Oxbridge graduates make up 38% of all magic circle trainees

More than a third of magic circle trainees joining over the last two years have studied at either Oxford or Cambridge university, according to Legal Week research.

Research into the educational background of trainees joining the UK’s top 30 law firms found 38% of magic circle recruits had studied at Oxbridge, compared with 20% at City firms and 6% at regional or national counterparts.

At Slaughter and May, the figure rose to almost half (48%), with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer not far off at 44%.

Despite attempts to improve diversity in the profession, the research into trainees joining over the four intakes between September 2008 and March 2010 found that 65% of magic circle recruits attended an institution classified by The Times as a top 10 university.

At City firms more generally, this percentage fell to just under half, with 579 of the 1,173 trainees recruited by the firms across the period attending a top 10 university, compared with just over a quarter (27.5%) at national and regional firms.

Only 11.7% of magic circle trainees attended a university ranked below 20 in the UK, with around 10% studying at overseas institutions. In contrast, almost half (48%) of all recruits at regional and national firms came from outside the top 20 bracket.

Slaughters executive partner Graham White told Legal Week: “We aim to recruit the best graduates on merit regardless of educational background and are committed to eliminating irrelevant barriers. As part of this we are working to make sure that no students feel they are excluded because of their schooling or university.”

Lovells associate director of legal resourcing Clare Harris commented: “We actively target Oxford and Cambridge universities because it is likely that we will find a large number of candidates who fulfil our academic criteria.”

In a move to improve diversity, a number of firms have moved to widen the recruitment pool to other universities.

For more analysis and a full breakdown of trainee intakes at the UK top 30 fims, see Training and education: The talent grab