Going into law isn’t going out of style. Law ranks among the top five career options for students1 and is one of the most popular degree courses at undergraduate level.2What explains its persistent appeal? While people go into law for a number of reasons,3 many are motivated to make a difference through public interest and pro bono work.4

Law is also one of the highest paying professions, however, so working directly on social justice issues isn’t the only way you can do good as a lawyer. If you enjoy commercial work and can secure a place at a high-paying firm, you can also have an impact by donating some of your earnings to charity. We call this earning to give.

If you target your donations to highly effective charities, this could be just as high-impact as public interest law. Newly qualified lawyers at top-ranked firms can expect to earn upwards of £70,000. Donating 10% of this take-home pay5 would be enough to save somebody’s life by buying anti-malaria bednets.6 If you are one of the approximately 5% who makes partner, you could earn over £1m each year – enough to fund a whole team of researchers, advocates or nonprofit entrepreneurs.

In this profile, we explore the pros and cons of law for earning to give. We focus on high-end commercial law – where the money is – rather than public interest law. It’s based on the legal training and experience of the primary author of this profile, Natalie Cargill, as well as conversations with lawyers from a range of practice areas. We’ve also drawn on academic literature, surveys by the Law Society, and publicly-available salary data.


In summary, we don’t normally recommend earning to give in commercial law. First, we think earning to give isn’t usually the highest-impact path in our current list of pressing global problems – talent gaps are more urgent. Second, even if you do decide to earn to give, commercial law doesn’t seem like the best option. While high-end firms can offer exceptional earning potential, this often comes at the cost of lower job satisfaction, limited direct impact, less flexible career capital, and high initial training costs.

Unless you are an unusually good fit — by, for example, having exceptional verbal skills and a proven interest in the field — there are likely to be better options available.

In particular, if you want to keep your options open and your earnings high, consulting seems to be preferable: It offers comparable earnings, higher job satisfaction, and more flexible career capital.


  • Potentially very high-earning, making it suitable to earning to give.


  • Direct impact is probably neutral or slightly negative.
  • Career capital is less flexible than nearby alternatives requiring similar skills.
  • A significant fraction of lawyers report low career satisfaction and high levels of stress.
  • High levels of competition.
  • Requires at least three years of additional training after an undergraduate degree.

Key facts on fit  

Attention to detail; commercial instinct; resilience to deal with long hours, tight deadlines, mountains of paperwork, and hierarchical culture.

Next steps

If you decide commercial law might be right for you, test out your fit by reading more about your options, speaking to current associates, and applying for summer vacation schemes.

Not usually recommended

We don't recommend this career unless you are an exceptionally good fit for it.

Review status

Based on a medium-depth investigation 

What is this career path?

In the UK, a career in law involves studying for a degree, completing at least one year of mandatory professional training, and then practising as a barrister or solicitor. Broadly speaking, solicitors are non-trial lawyers who provide expert legal advice, and barristers are trial lawyers who provide specialist advice and advocate in court.7

Although there are almost 140,000 solicitors working the UK, as of July 2017,8 in this review we focus on the fraction of those who practice at highly-ranked corporate firms.9 This is because in the increasingly ‘two tiered’10 legal profession, the earning potential at these elite firms far outstrips the median salary for a solicitor in the UK (which was £54,000 in 2015).11 Additionally, large commercial firms — with a thousand employees and turnover of millions — are so different in nature from typical high street firms that they are barely recognisable as part of the same profession.12

Also note that high-end commercial law is not a particularly large field: The top 30 highest-paying firms combined only offer around 1,000 training contracts each year in total, and the top 10 highest-paying firms offer only 200.

That said, our views on the pros and cons of high-end law largely apply to less elite firms as well, keeping in mind that these firms are not as high-earning but generally offer a better work-life balance.

What is commercial law?

Commercial law firms advise companies and governments on business-related issues, and are divided into departments which specialise in particular areas. Most commercial firms have practices in:

  • Corporate law, where lawyers ensure that companies comply with their constitution and relevant national and international laws;
  • Finance and banking, where lawyers protect their clients against the risks involved in financing a deal; and
  • Dispute resolution, where lawyers advise on the law relating to disputes and dispute resolution strategy.

Other common practice areas include employment, EU law, intellectual property, real estate, and tax.

What do we mean by ‘high end’ commercial law?

By ‘high-end’ commercial law, we’re referring to the UK firms with the highest earnings-per-partner and earnings-per lawyer. These firms fall into two broad categories.

The first is known as the ‘Magic Circle’,13 an informal term for what have traditionally been considered the leading UK commercial firms. The Magic Circle is made up of Allen & Overy; Clifford Chance; Freshfields; Linklaters; and Slaughter and May.

The second group is known as ‘US biglaw’, or ‘MoneyLaw’. The term refers to US firms in London14 who offer training contracts to UK-trained lawyers. It includes firms such as Milbank, Cadwalader White & Case, Latham & Watkins, Akin Gump, Cleary Gottlieb, Davis Polk and Kirkland & Ellis.

The US MoneyLaw firms offer more, well… money, as well as a more international practice, but they tend to be smaller, less-established in the UK, and to demand (even) more hours that their Magic Circle counterparts.

What is it like day to day?

What you do day-to-day will vary by seniority and practice area. The general career progression in a commercial firm is as follows:

  • For the first two years, you will be a trainee. Expect to spend your time – about 12 hours of it five or six days a week – doing legal research, note taking, proofreading, and drafting documents.
  • Trainees that are ‘kept on’ will become junior associates. For the following one to three years, you’ll largely play a supporting role and help senior associates manage their cases. As you gain experience, you’ll begin to advise on regulations and conduct negotiations yourself.
  • Years four to seven are the ‘mid-level’ associate years. While the hours will still be long, you’ll now be able to do most of the work involved in running a case.
  • In the years before being made a partner, around years eight to ten, you’ll be a ‘senior associate’. The work will involve structuring deals and running teams of lawyers.
  • If you ‘make partner’, you’ll work to win new business, keep the firm strategically aligned across its international locations, and generally manage its executive-level decisions.

How much can you earn in commercial law?

Commercial law is one of the highest-paid careers, making it a candidate for “earning to give”. You can read more about why to earn to give in this separate article, which covers common objections, and why we don’t normally recommend it right now.

Just how highly paid is commercial law? In 2017, partners at US-headquartered firms in the UK earned between between £1.5 and £3m (Kirkland & Ellis, the highest-paying US-based firm, awarded each partner over £4m). Magic Circle firms paid each partner around £1.5m.15 While few current trainees will become partners – and, even if they do, it’s not clear what partners will be earning in 15 years or so – it is clear that commercial law can pay very well.

Why? There are a number of reasons. Fundamentally, commercial law firms are in the business of transferring and protecting the wealth of affluent clients, within a legal and regulatory framework that allows them to charge highly for their work.

Commercial lawyers protect client wealth, for example, by defending claims, reviewing contracts to include favourable terms, or ensuring that regulations are complied to avoid fines. They also help clients to obtain wealth by bringing claims against others, advising businesses, and assisting to finance projects.

Because the sums at stake for these clients are so large, and commercial law can be so complex, the cost of engaging highly-specialised and constantly-available lawyers is less than the cost of conducting business without the best legal advice. This means firms can charge high hourly rates, make substantial profits, and pay equity partners the figures mentioned above.

The supply of lawyers is also limited by education and licensing requirements.16 In the UK, this means at least three years of postgraduate training and approval by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. According to research on ‘occupational licensing’, this system limits the number of people who can provide legal services, and is one factor in keeping lawyer’s fees high (at the expense of their clients).

However, occupational licensing probably doesn’t play a particularly large role in keeping the salaries of elite commercial lawyers so high. Instead, talented employees (and talent that is willing to work 100-hour-weeks at the beck-and-call of impatient bankers and multinational corporations) doesn’t come cheap, and commercial law needs to offer salaries that are competitive with other high-earning industries for the best graduates.

So how much do commercial lawyers actually earn?

In short, a lot. But around the same and consulting and banking. Here is a side-by-side comparison:

High-end commercial law (Magic Circle & US equivalent)17High-end consulting (Big Three)18Banking (Front office investment banking)19
Median salary20£54,000£47,000£50,000
Mandatory postgraduate trainingMinimum of 1 years’ additional training (two years if undergraduate degree not law).Zero additional training.Zero additional training.
Graduate (years 1-2)£45,000- £ 55,000 + (during training contract)£45,000 - £50,000 +£50,000 - £75,000
Graduate career dropout ratesAround 5-15% of trainees will not be offered positions as associates after training. US-firms tend to ‘keep on’ fewer associates than Magic Circle firms.21About 25% of consultants will leave or be asked to leave after ~ 2 yearsAround 10% of analysts will leave after the first year.

Around 30% of analysts will leave after ~ 2 years

Junior career (years 3-4)£75,000 - £120,000£60,000 -£80,000£80,000 - £120,000
Junior-mid career dropout ratesAround 40% leave.Around years 3-5 ~ 30% of consultants leave.By some estimates, almost 50% of junior corporate finance bankers leave within 3 years.
Mid-career (years 5-8)£120,000 - £170,000£100,000-£160,000

Total compensation varies greatly depending on bonuses

£120,000 - £200,000

Total compensation varies greatly depending on bonuses

Likelihood of ‘making partner’ or MDAround 3-4% of each graduate intake will make partner.22Around 2-5% of each graduate intake will make partner.23Around 10-20% of analyst-associates will become MD’s.24
Experienced: Partner / MD (years 8-14)Base salary: £180,000 - £220,000.

Average bonus for equity partner over £1.5m.

Base salary £150,000-£200,000.

Average bonus could be over £1m.

Base salary: £250,000 - £400,000

Average bonus over £500,000.

There are a couple of things to bear in mind when looking at these numbers.

  1. First, they are only rough estimates. The estimates have been gathered from publicly available data and conversations with people in the relevant industries. While it is relatively easy to find out how much commercial law pays at the trainee stage and in the early years of practice, it is harder to find accurate information on pay at later stages (with the exception of pay-per-salaried partner).25

  2. Second, the estimates are of what people are being paid in 2017. If you are reading this post and considering studying for a degree in law, it will be at least six years until you are a newly-qualified solicitor, and over a decade before you are a mid-level associate. Knowing how the industry will change in that time is important for assessing the value this career path. The key drivers of change in that time will be global and national economic business environments; how clients buy legal services; technological innovation; new entrants and competitors; and political agendas around legal regulation.26 These drivers are likely to lead to a more competitive, more international, and more specialised legal market. While this may mean that successful top-ranked commercial lawyers could be even more-highly paid (especially those that carve out a profitable niche for themselves), it also indicates that only the most exceptional and motivated would-be lawyers should pursue this career path, as reaching equity partnership is set to become even more difficult.27

  3. Third, the estimates of the chances of making partner are especially difficult. Moreover, they only reflect the average rates, when in practice many lawyers don’t aim to make partner. One of the commercial lawyers we’ve spoken with estimated that around half of all candidates ‘gunning’ for partnership have the potential, in terms of skill and competence, to become partners. The rest drop out of running for partnership of their own election. While this does suggest that making partner might be easier than the 3-4% figure suggests, the high dropout rates also belie widespread career dissatisfaction (which we explore further below).

So, what conclusions can we draw from these estimates?

First, on average law has similar earning to consulting, but somewhat lower earnings than investment banking comparing year-for-year, especially if you consider that lawyers start with 1-2 years of extra training. However, there are a number of complications:

  1. Consultants often exit into higher-paying management jobs, and investment bankers often exit into higher-paying hedge fund and private equity jobs, and the same seems less true for law, so this is another point against law.

  2. The upside if you succeed in investment banking is significantly higher. About twice as many make it to Managing Director (MD), and MDs earn twice as much as base pay. Moreover, while partner bonuses rarely break through £2m, top finance executives and traders can earn significantly more. You can also earn larger bonuses early on in finance.

  3. The risk of dropping out early in finance is also higher. So, overall finance offers a greater spread in outcomes. This is reflected in our US data-set, which shows that finance has similar mean earnings to law, but higher 99th percentile earnings (though note that “finance” in this case is broader than investment banking, so the mean should probably be higher too).

Second, all this said, the differences in expected earnings are not huge. This means you should focus more personal fit and career capital. It’s better to be in the top 20% of lawyers than at the median in finance.

What’s the highest-paid option within law?

If you are considering applying to become a commercial solicitor, we’ve listed the number of training contracts available at the highest-paying firms.

US-headquartered firms:

FirmEstimated starting salary for newly-qualified lawyers (after 2-year training contract)Number of training contract places (2016-17)
Kirkland & Ellis£147,00010
Akin Gump£140,0004
Cleary Gottlieb£120,00015
Davis Polk£112,0004
Latham & Watkins£101,00024
White & Case£90,00050

‘Magic Circle’ firms:

FirmEstimated starting salary for newly-qualified lawyers (after 2-year training contract)Number of training contract places (2016-17)
Clifford Chance£85,00080
Allen & Overy£78,50090
Slaughter & May£78,00080

While starting salaries are not always indicative of later earning potential (in some parts of the technology and finance industries, higher graduate earnings can actually indicate lower earnings later on), our conversations with recruiters suggest that the above table does give an indication of not just newly-qualified earnings, but later earning potential as well.

In general, Magic Circle firms offer slightly lower salaries, but have many more training contract places, a higher trainee retention rate, and are less ruthless in ‘letting go’ of employees later along the line. US-headquartered firms offer higher pay, but far fewer places.

Reasons not to work in high-end commercial law

Career capital

Our view is that the career capital you can accrue as a commercial lawyer is less flexible than nearby alternatives such as consulting. While law is a respected profession, it does not foster the skills and connections that would be most useful in directly impactful careers, your colleagues and work environment may negatively affect your motivation to help others, and transitioning from (commercial) law to policy may be harder than commonly assumed. The following goes into a little more detail.

In some respects, commercial law isn’t a bad option for accruing career capital. A law degree is a well-recognised and respected credential. Law remains one of the most prestigious professions.28 It will allow you to develop valuable, transferable skills in verbal reasoning, written advocacy, and interpersonal communication in a high-pressure environment.

Working at a highly-ranked firm also means you can accomplish impressive achievements such as advising on a $4.2 billion acquisition29 or a $2.2 trillion privatisation scheme.30 In addition, you’ll able to connect with other high-earning lawyers and clients in business, finance, and government, and – given the earnings – you should be able to save enough to support a future career transition.

However, career capital in commercial law is limited in a number of ways, particularly when compared with the nearby alternative of consulting.

Knowledge and skills

Most of the specific knowledge you’ll acquire as a commercial lawyer will be irrelevant in other fields. While this is true of many career paths, it seems to be particularly the case with commercial law, where the increasing need to specialise very early31 has reduced the scope of the average lawyer’s expertise. To a lesser extent, skills that are specific to commercial law such as settlement negotiating, deal structuring, and litigation strategy are unlikely to be immediately applicable in other professions. Importantly, commercial law does not seem to foster the generalist research skills and broad policy knowledge that would be useful in many directly impactful career paths.

Colleagues and connections

Most of your network is likely to be in the legal and financial sector. While this may be useful for fundraising or transitioning to finance, it is less likely to lead to opportunities for direct impact.

In addition, the people you work with and the professional culture you are immersed in may impact on your own values and motivation, and a career in commercial law could negatively affect your motivation to help others.32

Several legal scholars have pointed to the negative effect of legal training and practice on the altruistic aspirations of lawyers,33 and there is evidence to suggest they might be right. Much of the research from the US suggests that legal education has a negative or neutral effect on students’ moral reasoning.34 The research indicated a progressive conversion of attitudes and values towards a conservative view of legal role,35 away from idealism towards instrumentalism36 and against legal aid, public service or government work.37 We might extrapolate and consider the possibility that the culture and stresses of commercial law dampens commitment to helping others more broadly. All this said, at 80,000 Hours, we’ve seen people earn to give in similar fields like finance for many years without any apparent risk of giving up their plans to donate, so it’s possible to avoid.

Exit Opportunities

Successful commercial lawyers looking to change careers should not struggle to find employment. An informal, US-based poll of ex-lawyers38 found that many go into consulting (21%), business (27%), and in-house law (18%). However, with the exception of consulting and technology start-ups, we don’t usually recommend these career paths. And if your aim was to go into consulting, it would be better to do it directly.

One exit option worth considering in more detail is the move from law to politics, as there is a widespread conception that becoming a lawyer is a tried-and-tested route to Parliament. 39 As we explain below, however, this transition might not be particularly easy if you choose to work at a high-end commercial firm.

There is justification for this view. For instance, 89 lawyers were elected as MPs in 2015. This prompted articles such as ‘Legal Background is Ticket to Seat in New Parliament’,40 which reported that 119 of the 650 of MPs in Parliament in 2015, around 18%, had either studied or practised law before standing for election (whereas in 2010, only 85 elected MPs had legal experience).

Indeed, the proportion of lawyers in the House of Commons is much larger that the UK’s working population as a whole. Even if we control for the fact that MPs are largely drawn from the most highly educated part of the workforce, since 2010 there have still been 10 times more lawyers in the House than one would expect if the House were broadly representative solely of the professional and higher managerial segment of the population.41

However, few of these lawyers have a background in commercial law. In the UK Parliament (since the 8 June 2017 election), a total of 62 out of 650 (9.5%) of MP’s have practised law. 36 (60%) have practised as solicitors, and 25 (40%) as barristers. Note that this 9:4 ratio of solicitors to barristers means that solicitors are vastly underrepresented in Parliament: The ratio of solicitors to barristers in practice is almost 9:1.42 In general, lawyers as a whole tended to win more Conservative seats than non-lawyers,43 and solicitors tended to represent the Conservative party slightly more often than their peers at the Bar.44

If we look more closely at the solicitors in Parliament, however, only a quarter of them have any background in commercial law (9 out of 36), and only 4 of those have practised at Magic Circle or equivalent firms. So while almost 10% of the Members of Parliament are lawyers, only around 0.6% have any background in high-end commercial law.

Moreover, if we compare this to the some 10,000 people who work as commercial lawyers, we can see the chance of transitioning from commercial law to Parliament is very slight.

These figures are just a snapshot of the current House of Commons, and we should be cautious about drawing confident conclusions from them, However, when we consider the general trends towards fewer lawyers (and more ‘career politicians’) in Parliament, the snapshot seems to indicate that a career in commercial law is not a ‘ticket to Parliament’.

As the graph below shows, the number of lawyers in the House of Commons has been declining since 1918.

Further, as the numbers of MPs with legal backgrounds has fallen, so the number with a political background has increased. In 2015, 17% of MPs from the three main parties had previously been politicians or political organisers, compared to around 3% up to 1979 and 14% in 2010.45

Interestingly, this is a trend that is mirrored in the US, where the percentage of Congressional members with a legal background has been continuously dropping since the 1960’s (it was almost 60% in 1965-66, and reached a low of 36% in 205-16), while those with a background in public services, politics, or congressional aid has jumped from 10% in 1945-6 to 31.4% in 2015-16.46

In the UK, some of – but not all – of the downward trend can simply be explained by the rise and fall of the Labour party.47 The other reasons are less clear. On the supply-side, lawyers (and commercial lawyers in particular) may be increasingly less-inclined to stand for parliament given their higher earnings, the reduced status of MPs, and the increasing demands of their job.

Political scientists now tend to downplay demand-side factors in explaining the composition of the House of Commons, and it is likely that a candidate’s professional background is far less important to the electorate than their party membership. However, factors such as a decline in respect for ‘the professions’ generally, and law specifically, may also play a role. A recent YouGov poll,48 for example, found that British voters want fewer lawyers and more doctors, scientists, and factory workers in Parliament: 46% said they want fewer lawyers, while only 24% said they wanted more lawyers.

While the causes of the decline of lawyers in politics remain unclear, the trend seems fairly robust and should mitigate any uncritical enthusiasm for commercial law as a route into politics. When we speak to people in party politics about how best to enter, by far the most common answer is to enter directly as a career politician, rather than working in law first.

Direct Impact

It is extremely difficult to estimate the direct impact of any profession in the modern economy. However, our view is that becoming a commercial lawyer is unlikely to have a positive impact at the margin compared to your donations or the direct impact paths we focus on elsewhere.

Organised legal professions are central to a well-functioning society.49 Those countries adhering most strongly to the rule of law, and with the highest quality legal rules,50 have had notoriously powerful legal professions,51 while in many developing countries with weaker institutional infrastructure, the organised legal professions have been virtually irrelevant.52

However, by practising law in the UK, your effect (at best) is to become just one more lawyer among 140,000 practising solicitors.53 Your effect is not to ensure that there is a functioning legal system at all. Far from it. The English legal system is perhaps the most established in the world, with centuries-long history and international repute. It scarcely needs another lawyer to prop it up.

In particular, it scarcely needs another commercial lawyer. Commercial lawyers rarely tend to work on cases of constitutional importance that protect the rule of law: As Law Professor William P Quigley writes:

Justice work is not the essence of the legal profession. Our professional essence is money, and the overwhelming majority of legal work consists of facilitating the transfer of money or resources from one group to another […] justice work, if done at all, is done in the margins or after the real legal work is done.54

Further, even if you do practice commercial law, it is not clear that you will have the impact of ‘one more’ lawyer at all. At best, you increase the supply of lawyers, which might lead to (in expectation) half an extra person eventually being employed. Moreover, if the supply of lawyers is artificially restricted by occupational licensing, as some claim, then the impact could be near zero.

There are also reasons to believe that practising commercial law could be positively harmful. First, there are cases where commercial lawyers seem to do work that has a clear negative impact on society. An obvious example is working for large tobacco firms to challenge public health initiatives.

Of course, most commercial cases are not evil-tobacco-company versus the State. The overwhelming majority of commercial work is not even litigious at all.55 However, some researchers have suggested that even run-of-the-mill commercial law could have a negative impact on society, as the inefficient legal system can allow law firms to profit by ‘rent seeking’ (increasing their share of existing wealth without creating new wealth).

Here’s a highly simplified example: If one large company sues another for £1m, both companies will have to ‘lawyer up’. If they can’t settle the dispute, they might be tempted to spend a large amount on legal fees in order to win the case. If one firm spends £600,000 on fees and then wins the total amount in dispute, they would still net a profit of around £400,000 (less any of the other side’s costs they may be ordered to pay). However, if both firms think they are going to win and spend £600,000 on fees, this means that in total £1.2m will have been spent on a case that can at most transfer £1m between two groups. This is a wasteful process that economists call ‘rent dissipation’.

For a real-life example, we can look at litigation related to asbestos injuries, the longest-running mass tort in U.S. history.56 Defendants and insurers spent a total of $70 billion on asbestos litigation up to 2002, more than half of which was consumed by legal expenses.57 These fees were running at about three times the level of compensation paid to claimants before 1985, and by 1992 asbestos firms’ payments reached an estimated $12 billion, with $9 billion going to legal fees.58 In one settlement in 1991, two lawyers netted $125 million, or $1 million a day for the time they spent on the case.59

So why is some proportion of this $1 million a day ‘rent’, rather than simply wealth created by the lawyers for themselves? ‘Rent’ in this context is an earning that is unrelated to productivity, and that results from exploiting the inefficient legal environment or taking advantage of a dominant position in the market. It is the difference between the amount that lawyers actually charge clients, and the amount they could charge in a fully competitive environment.

Essentially, it is unearned financial gain: Those lawyers making a million-a-day to represent, say, 200 claimants did not do $5,000 worth of ‘work’ every day for each claimant (after the first claimant, the amount of extra ‘work’ per additional claimant will have been minimal). Instead, they were simply members of a regulated system that allowed them to collect a percentage of every claimant’s pay-out. The $1 million a day they received was a largely a very expensive transfer fee for the reallocation of existing wealth between the wrongdoers (the asbestos producers/employers) and the claimants.60

Researchers have also claimed that having ‘too many’ lawyers stifles innovation and economic growth. Dr Stephen Magee, Professor of Economics and Finance at the University of Texas, estimated that the US has over 40% ‘too many’ lawyers. Magee plotted the relationship between economic growth rates and lawyer populations in several countries. The resulting ‘Magee curve’ indicated that lawyers bring economic benefits to a country up to a certain point – by helping to delineate and define property rights and the maintain the rule of law – but after that point, more lawyers correlates with slower economic growth. By Magee’s revised model (2013),61 the ‘optimal’ number of lawyers per 1,000 people is about 2.5. In the US, there are around 3.65 lawyers per 1,000 people, and in the UK around 2.6.

Other researchers built on this work by differentiating between “productive” and “unproductive” entrepreneurs,62 i.e. those who start or improve firms that innovate and foster growth, versus those who make “innovations in rent-seeking procedures, for example, discovery of a previously unused legal gambit that is effective in diverting rents”.63

Empirical studies support the idea that lawyers can be classified as “unproductive” entrepreneurs, and that unproductive entrepreneurship is associated with slower economic growth. Researchers studied this question using data from 55 countries; as a proxy for productive entrepreneurism, they used the proportion of college students majoring in engineering, and as a proxy for unproductive entrepreneurism, they used the proportion of students concentrating in law. The authors found that a 10 percentage point increase in the share of students concentrating in law was associated with 0.78 percent slower annual growth in per capita GDP.64

These estimates have been debated, of course. Several researchers have criticised the ‘too many lawyers’ model for not adequately taking into the account contributions that lawyers make to non-market output,65 such as civil rights and social justice. Others have criticized Magee’s methodology and his numbers.66

However, nuances in this debate are likely to be eclipsed by the direct impact you could have through your donations. As a commercial lawyer, you could donate £50,000 per year within a few years of qualifying. This would be enough to employ two public interest lawyers, or buy 50,000 malaria nets in the developing world. More generally, if you could donate to a charity that creates social benefits worth £100 per £1 of donations, then that would create £5 million of social value per year, which we expect is far greater than the harms of an additional lawyer. Read more.

Career satisfaction

The hours can be mentally and physically draining. They are so hard to predict. Last week I left every day at 5 or 5.30, but a few months ago I was leaving at 3am or 5am every day. You can never tell, sometimes it can be fine, but when it gets bad it’s just really awful. Just awful. I didn’t realise what the mental strain would be – as well as being physically tired you are emotionally drained, there is so much pressure to perform perfectly and be really positive. I planned to stay longer, but I can’t see myself doing it for more than a few years. It feels like it’s not really worth it. For two months I had no evenings and weekends at all.

This is from an interview with Laura,67 a trainee at a Magic Circle law firm. She studied law at a prestigious UK-university, and intended to work in commercial law for a few years to “get qualified”. While it’s not all bad – the experience has taught her “the basics” of commercial practice, such as attention to detail, and most of her colleagues are friendly – there is very little law involved, and a lot of “grunt work”, for a lot of hours.

Laura isn’t alone. The internet is full of associates berating the “mindless, repetitious, stunningly dull”68 or “soul crushing”69 work. As one law professor puts it: “Biglaw today is simply a mega-business and it will use you as it sees fit to get what it needs, with no genuine concern for your development, your life balance, your practice interests and goals, your sanity, or anything else.”70

These kind of articles don’t reflect the experience of every lawyer, but our impression is that job satisfaction may indeed be lower for this career than others.

Michael’s Story

We interviewed Michael Page, former lawyer and current AI strategist, as part of our research for this review. Michael started law school in the US in 2006. He had studied geology as an undergraduate, and wanted to ‘make the world a better place, but wasn’t sure how to do it’. Initially, Michael was drawn to public interest litigation. He interned with the ACLU while studying at Cornell, and clerked for a Court of Appeal judge after graduating. Michael then became a impact litigator for the Public Citizen Litigation Group, where his work focused on consumer rights and the First Amendment.

While the work was rewarding, Michael felt that public interest litigation rarely selects cases strategically, and he left feeling that he could have more impact elsewhere. He moved to work as a litigator at one of the top firms in the country, and was able to donate some of his earnings to causes he cared about. Michael found the work intellectually challenging, though the culture could be draining, and he described the direct impact of his career as “neither particularly good or bad, I was simply complicit in a very inefficient legal regime”‘.

Since learning more about 80,000 Hours, Michael decided he could be happier, more productive, and have a better impact on the world by working directly within high-impact projects. He now works with several different organisations on research into AI policy and strategy.


Commercial law is fiercely competitive, and entry standards are high. On average, law firms receive around 42 applications71 for every training contract vacancy they advertise, a 2.3% acceptance rate. Highly-ranked firms may be even more competitive: In 2014, US firm Skadden received 1,000 applications for just ten positions.72 This suggests elite firms may be about as competitive as consulting, where the acceptance rate of top firms is around 1-3%.73

At the top end of the London legal market, around 30% of new trainees graduated from Oxford or Cambridge.74 Another 60% graduated from the rest of the Russell Group universities.

This level of competition is unsurprising, given that there are more LPC graduates than training contracts on offer. In 2014, for example, around 5,500 new trainee solicitors were registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, while around 6,200 students had successfully completed the LPC.

Who is most likely to succeed in this career?

The following background seems to predict success in this career path:

  1. Strong academic performance. The literature on university law grades has long-acknowledged the importance of grades to law students and employers.75 One recent analysis reported that “performance in law school—as measured by law school grades—is the most important predictor of career success”.76 Another concluded that grades in legal writing in particular, as opposed to advocacy, are the grades that matter most.77
  2. Graduating from a highly-ranked, prestigious university.78

In addition, certain personality traits are useful in predicting job performance,79 and different jobs call for different personality profiles and strengths.80 So which traits are are most useful for lawyers? Marjorie M. Shultz and Sheldon Zedeck conducted a multi-year empirical study81 involving over 3,000 law graduates to help answer this question. They identified 26 factors82 that are important to ‘lawyering effectiveness'”, and found that the best lawyers tend to:

  1. Have a track-record of academic and/or professional success. This correlated with 24 of the 26 ‘lawyering-effectiveness’ factors. The only factors it did not correlate with were integrity and stress management.
  2. Remain steady in the face of pressure. This quality correlated with 22 of the 26 factors, and most strongly with the ability to advise clients and manage stress. It was also the main advice of the Magic Circle trainee we spoke with. She said, “you need to be really resilient. You just need to keep going, keep ploughing on. Don’t let things bother you too much”.
  3. Be conscientious, disciplined, and thorough. This correlated with 18 of the 26 factors, and most strongly with managing yourself and others, developing relationships, and diligence.
  4. Be leader-like and achievement oriented. This correlated with 14 of the 26 factors, and most strongly with networking and being passionate about one’s work.
  5. Be socially sensitive, tactful, and perceptive. This quality correlated with 12 of the 26 factors, and most strongly with developing productive relationships.
  6. Be optimistic. This correlated with 10 of the 26 factors, and most strongly with advocacy ability, networking, and stress management.

Interestingly, some personality facets that you might expect to predict lawyer effectiveness showed no especially significant correlations. For example, it may not matter too much how inquisitive you are (in the sense of being imaginative, adventurous, and analytical), how much you enjoy academic activities and value education, or how much you enjoy social interaction.

Should you become a commercial solicitor?

  1. Do you have a realistic shot at entering the profession? Do you have, or could you realistically get, a good degree from a Russell group (or US-equivalent) University?

  2. Could you find working in commercial law satisfying? Would you enjoy drafting legal documents and dealing with demanding clients? Could you manage the long hours and tight deadlines?

  3. Are you comfortable with the idea of earning to give being the main way that you will have an impact with your career? Would you be better suited to any of the direct impact options we recommend? Would you be likely to follow through and donate some of your earnings to effective social interventions?

  4. Relative to your other options, is this a good option for earning to give? Given the relatively inflexible career capital, higher training costs, and lower job satisfaction in commercial law, we would generally recommend another path such as consulting.

Next steps

If you decide commercial law might be right for you, test out your fit by reading more83 about your options, speaking to current associates, and applying for summer vacation schemes.84

Notes and references

  1. A Skills London Career Survey reported in the Independent LINK found that lawyer was the fourth most popular career choice for 16-year-olds in 2014, and the third most popular in 2015: “Conducted by Skills London – the capital’s biggest jobs and career event – the research of 16-year-olds across the city, found that medicine, teaching, law were the most popular career aspirations”. See the table in the article.

  2. BBC News LINK reported that in 2014 law was the third most popular undergraduate course in the UK, with 103,000 applications (c.f. nursing, the most popular course with 238,000 applications, and design studies, the fourth most popular with 97,000 applications).

  3. The top three (self-reported) reasons for studying law are ‘interest in the subject matter’, a desire for professional training, and a desire for intellectual stimulation: Stevens, Robert. “Law schools and law students.” Virginia Law Review (1973): 551-707 & Schleef, Debra. “Empty ethics and reasonable responsibility: vocabularies of motive among law and business students.” Law & Social Inquiry 22.3 (1997): 619-650, at 630.

  4. A series of interviews with 27 law students at US universities found that 33% reported entering law out of a duty to enter social advocacy/public interest: Schleef, Debra, Ibid. at 62.

  5. Net annual pay for gross salary of £70,000 calculated at £48,379.68, using UK Salary Calculator LINK.

  6. Bednets distributed by Against Malaria Foundation, LINK. The Givewell median estimate of cost per life saved equivalent – as at November 2016 – was $3,282. The range was $542 – to $7,179 [LINK]https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KiWfiAGX_QZhRbC9xkzf3I8IqsXC5kkr-nwY_feVlcM/edit#gid=115155829.

  7. Usually, the solicitor is the first lawyer seen by the client. The barrister is retained by the solicitor (not by the client) if the matter goes to litigation or if it requires specialist legal opinion (often ahead of going to litigation).

  8. Solicitors Regulation Authority, Regulated Population Statistics, 2017, LINK. Although there are over 180,000 solicitors ‘on the roll’, only around 14,000 are currently practising.

  9. This profile focuses on a career as a commercial solicitor rather than a commercial barrister, because (1) there are very few places available at the commercial bar, (2) although a career at the commercial bar can be very high-earning, there is higher variance among earnings and on average commercial solicitors earn more, and (3) we will cover careers at the bar in a later profile.

  10. Marginal Revolution, The changing income distribution for lawyers (Average is Over), November 2013, LINK. In 1991, the single most common starting salary for lawyers in the US was around $30,000, with progressively fewer newly-recruits earning above $30,000, and no new recruits earning more than $90,000. By 2010, there are clearly two distinct groups of lawyers entering the profession: One cluster earns around $50,000 as a starting salary, and the other around $160,000. As the title of the article suggests, ‘average’ is over, and two distinct legal markets (the lower-end and the elite) have emerged.

  11. The Law Society of England and Wales, Private practice earnings survey 2015, September 2016, LINK. “The median average salary across all private practice grades in 2015 was £54,000 per annum, a 4.8 per cent increase on 2014 median figure […] Across all in private practice, median earnings were highest in Greater London (£76,000) […] Median earnings within each private practice grade increased as size of firm increased”.

  12. A. M. Francis, Out of touch and out of time: lawyers, their leaders and collective mobility within the
    legal profession
    (2004) 24 Legal Studies 322, G. Hanlon Lawyers, the State and the Market:
    Professionalism Revisited (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan Press Ltd., 1999).

  13. Chambers Student, Magic Circle Law Firms, 2017, LINK: “Historically, Slaughter and May, Freshfields and Linklaters were most highly regarded for their corporate work and Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance for finance. This distinction is now largely moot as the corporate and finance practices of all five firms outshine those of all but a few of their competitors. But the corporate vs. finance distinction within the circle does still come through in the Chambers UK rankings […] Note that Slaughters, Freshfields and Links are all a step ahead of A&O, and Clifford Chance in the corporate rankings, while the latter two win their best plaudits in the banking and finance arenas. Linklaters defies categorisation: this year at least it wins a top-tier ranking in all five of the corporate and finance areas we picked out”.

  14. Chambers Student, American and transatlantic firms in the UK, 2017, LINK: “There are roughly 100 US and transatlantic firms with a presence in the UK. Around half offer training contracts – they offer about 650 between them”.

  15. From earnings-by-partner rankings by compiled by ‘Legal Cheek’; see the full list of earnings by partner and associate here: LINK.

  16. There has been a dramatic increase in ‘occupational licensing’ in recent decades: In the 1950s, less than 5 percent of the work force needed an occupational license; the number rose to 18 percent in the 1980s and it now stands at 29 percent. (Morris Kleiner and Alan Krueger, “The Prevalence and Effects of Occupational Licensing,” British Journal of Industrial Relations 48, no. 4 (2010): 676–687.)

  17. Sources for these estimates include conversations with lawyers in practice, and: Chambers Student, How much do trainee lawyers earn? December 2015, LINK; Legal Cheek, The Firm’s Most List: 2017-2018 Edition, LINK; City A.M Want to find out what your salary will be like when you enter corporate law? These are the City’s best-paying law firms, April 2016 LINK

  18. Sources for these estimates include conversations with consultants in practice, and: Recruitment Buzz, Consultancy: Who Offer the Top Pay Packages?, January 2016 LINK; Consulting 101, The truth behind consulting salaries – How much money consultants make, from analyst to partner, June 2016 (this article used data for the US, where pay is higher than in the UK), LINK.

  19. Sources for these estimates include conversations with people in the industry, and: EFinancialCareers, ‘This is how much you should earn as an investment banker in your 20s, 30s and 40s‘, April 2017, LINK; Goodman Masson Banking & Financial Services Salary & Bonus Guide 2014, LINK; Inside Careers, Salaries in Investment Banking, 2014 LINK;

  20. The median salary numbers shown here are averages across the whole of the sector in question, i.e. average for all solicitors in private practice, all management consultants, and all front office investment bankers in the UK. The average is therefore not particularly useful for anticipating how much you might earn as a solicitor at an elite firm. The median estimates are useful, however, for indicating how much above average the highly-ranked firms pay, and what you might expect to earn at a middle-ranked, high-street solicitors firm.

  21. See list of retention rate by firm in Autumn 2017, as ranked by Legal Cheek, LINK.

  22. A 2016 study by the Lawyer magazine found that only 37 people out of an intake of 1,000 at Magic Circle firm Linklaters were promoted to partner between 2009 and 2016, 3.7%, LINK.

  23. EFinancial Careers, ‘Want to become a partner at McKinsey & Co.? Prepare to be battered by doubters’, September 2015, LINK.

  24. EFinancial Careers, Investment banking analysts have a 20% chance of making it to managing director, July 2015, LINK.

  25. This is partly because compensation will vary more as people receive bonuses based on performance. It is also because people don’t generally like to share their details of their salary, and there is less incentive for firms to share later-stage salary details in order to recruit graduates, as applicants tend to focus on what they will be paid in the shorter-term.

  26. These factors were identified in The Law Society of England and Wales Report on ‘The Future of Legal Services’, January 2016. The report presents findings drawn from a range of sources: a literature review, round table discussions and interviews with a range of practitioners across different practice types, firm visit reports, and the outcomes from a series of three futures panels, LINK.

  27. This trend – of fewer senior associates becoming partners – has been ongoing for the past three decades. The top 100 firms have just shy of 1,000 more equity partners in 2012 than they had in 2011. See Edge International, 2015 Global Partner Compensation System Survey, LINK: “More law firms are using non-equity partners in every country, and the use of these partnerships is anticipated to increase”.

  28. From the list of occupations by prestige assembled by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) in 1989. However, a 2007 Harris Poll of 1,010 U.S. adults found that those who say lawyers have “very great” prestige had fallen 14 points in 25 years, from 36 to 22 percent, LINK.

  29. Example from 2017: US Cleary Gottlieb represented McCormick & Company in its acquisition of the food business of British conglomerate Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc for $4.2 billion LINK.

  30. Example from 2015: Clifford Chance advised on JPY2.2 trillion airport privatisation LINK.

  31. This is a general trend that has been noted by many members of the profession. See, for example, the Law Society Gazette 2011 article ‘How a lawyer can change their specialist practice area’, LINK.

  32. This has been referred to as the risk of ‘value drift’ over time. For an example of how this might work in finance, see Eldridge, John. “Want to Make a Difference with Your Life? Get a Job in Corporate Law.” Alternative Law Journal 41.3 (2016): 183-185, citing David Brooks, ‘The Way to Produce a Person’, New York Times (New York) 3 June 2013: “You might start down this course seeing [a job in] finance as a convenient means to realize your deepest commitment: fighting malaria. But the brain is a malleable organ. Every time you do an activity, or have a thought, you are changing a piece of yourself into something slightly different than it was before. Every hour you spend with others, you become more like the people around you. Gradually, you become a different person. If there is a large gap between your daily conduct and your core commitment, you will become more like your daily activities and less attached to your original commitment. You will become more hedge fund, less malaria. There’s nothing wrong with working at a hedge fund, but it’s not the priority you started out with””

  33. Professor William Simon, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, began his 2002 treatise on lawyers’ ethics with the observation that “no social role encourages such ambitious moral aspirations as the lawyer’s and no social role so consistently disappoints the aspirations it encourages” (W.H. Simon The Practice of Justice (Camb. Mass., London: Harvard University Press, 1998), [1]). Professor William Quigley, Director of the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center, writes that “The repeated emphasis in law school on the subtleties of substantive law and many layers of procedure, usually discussed in the context of examples from business and traditional litigation, can grind down the idealism with which students first arrived” (Quigley, William P. “Letter to a Law Student Interested in Social Justice.” DePaul J. Soc. Just. 1 (2007): 7, at [9]). Professor Jonathan Rapping, a professor of law at Harvard Law School, writes: “from the moments he or she sets foot in a law school classroom, the future lawyer feels a strong pull to pursue a career that has nothing to do with justice […] I regularly work with current and future lawyers. Many of these lawyers struggle to maintain their idealism in areas – both academic and professional – that frequently promote values inconsistent with the principles they strive to embrace”, (Rapping, Jonathan A. “It’s a Sin to Kill a Mockingbird: The Need for Idealism in the Legal Profession.” Mich. L. Rev. 114 (2015): 847, at [486]-[487]).

  34. T.F. Willging and T.G. Dunn ‘The Moral Development of the Law Student: Theory and Data on Legal Education (1982) 32 Journal of Legal Education 306, cited in Boon, Andrew. “From public service to service industry: the impact of socialisation and work on the motivation and values of lawyers.” International Journal of the Legal Profession 12.2 (2005): 229-260.

  35. D. Schleef `Empty Ethics and Reasonable Responsibility: Vocabularies of Motive Among Law and Business Students’ (1997) 22 Law and Social Inquiry 619.

  36. Schleef’s study of American law degree students found that students’ positions shifted from extreme
    self-interest or altruism towards a mid-point consensus, whereby a desire to ‘help the poor’ transformed into support for zealous advocacy and pro bono representation (id.). Gender differences in relation to these values are also, apparently, few in law schools (J. Taber, M.T.Grant, M.T. Huser, R.B. Norman, J.R. Sutton, C.C. Wong, L.E. Parker and C. Picard ‘Gender, Legal Education, and the Legal Profession: An Empirical Study of Stanford Law Students and Graduates’ (1988) 40 Stanford Law Review 1209)

  37. A substantial downswing in determination to work in the public interest or public sector is common (S. Homer and L. Schwartz ‘Admitted but Not Accepted: Outsiders Take an Inside Look at Law School’ (1989-90) Berkeley Women’s Law Journal 1 at 42, R. Granfield Making Elite Lawyers (New York, Routledge, 1992) or, if such interest is maintained during college years, it is not reflected by employment decisions (Erlanger and Klegon op. cit. n.31) or legal education reinforces original attitudes to careers (J.M. Hedegard ‘The Impact of legal Education: An In-Depth Examination of Career-relevant Interests, Attitudes, and Personality traits Among First-Year Law Students’ (1979) 4 American Bar Foundation Research Journal 791 at 805).

  38. Online survey of 430 former lawyers, carried out by abovethelaw.com and think thank ‘Adam Smith, Esq.’. These were the top choices for former solicitors: A non-practicing lawyer at a firm/in-house (18%); A consultant (21%); A business person (27%); An entrepreneur (22%); Not working (21%); Parenting (16%), LINK.

  39. Note that we have focussed on the transition from lawyer to MP as one example of transferring from law into politics. However, we expect that the general trend we identify – that there are fewer and fewer lawyers moving into politics – will also apply to a broader spectrum of political careers. We chose becoming an MP as it is easier to measure changes in the proportion of lawyers over time.

  40. The Law Society Gazette, ‘Legal background is ticket to seat in new parliament’, published 21 May 2015 LINK.

  41. Feldman, David, ed. Law in politics, politics in law. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013, p.42.

  42. There are currently 16,000 barristers in practice according to the Bar Standards Board, LINK, and the Solicitors Regulation Authority records 140,000 practising solicitors, LINK.

  43. 35 of the 60 lawyers in Parliament represent the Conservative party, and 20 the Labour party.

  44. 60% of the solicitors in Parliament represent the Conservatives, compared to 50% of the barristers.

  45. House of Commons Briefing Papers Number CBP 7483, 28 September 2016, Social background of MPs 1979-2017, LINK.

  46. The Washington Post, How the most disliked — and elected — profession is disappearing from politics, January 2016, LINK.

  47. Feldman, ibid, p.44.

  48. YouGov, Public wants fewer lawyers as MPs, more doctors and scientists, July 2015, LINK.

  49. See, for example, Grajzl, Peter, and Peter Murrell. “Lawyers and politicians: the impact of organized legal professions on institutional reforms.” Constitutional Political Economy 17.4 (2006): 251-276.

  50. Djankov, S., Glaeser, E., La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., & Shleifer, A. (2003). The new comparative economics. Journal of Comparative Economics, 31(4), 595–619.

  51. Burrage, M., Torstendahl, R. (Eds.), (1990). The formation of professions. Knowledge, state and strategy. London: SAGE Publications; Halliday, T. C., Karpik, L. (1997b). Postscript: Lawyers, Political Liberalism, and Globalization. In: T. C. Halliday, & L. Karpik (Eds.), Lawyers and the rise of western political liberalism: Europe and North America from the eighteenth to twentieth century. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  52. Johnson, T. (1973). Imperialism and the professions: Notes on the development of professional occupations in Britain’s colonies and the new states. In: P. Halmos (Ed.), The Sociological review monograph 20, professionalization and social change. Keele University: Keele; Waters, C. P. M. (2004). Counsel in the caucasus: Professionalization and law in Georgia. The Hague/London/New York: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

  53. Solicitors Regulation Authority, Regulated Population Statustics, 2009-2017, LINK.

  54. Professor William P. Quigley, Professor of Law and Director of the Loyola Law Clinic & the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center. Quigley, W.P., 2007. Letter to a Law Student Interested in Social Justice. DePaul J. Soc. Just., 1, p.7. LINK.

  55. According to data from the Law Society of England and Wales, of the 115,475 practising solicitors in 2010, only 21,937 said they offered general litigation services. Litigation is even more of a minority activity for major firms. In 2011, Clifford Chance listed only 354 out of its 2,626 lawyers as being involved in litigation and dispute resolution, and Linklaters categorised as litigators a mere 43 of its 488 worldwide partners. (Howarth, David. Law as Engineering: thinking about what Lawyers do. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013, p.23).

  56. Rand Corporation, Asbestos Litigation Report, 2005 LINK.

  57. Foreign insurers spent $8 billion to $12 billion through 2000, more than half of which has been assumed by the London market.

  58. Stroup, Richard L., and Roger E. Meiners, eds. Cutting green tape: toxic pollutants, environmental regulation, and the law. Transaction publishers, 2000, p.141.

  59. Note that in the UK fees of this proportion are less likely to be obtained, as contingency fees are more highly regulated, and class-action lawsuits of US-proportions are less common.

  60. Some degree of rent seeking, however, may be beneficial to clients. Because clients cannot monitor (or even understand) all of the work their lawyers are doing, they have to rely on the incentives created by the high fees in order to be assured that lawyers will invest the requisite time and litigation costs to maximize their best outcomes. The outcome may be lower net recovery for the client if the lawyer’s costs were lower. The optimal fee, then, is one that minimizes both lawyer’s rents and underinvestment in claims (TEN). It seems likely, however, that most rent-seeking behavior by lawyers enabled by an inefficient legal system is not to a client’s benefit.

  61. Magee, S.P., 2013. Lawyers as spam: congressional capture explains why U.S. lawyers exceed the optimum and their cost. In: F.H. Buckley, ed. The American Illness: Essays on the Rule of Law. New Haven: Yale University Press.

  62. Similarly, economists Kevin Murphy, Andrei Shleifer, and Robert Vishny note that a country’s most talented people can organize production in two different ways. On the one hand, they may “start [or improve] firms,” in which case they will “innovate and foster growth.” On the other hand, they may “become rent seekers,” in which case, “they only redistribute wealth and reduce growth.” (Kevin Murphy, Andrei Shleifer, and Robert Vishny, “The Allocation of Talent: Implications for Growth,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 106, no. 2 (May 1991): 503–530).

  63. William Baumol, “Entrepreneurship: Productive, Unproductive, and Destructive,” The Journal of Political Economy 98, no. 5, part 1 (October 1990): 893–921, 897.

  64. Murphy, Shleifer, and Vishny, “The Allocation of Talent,” 526.

  65. The popular “too many lawyers” literature is criticised in Marc Galanter, News from Nowhere: The Debased Debate on Civil Justice, 71, Denver University Law Review 77 (1993).

  66. Notable Charles Epp in “Let’s Not Kill All the Lawyers”, Wall St. J , 9 Jule 1992. Dr Magee responded to these criticisms in, The Optimum Number of Lawyers: A Reply to Epp: [Commentary], Law & Social Inquiry, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Autumn, 1992), pp. 667-693

  67. Name changed to protect anonymity.

  68. City Journal, My Life as An Associate, Winter 1997, LINK.

  69. Business Insider: Law and Order, First-Year Corporate Lawyer Can’t Believe His Job Is THIS Soul Crushing, November 2012, LINK.

  70. Above the Law, Biglaw Practice Today: Cruel Expectations, July 2013, LINK.

  71. Legal Cheek, Banking sector receives twice as many graduate applications as law, November 2015, LINK.

  72. Ibid.

  73. “Even before the recession, the top firms were receiving 10,000 resumes for entry-level consultant openings but hiring just 100 to 250 consultants annually.” WetFeet. 2011. Careers in Management Consulting, p. 8. 22 The Harvard Crimson. “Class of 2014 by the numbers”.

  74. Chambers Student, Law firms’ preferred universities, 2015, LINK.

  75. E.g., Richard Sander & Jane Bambauer, The Secret of My Success: How Status, Eliteness and School Performance Shape Legal Careers, 9 J. EMPIRICAL LEGAL STUDIES 893 (2012); Emily Zimmerman, Do Grades Matter?, 35 Seattle U. L. Rev. 305 (2012); Leslie M. Rose, Norm-Referenced Grading in the Age of Carnegie: Why Criteria-Referenced Grading is More Consistent with Current Trends in Legal Education and how Legal Writing Can Lead the Way, 17 J. LEGAL WRITING INST. 123 (2011).

  76. Professors Sander and Bambauer’s (Ibid.) research used six databases with an incredibly large number of entries. Several of the databases consist of information from interviews, surveys, and public records. Sander and Bambauer note the potential for misreporting in surveys, including the specific example of 81% of one of the survey’s respondents reporting “they were in the top half of their classes, and the overreporting is even worse for the top-10 schools (with 94 percent reporting that they were in the top half of their graduating class).”

  77. Clark, Jessica L. “Grades matter; legal writing grades matter most.” Miss. CL Rev. 32 (2013): 375.

  78. Richard Sander & Jane Bambauer, Ibid. The study concludes that while it is true that students from elite universities are more likely to be recruited to a top-tier law firms than students from from a less-elite universities – this is not as large a factor as most people commonly believe.

  79. Chatman, Jennifer. 1991. Matching People and Organizations: Selection and Socialization in Public Accounting Firms. Administrative Science Quarterly 36:459–84; Kristof, Amy L. 1996. Person-Organization Fit: An Integrative Review of Its Conceptualizations, Measurement, and Implications. Personnel Psychology 49:1–49

  80. Hogan, Robert, Joyce Hogan, and Rodney Warrenfeltz. 2007. The Hogan Guide: Interpretation and Use of Hogan Inventories. Tulsa, OK: Hogan Assessment Systems.

  81. Shultz, Marjorie M., and Sheldon Zedeck. “Predicting lawyer effectiveness: Broadening the basis for law school admission decisions.” Law & Social Inquiry 36.3 (2011): 620-661.

  82. The 26 factors are: Analysis and Reasoning; Creativity/Innovation; Problem Solving; Practical Judgment; Researching the Law; Fact Finding; Questioning and Interviewing; Influencing and Advocating; Writing; Speaking; Listening; Strategic Planning; Organizing and Managing One’s Own Work; Organizing and Managing Others (Staff/Colleagues); Negotiation Skills; Able to See the World Through the Eyes of Others; Networking and Business Development; Providing Advice & Counsel & Building Relationships with Clients; Developing Relationships within the Legal Profession; Evaluation, Development, and Mentoring; Passion and Engagement; Diligence; Integrity/Honesty; Stress Management; Community Involvement and Service; and Self-Development.

  83. Prospects, Law Career Review, 2017, LINK.

  84. All About Law, What is a vacation scheme?, 2017, LINK. 31 January is the most popular deadline used by law firms for summer scheme applications: See Target Jobs, Why and when to apply for vacation schemes in law firms, 2017, LINK.