Linklaters - True Picture

The strongest Links: one of the biggest names in the City; a giant of the cross-border market; a training experience that’s hard to beat.

Linklaters training contract review 2021

The Firm

When we interview trainees at magic circle firms and ask them what drew them to their firm, “the prestige” is a predictably common response. But Linklaters trainees went further, distinguishing their firm for “how consistently strong the firm is across three disciplines,” (corporate, banking and disputes) and “the broad offering of seats in areas which are all so highly regarded.” A scan of the firm’s high-end rankings in Chambers UK proves their point: Links sits at the top table for banking, capital markets, competition, environment, litigation, pensions, employee schemes, financial services, infrastructure, projects, energy, retail and transport.

Once you’ve caught your breath, move on to the Chambers Global rankings, where the firm earns global leader status for banking, capital markets (debt, equity and structured finance), M&A, employee benefits, projects and energy. International prowess was a popular draw for Linklaters trainees: “I wanted to work at a firm with a large global network because that provides a lot of opportunities both in terms of work variety and international clients.” 

“… a broad offering of seats in areas which are all so highly regarded.”

The firm runs regular international (and client) secondments. HR will advertise available destinations “around three or four months before the seat change.” Anybody who’s interested can then submit a separate application form. “Ideally, if you want to do an international secondment you would have done the seat in London first,” we heard. That said, international opportunities aren’t just limited to secondments: “I’ve been abroad twice already, as part of my London seat,” a source recalled. Past examples of client secondments include stints spent at Exxon, BAE Systems, Nestlé and UBS. International options have included Madrid, Paris, Dubai, New York and Singapore. Secondment availability depends on business need and changes from seat to seat.

In the City or overseas, opportunities to work “on landmark deals” had trainees making heart-eyes. Examples you may be familiar with include advising Sainsbury’s on a proposed mega-merger with Asda; and acting for Vodafone on its legendary £112 billion hostile bid for German industrial giant Mannesmann. Prior to starting a training contract at this elite outfit, one Linklaters trainee recalled feeling “quite terrified – it’s a big corporate firm with a huge brand!” Upon becoming more familiar with the people behind the headlines, interviewees felt “individually valued, everyone is quite relaxed.” Ultimately it was the “combination of how friendly and approachable everyone was, with the high level of work,” that sealed the deal for most.

The Seats

The majority of trainees go on secondment (either to a client or overseas) for their final seat. This year’s cohort explained that Linklaters has moved to “an algorithm-based approach” for seat allocation, which was being trialled at the time of research and has now been fully implemented. Although sources were still slightly unsure of the newly computerised regime, one clarified that “you now rank all the seats from one to ten on this software, which puts it through an algorithm that allocates peoples into seats.” With the system still in its infancy, “HR were running the process manually in parallel to make sure everything goes okay.” We subsequently heard that all went well, so the system is now running independently with review from HR to ensure everything is functioning as it should.

The corporate teamgrapples with private and public M&A, private equity deals and sector-focused corporate work – often with energy and tech clients. Trainees tend to spend most of their time on the area their principal works in, though noted “it’s quite fluid in terms of how work is allocated and cross-group staffing.” Linklaters’ mega clients include Sainsbury’s, Unilever and Just Eat, whom the firm advised on its recommended merger with, to form a £9 billion entity. The team also acted for Chinese steelmaker Jingye Group on the acquisition of the assets of British Steel – its first acquisition outside China, with £1.2 billion commitments attached. Given Linklaters’ magic circle status, our sources mostly came across “large deals often involving multiple jurisdictions.” This meant it would often fall to trainees to “coordinate those jurisdictions and chase local counsels for responses.” Transaction management aside, interviewees also got to “draft non-disclosure agreements” and “have the first go at amending clauses in meatier documents.” Bottom line: corporate trainees won’t be in the driver seat of deals, but will get some enviable names on their CV.

"It's quite fluid in terms of how work is allocated and cross-group staffing.”

When corporate advisory matters cropped up, sources were also able to “respond to queries from clients and come back to them with various pieces of research.” Corporate governance and company secretarial advice are part of Linklaters’ practice; the firm also helps clients comply with market abuse regulations. One source shared: “I’ve been pleased with how the corporate seat has gone in terms of the types of work I’ve been able to do. I’m keen to get involved in as much as possible to try and develop skill sets.”

Seats in structured finance, equity capital markets (ECM) and derivatives and structured products all fall under the capital markets umbrella. In the firm’s structured finance seat, deals revolve around securitisations. Trainees came into contact with “quite a lot of mortgage-related work, often for banks or mortgage companies” as well as some “private equity deals and distressed buyouts.” The team acted for the London branch of Citibank on its acquisition and securitisation financings of a c. £5 billion portfolio of UK residential mortgage loans and unsecured consumer loans; and advised Credit Suisse and Merrill Lynch on a £3 billion UK residential mortgage-backed securitisation. The structured finance group has a “reputation for being one of the busiest in the firm,”so sources found they were “chucked in” right away. One reminisced: “From day one I was calling clients, and drafting and managing documents.” Unlike in corporate, where trainees were more likely to act on one or two larger transactions, in structured finance “you’re more likely to be on six to eight transactions at a time.”This means teams are smaller and trainees act as “the first point of contact for clients.”

In the derivatives and structured products seat, trainees saw “a lot of repackaging deals” as well as advisory work. One recalled working on a “complicated special purpose vehicle (SPV) structure, repackaging debt to new investors,” while others ploughed through “more tailored and specific over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives.” Clients here are mostly major banks, plus some companies like Vodafone; the firm also recently advised the International Swaps and Derivatives Association trade group on global interest rate reforms. “Composing the terms sheets for transactions,”trainees often dealt with the signings and completions too.

"... the first point of contact for clients.”

Linklaters’ banking department also splits into multiple seats including leveraged finance, restructuring and insolvency, global loans, and financial restructuring. Leveraged financeinvolves “leveraged buyouts for banks, normally backed by big private equity firms.” Trainees were also staffed on refinancings for existing deals. In one deal of this type, Links advised The Carlyle Group and PIB Group on the £204 million refinancing of the latter; the firm also acted for CVC Capital Partners on the €650 million financing of the acquisition and take-private of French-listed insurance business April Group. Sources reckoned the leveraged finance seat can be “very process-heavy” with more structured roles and tasks for trainees: drafting ancillary documents, running conditions precedent checklists, and “helping out on smaller tasks related to the main finance documents.” On the restructuring and insolvency side, the trainee role was similarly carved out, but the matters differed – sources saw “restructuring transactions for companies that couldn’t meet their debts and needed to discuss new arrangements with their creditors.”

Dispute resolution is one of the firm’s largest groups “because it doesn’t split out into specific litigation types,” insiders explained. “It’s all combined and the range of work is quite broad.” As such, each trainee we spoke to had quite different experiences: “You wouldn’t necessarily see the full range of work that goes on in the department in just six months.” Some dipped into competition litigation “where a company’s accused of abuse of a dominant position in the market,” while others were staffed on investigations into contentious regulatory matters. Linklaters acted for price comparison site Kelkoo in a claim against Google, seeking damages over alleged anti-competition abuses by the search giant. The firm’s other disputes clients range from Goldman Sachs and PricewaterhouseCoopers to the Association of Football Agents UK. A disputes seat involves plenty of research and preparing bundles for trials; sources enjoyed also getting “to take the first draft of a client email or memo and go to conferences with barristers and QCs to take notes.” Some admitted “there’s certainly less client contact,” which is generally true of disputes seats, but most felt they were “still involved to an appropriate level.”

Trainee Life

We heard that the firm makes it a mission to put the ‘link’ in Linklaters: “They’re great for teamwork. I was struck by how welcoming people were and instantly felt part of the group.” Sources also gave examples of the firm doing “a good job of fostering relationships, particularly between trainees of different intakes. Some people I worked with in my first seat are now qualified – building those relationships is important for later on.” All future trainees (who need to) complete a Links-specific LPC together, and trainees found solace in “having friendships to build on when we come into the firm. Linklaters is so big and can be somewhat intimidating, but that makes a massive difference.” The intensity of the workload can also be daunting to start with – “it’s definitely not a place to be shying away from work” – but trainees agreed that “despite the firm expecting a lot from us, everyone is super helpful and willing to train juniors.” 

"It’s definitely not a place to be shying away… but everyone is super helpful and willing to train juniors.”

Interviewees learned plenty on the job, but we’d be amiss not to mention the formal training at Linklaters. First is the New Lawyers Programme, wherein the firm “brings together trainees from across its global network” for initial sessions before the first seat. Going forward, the departments “split up the training differently.” For instance, a source in corporate “completed two full days of training,”whereas in capital markets another “had ten weeks of Wednesday-morning trainings.” Interviewees flagged other optional sessions too, including “seminars on different legal issues that may crop up” or “updates on major current deals.” Trainees also appreciated that “feedback is really encouraged at Linklaters – as well as the feedback from your supervisor, you’re also encouraged to seek it from whomever you work with to get input from a broad variety of people.”

Diversity and inclusion is another area that “Linklaters puts time and money into,” sources noted. They also, however, didn’t shy away from declaring that “there’s definitely still a long way to go: Links is not an exception to the systematic problems in the industry at high levels.” Among the firm’s 2020 partner promotions, a 73% majority were male. “We’re told partner promotions are merit-based, so it’s tough to judge, but communications from the firm suggested they will try to do better.” Current efforts include an array of diversity societies and committees for lawyers to get involved in, plus an internal D&I website where the firm “publishes articles and videos to help with awareness” and share the experiences of diverse employees.

"Ten to 12-hour days."

Perhaps the most pressing question is… does the firm put the ‘later’ in Linklaters when it comes to hours? Trainees came to the consensus that “it’s a bit of a mixed bag.” Some had occasional periods of “real quiet, looking for things to do,” but this would inevitably be followed by getting “totally slammed, especially when coming up to a big deadline.” The latter was certainly more common, and for many could necessitate “ten to 12-hour days,” but sources added that “after you’d finish one of those deals, supervisors are really good about giving some time off in lieu.” Add the £47,000 trainee starting salary and super-juicy £90,000 NQ rate, and things don’t look too bad after all.

Linklaters aims for qualification to be “based on open communication,” encouraging trainees to keep in touch with teams they liked throughout the course of their training contract. Usually partners “will have made it clear at the end of each seat whether there might be space in that department for an NQ.” Fourth-seaters fill out a preference form, and HR speaks to partners to calculate “how to match supply with the demand.” In 2020, Linklaters retained 82 of 94 qualifiers over its spring and autumn retention rounds.

Virtual reality check: The firm moved its graduate recruitment process online in summer 2020, via the TopScore digital platform.


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How to get a Linklaters training contract


Deadlines: see website


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 South 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 60-90 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 480
  • Associates 2,310
  • 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
  • 2020/2021 vacation scheme applications: Please see firm website for dates and deadlines
  • [NOTE - 2020 spring vacation scheme postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak]
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £47,000
  • Second-year salary: £52,000
  • Post-qualification salary: total cash potential of up to £100,000
  • 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, 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 Spring 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 performancerelated 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 2020

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, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, 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 and commenced our next wave of diversity training on Inclusive Culture.

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 2020, featuring in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women for the seventh year running in 2020, ranking #9 in the 2019 UK Social Mobility Index and featuring in the Stonewall 2019 Top 100 Employers for LGBT people in the UK.  

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Borrowers: Big-Ticket (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance: Lenders: Big-Ticket (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance: Sponsors (Band 2)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 1)
    • 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 3)
    • Competition Law (Band 1)
    • Corporate/M&A: High-end Capability (Band 1)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 2)
    • Environment (Band 1)
    • Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 4)
    • 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 Litigation (Band 5)
    • Real Estate: Big-Ticket (Band 3)
    • Restructuring/Insolvency (Band 1)
    • Tax (Band 3)
    • 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 2)
    • Pensions Litigation (Band 1)
    • Private Equity: Buyouts: High-end Capability (Band 2)
    • Projects (Band 1)
    • Projects: PFI/PPP (Band 1)
    • Retail: Corporate & Competition (Band 1)
    • Telecommunications (Band 3)
    • Transport: Rail: Projects & Infrastructure (Band 1)

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