interests, or your studies – it’s up to you." 

Then there's an interview with a partner and managing associate; they’ll discuss your case study, and ask a few more questions about you. Again, they will be looking for a candidate to demonstrate qualities in their 'mindset framework,' such as intellect, commercial thinking, resilience and teamwork. 

During the assessment day, candidates get a chance to tour the building and have lunch with the current trainees – a good chance to ask questions and find out more about working at the firm. From here the firm makes its offers. 

The vacation scheme 

Around 70% of Linklaters' vac schemers go on to train with the firm. The firm runs winter, spring and summer schemes – these are open to law and non-law students in their penultimate-year and final-year of study, as well as graduates and postgrads. 

Vac schemers visit one or two practice groups during their visit and can state preferences for these beforehand. Each attendee works alongside an associate who acts as a formal mentor and provides both guidance and feedback. A buddy from the trainee group stands in as a more informal point of contact. 

Over the course of the vac scheme there are presentations on core practice areas, a talk from the managing partner about the firm’s strategy, and an advice session on how to conduct yourself at an interview. Vac schemers also participate in a hypothetical client pitch and a mediation exercise. 

Those who complete the scheme are automatically allotted a final interview for a training contract. This takes place with a partner and managing associate and lasts an hour. 


One Silk Street,

  • Partners 515
  • Associates 2,300
  • Total trainees 230+ (London)
  • Contacts Graduate recruitment
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 100
  • Applications pa: 3,500
  • Minimum required degree grade: 2:1
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications: Please see firm website for dates and deadlines
  • 2021/2022 vacation scheme applications: Please see firm website for dates and deadlines
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £50,000
  • Second-year salary: £55,000
  • Post-qualification salary: total cash potential of up to £107,500
  • Holiday entitlement: 27 days
  • Sponsorship 
  • LPC fees: Yes
  • GDL fees: Yes
  • Maintenance grant: Yes
  • International and regional  
  • International offices: Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Bangkok, Beijing, Berlin, Brussels, Dubai, Dublin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Lisbon, London, Luxembourg, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, Munich, New York, Paris, Rome, São Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Stockholm, Tokyo, Warsaw, Washington DC
  • Overseas seats: Yes
  • Client secondments: Yes

Firm profile

From a shifting geopolitical landscape to the exponential growth in FinTech, this is a time of unprecedented change. At Linklaters, we’re ready. Our people go further to support our clients, with market-leading legal insight and innovation. And we go further for each other, too. We’re people you want to work with, generous with our time and ready to help. So no matter what the future holds, with us you’ll be one step ahead. Great change is here. Get ready.

Main areas of work

Rather than specialise in just one area, we’re proud to have best-in-class divisions across the board, in corporate, finance and projects, and dispute resolution. And in practice, they frequently work together to advise clients. As a Linklaters colleague, our breadth of expertise means that, wherever you focus, you’ll be involved in the very best work, and benefit from continuous, tailored training from experienced lawyers.

Training opportunities

The Linklaters training programme offers the knowledge and support you need to hit the ground running. Non-law graduates spend a conversion year studying the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), and all graduates complete the bespoke Legal Practice Course (LPC) before starting training contracts. From Autumn 2021, there will be a new route to qualification, known as the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). Trainees joining the firm from September 2023 will qualify via the SQE route. We will support our future joiners through the SQE and have joined the City Consortium (made up of six leading law firms). Over two years you’ll take up four six-month seats (placements) in different practice areas and sometimes abroad, for the breadth and depth of knowledge you need to develop and qualify. Throughout your career, you’ll be supported with world-class training courtesy of the Linklaters Learning & Development team.

Vacation scheme

Our two-week Winter and Spring vacation schemes, and our four-week Summer vacation schemes are open to penultimate-year students, final-year students, graduates and postgraduates studying both law and non-law subjects at UK and Irish universities.

Other benefits

For the GDL and LPC, Linklaters covers all costs, and we also offer maintenance grants. Financial support of a similar level will be provided for the SQE route. Other benefits include performance related bonuses, a contributory pension, private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection, in-house healthcare, family friendly benefits, an in-house gym and subsidised restaurant, an interest free season ticket loan and holiday travel insurance.

Open days and first-year opportunities

For information on our events, keep an eye on our calendar ( meet-us), or sign up to our mailing list.

University law career fairs 2021

You can also visit our events calendar to find out when we’ll be visiting your university.

Diversity, inclusion & wellbeing
We want to be known as the ‘best in class’ firm for Diversity & Inclusion – a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone feels they belong, and diversity is celebrated. We have a number of employee-led networks to celebrate the diversity of the firm; including With Pride and Allies, LEARN (Linklaters Ethnicity and Race Network), Gender Equality, Social Mobility and VisAbility to name a few.

We develop bespoke talent programmes to help us create a sustainable pipeline of diverse talent for leadership roles in our firm, including our flagship Women’s Leadership Programme, and our INspire Minority Ethnic Talent Programme. In July 2020 we signed the Race Fairness Commitment, committing to new concrete and data-driven measures taking structural action on race in the workplace. Our Diverse Voices: Reverse Mentoring scheme gives senior leaders in our firm an opportunity to build their awareness and understanding of different people’s perspectives and experiences. Finally, we have delivered 200+ Unconscious Bias training sessions globally, commenced our next wave of diversity training on Inclusive Culture and delivered Anti-Racism training to everyone at the firm.

The health and wellbeing of our people is recognised as being of critical importance and in the UK, we have an established programme structured around monthly topics. These cover areas such as mental health, healthy eating, exercise, sleep, as well as how to cope with the stresses of work and home life. Through our leading role in the City Mental Health Alliance, we are committed to breaking down the stigma and fear associated with discussing mental health in the workplace. We recently launched Healthy Minds, our confidential and free psychological support service which provides on and offsite support.

Recent achievements include being a Financial Times Leader in Diversity 2021, featuring in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women for the eighth year running in 2021, ranking #11 in the 2020 UK Social Mobility Index and featuring in the Stonewall 2020 Top 100 Employers for LGBT people in the UK.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Big-Ticket (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance: Lenders: Big-Ticket (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance: Sponsors (Band 2)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Debt (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: Equity (Band 1)
    • Capital Markets: High-Yield Products (Band 3)
    • Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 2)
    • Capital Markets: Structured Finance (Band 1)
    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Competition Law (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 1)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 3)
    • Information Technology (Band 2)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 3)
    • Intellectual Property: Patent Litigation (Band 3)
    • Litigation (Band 1)
    • Pensions (Band 1)
    • Public International Law (Band 4)
    • Real Estate Finance (Band 2)
    • Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 2)
    • Commodities: Derivatives & Energy Trading (Band 2)
    • Commodities: Trade Finance (Band 2)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 2)
    • Employee Share Schemes & Incentives (Band 1)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Mining (Band 1)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Oil & Gas (Band 1)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Power (Band 1)
    • Energy & Natural Resources: Renewables & Alternative Energy (Band 1)
    • Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Corporates) (Band 1)
    • Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory (Band 1)
    • Fraud: Civil (Band 4)
    • Infrastructure (Band 1)
    • Insurance: Non-contentious (Band 2)
    • International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 4)
    • International Arbitration: Investor-State Arbitration (Band 3)
    • Investment Funds: Private Equity (Band 4)
    • Investment Funds: Real Estate (Band 2)
    • Life Sciences (Band 3)
    • Life Sciences: IP/Patent Litigation (Band 3)
    • Life Sciences: Transactional (Band 3)
    • Outsourcing (Band 3)
    • Pensions Litigation (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 2)
    • Projects (Band 1)
    • Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 2)
    • Retail: Corporate & Competition (Band 1)
    • Telecommunications (Band 3)
    • Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 1)

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