London’s prestigious Magic Circle law firms have promoted a record number of partners this year, in a sign the battle for talent is raging on at the most senior levels of the UK’s top firms.
London’s five Magic Circle law firms – Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Slaughter and May, Linklaters, and Allen & Overy – promoted a record 152 of their lawyers to partner level in this year’s round of promotions.
The record figure marks a 28 per cent increase on the 119 partner promotions in 2021, and a 33 per cent increase on the 114 lawyers promoted to partner level in 2020.
The bumper number of partner promotions comes amid fierce competition for legal talent which has seen the UK’s top law firms offer lawyers increasingly outrageous salaries.
This year saw London legal giant Linklaters lead the way, in promoting 41 of its lawyers to partner level, up from 33 in 2021 and 30 in 2020.
City of London law firm Allen & Overy followed closely behind in creating a further 39 new partners in its 2022 round of promotions, compared to 30 in 2021 and 29 in 2020
The UK’s largest law firm Clifford Chance followed closely behind in promoting 37 lawyers to partner level in its largest round of promotions since 2007.
The Canary Wharf headquartered law firm’s 2022 promotions come after the firm elected 29 new partners in 2021 and 26 in 2020.
London’s oldest law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer also put 27 of its lawyers up to the level of partner, compared to 22 in 2021, and 21 in 2020.
By contrast, Slaughter and May bucked the trend by creating just eight new partners in 2022, compared to five in 2021, and eight in 2020.
The uptick comes in the midst of fierce competition for legal talent on the back of booming demand for legal services, caused by a surge in M&A activity due to the economic impacts of Covid-19.
Although the majority of the 152 new partners are based in offices outside the UK, a substantial proportion of the new partners are based in the Magic Circle firms’ London offices.
Freshfields noted that seven of its 27 new partners are based in London, while Linklaters said 16 of its 41 new partners were based in the UK’s capital.
In the case of Clifford Chance, 17 of its 37 new partners are based in its Canary Wharf HQ, while in the case of Allen & Overy 13 of its 39 new partners are based in the City.
Speaking to City A.M. the Law Society’s director of strategic relationships Stephen Denyer said: “This underlines the continued importance and success of England and Wales as a global legal centre.”
The Law Society director noted the trend signals the fact that “British expertise is highly valued and firms are competitive in a tough global market.”
The promotions are set to see those elevated to partner level earn millions of pounds a year, with new partners at Freshfields set to earn the most with average annual earnings of £1.91m.
For comparison partners at Allen & Overy earn £1.9m, those at Clifford Chance earn £1.85m, and those Linklaters £1.77m earn a year. Slaughter and May do not disclose how much their partners earn.