Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions that you might find useful.

I have some legal work experience already, and I know I want to be a trainee solicitor at Macfarlanes. Should I apply for a vacation scheme first or just apply for the training programme now?

Our vacation scheme gives you a two-week snapshot of life as a Macfarlanes trainee. You get as much hands-on experience as possible, to gain a real understanding of the firm’s culture and work. The scheme is a great opportunity to find out whether Macfarlanes is right for you. However, if you feel you have a good understanding of what life is like as a trainee and have researched the firm well, you can apply directly for our training programme. If you gain a place on one of our assessment days, you will find out more about the firm during the day.

Can I apply for both the training programme and a vacation scheme?

Yes, you can. If you would like to apply for both, we suggest applying for the vacation scheme first, wait to hear the result of your application and then apply for our training programme if necessary.

I graduated some years ago. Can I still apply for a vacation scheme or the training programme?

Absolutely, yes. Many of our trainees solicitors applied for our programmes after they graduated. Several had other careers first.

Do I need to have completed a vacation scheme when I apply for the training programme?

No. Vacation schemes are designed to give you as much experience as possible within a law firm. They can be invaluable in helping you decide whether a career in law is right for you. However, they are not a requirement for the training programme. Any work experience, within the legal sector or elsewhere, will be taken into account when we review your application.

My higher education qualifications do not meet your minimum requirements. Can I still apply?

Generally, we progress applications from candidates who have, or expect to gain, a minimum 2.1 in their degree. If you have completed the Graduate Diploma in Law/Postgraduate Diploma in Law, the Legal Practice Course/Solicitors Qualifying Examinations or both, you are required to have achieved at least a commendation. However, if you do not meet these requirements and you have extenuating circumstances, you may still apply. Please detail these circumstances in your application for us to consider. You can also arrange a call with the early legal careers team to discuss further. We take extenuating circumstances seriously and would encourage you to be as open with us as you feel comfortable.

I achieved lower grades at A level than I had hoped for. Can I still apply?

Yes. We have no minimum requirements for A level results.

I understand that Macfarlanes’ future trainees undertake further study at BPP in Holborn. Can I apply for the training programme if I am currently studying elsewhere?

Yes, you can. 

Who can apply for a vacation scheme?

Regardless of your degree subject, you are eligible to apply for a vacation scheme in your penultimate year of study and onwards.

Who can apply for the training programme?

You can apply for the training programme in your penultimate year and onwards if you are a law student, or in your final year and onwards if you are a non-law student.

I need a work permit. Can I still apply?

Yes, but any training programme offer would be subject to your having the right to work in the UK for the duration of your training programme. International students looking to apply for our first year insight scheme and vacation schemes must ensure that the dates of the scheme are outside term time.

I am studying a four year degree course, with a year abroad in my third year. When can I apply for a vacation scheme, and when can I apply for the training programme?

This depends on your degree subject. If you are studying law, you can apply in your penultimate year and onwards for both a vacation scheme and the training programme. If you are studying a non-law degree, you can only apply for a place on our vacation schemes from your penultimate year onwards. When you apply for the training programme, you should be in at least your final year.

Can I reapply if my application is not successful?

If your application is unsuccessful at the application stage, yes, you can reapply for any programme.

If you are unsuccessful at an assessment day, you should discuss reapplying with a member of the early legal careers team. They can advise you on the best course of action.

Do you only accept applicants from certain universities?

No, not at all. We accept applicants from all UK and international universities. If you are interested in a career in commercial law and would like a career at Macfarlanes, we welcome your application.

I am a career changer. Do you accept applications from people like me?

Yes, we do. A number of our current trainee cohort and associates had another career before applying to our training programme.

I did not study law at university. Can I still apply? 

Yes, we accept applications from applicants who studied any subject, whether at a UK or overseas university. Around 50% of our trainees and associates did not study law at university.

I am a qualified lawyer in an overseas jurisdiction. Can I apply for the vacation scheme or training programme?

We would encourage you to apply for post-qualified lawyer vacancies at the firm rather than our vacation scheme or training programme. These programmes are geared towards people who are not yet qualified. Please get in touch with our recruitment team if you have further questions. 

Additional support and extenuating circumstances

If I need additional support during the assessment process, who should I contact?

You can detail this on your application form. The early legal careers team will arrange a follow up call with you before your assessment day to discuss any adjustments further. We take extenuating circumstances seriously and would encourage you to be as open with us as you feel you can.

Do you cover the cost of travel for candidates?

We reimburse reasonable travel expenses for candidates who attend an assessment day for our vacation scheme or training programme.

If I have a disability or long-term health condition and need the application form in an alternative format, can you provide this?

Please contact the early legal careers team. They will work with you to understand the changes you need and ensure these are put in place.

I am worried that if I tell Macfarlanes about my disability this will be seen negatively. I have had a bad experience in the past and feel it is “safer” not to disclose my disability.

We would really encourage anyone with disabilities and long-term mental health conditions to share as much information as they can during the application process.

We want the best talent at Macfarlanes. We are members of the Business Disability Forum and work closely with the Forum to ensure our processes remain accessible and fair to all candidates.

Our selection process includes a range of assessments. For us to accurately assess your potential, we want to see your achievements in context and ensure you are set up in the right way to perform at your best.

The early legal careers team will be guided by you and steered by our external advisers, to ensure the best possible set-up is in place to help you perform at your best.

How does Macfarlanes support trainees with disabilities and long-term mental health conditions?

Our HR team liaise with third party occupational health and other medical professionals. They discuss adjustments required by our employees and ensure these are implemented. We recently published a firmwide video on our intranet to raise awareness and understanding of neurodiverse conditions such dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism in the workplace. It also details the support available to employees.

For those experiencing mental health conditions, we offer a confidential counselling service and regular firmwide seminars on looking after your mental health. All employees have access to the Thrive wellbeing app, and we have a network of guardians across the firm who are trained to provide a confidential space to share issues employees feel they need to discuss.

Our DAWN network focuses on ensuring the whole firm is more confident in its understanding of disability. The network runs awareness-raising events and socials and provides networking opportunities both internally and with our clients. For example, we recently hosted a panel session with InterLaw Diversity Forum on disability in the workplace.


I am an undergraduate student in my antepenultimate year (first year of a three-year or second year of a four-year course). Do you have a first year programme?

Yes, we run a first year insight scheme annually in the spring.

Are vacation scheme and insight scheme participants paid?

Yes, we pay our vacation scheme and insight scheme participants for the duration of the scheme. The amount is reviewed annually and is within market range.

How many vacation scheme participants do you recruit across your three schemes?

We recruit 65 participants across our three vacation schemes annually.

How many first year scheme participants do you recruit each year?

We recruit 15–20 participants for our first year insight scheme.

How many trainees do you recruit for the training programme annually?

We recruit 33 trainees who join us every September.

How far before the deadline should I apply?

We do not recruit on a rolling basis for our early legal careers programmes so will not begin screening applications until after the deadline. You should therefore not worry about applying to us as soon as the applications open. We encourage you to take your time, come to as many events as you can and thoroughly research the firm before applying.

Through which entry route would I be more likely to be successful in getting a training programme place – via a vacation scheme or applying directly for the training programme?

Both routes provide an equal chance of a training programme with us. We always recruit trainees from both vacation schemes and direct training programme applications in each intake.

I am not yet at university. Are there any programmes for me?

Yes, in 2021 we launched the Macfarlanes Legal Academy. Aimed at school and college students, mainly years 12 and 13, it provides guidance, materials and interactive exercises designed to help build the skills needed if you are considering a career in law. Please get in touch with the early legal careers team if you have further questions.

The application form

What is the application process?

For the vacation scheme and training programme, you need to complete an online application form and an online test. If successful following these steps, we will invite you to an assessment day.

For the first year insight scheme, you need to complete an online application form and an online test as well. If successful following these steps, we will invite you for a telephone interview.

Will going to a Macfarlanes event help my application?

Going to one of our events gives you a better understanding of what we do as a firm and what we offer you as a potential future trainee. The knowledge you gain from an event will help when you write your application.

How long are the big questions?

There is an “about you” section in the first year insight scheme, vacation scheme and the training programme application forms, each with two questions. The maximum word count for each of these questions is 300 words.

Can I send in a copy of my CV and a covering letter instead of completing an application online?

No. We only accept applications through our online application system. However, if you need additional support throughout the assessment process or there is anything else you wish to discuss, please contact the early legal careers team.

How long does the application form take to complete?

There is no set time, but we suggest you neither rush nor leave it to the last minute.

What if I do not yet know my grades?

Please note this in the additional information section on the application form or include the module in the education section and list “TBC” in the grade column.

I submitted my application but forgot to mention something. How do I add it to my form?

Please contact the early legal careers team. If we have not yet reviewed your application, we may be able to add the missing information.

Can I get feedback on my application?

Due to the high number of applications we receive, we cannot give feedback at the application stage. We do, however, give feedback to candidates who attend an assessment day. Some common areas that lead to applicants not passing the application stage include lack of research on the firm, poor spelling, grammar and punctuation, not meeting the minimum requirements, not fully articulating your motivations, needing more complete or more succinct responses to questions, poor example choices and repetition of ideas.

Interview and assessment

Will your assessment days be held in person or virtually in 2024?

We plan to continue to run assessment days for vacation schemes and training programmes in-person in 2024. 

What exercises can I expect at a vacation scheme assessment day?

Vacation scheme assessment days consist of the following assessments:

  • a group negotiation exercise with five or six other candidates, assessed by an associate. You are divided into sub teams of two or three and given 15 minutes to prepare for the negotiation. You then come back to the main room for the negotiation with the other sub team. The associate may ask some follow up questions about the negotiation.
  • a written exercise. Full instructions are given by the early legal careers team before the exercise;
  • an interview with a partner and a senior associate. The first half of the interview is the business case study exercise where you are asked about a case study that you will have had 15 minutes to prepare for before the interview. The second half of the interview assesses whether you possess some of the important skills needed to be a successful trainee. These include team working, communication, time management and analytical skills. It also looks into your motivations for pursuing a career in commercial law at Macfarlanes; and
  • a networking session with our trainee solicitors. This part of the day is not assessed, but we encourage you to have questions prepared.

All assessment exercises during the assessment day are application blind, so your assessors will not have seen your application form.

What exercises can I expect at a training programme assessment day?

Training programme assessment days consist of the following assessments:

  • a written exercise where you are expected to read a source text and complete two written pieces. You have 45 minutes to complete this exercise;
  • a business case study exercise where you are given three business case studies to prepare in 30 minutes. You then meet a partner and a senior associate who ask you several questions about each case study. Please prepare each case study equally and expect to discuss all three in a similar level of detail;
  • an application interview with a partner and a member of our HR team. This assessment is the only part of the day when the assessors will have seen your application form beforehand. Please ensure you re-familiarise yourself with your application before the day. They will ask you about your motivations for pursuing a career in commercial law at Macfarlanes, how you work with others and your commercial awareness; and
  • a networking session with our trainee solicitors. This part of the day is not assessed, but we encourage you to have questions prepared.

All assessments on the assessment day are application blind except for the application interview.

Please visit the “Apply” page on our website to watch a video about our training programme assessment day.

Application deadlines

Do you review the applications as and when they are submitted (on a rolling basis) or after the deadline?

We do not recruit on a rolling basis for our early legal careers opportunities, so will not screen applications until after the deadline. Click here for more information on dates.

When is the deadline for the first year insight scheme?

Friday 26 January 2024.

When is the deadline for the vacation scheme?

Friday 5 January 2024.

When is the deadline for direct training programme applications?

Friday 19 July 2024.

Do you accept late submissions?

No, we do not accept applications after the deadline has passed.

Meeting Macfarlanes – Campus events, workshops and fairs

When and where can I meet people from the firm to understand more about what you do?

We run campus and in-house events during the academic year. Please visit the events page on the website to find out about our latest events.

Inclusion and CSR

Does Macfarlanes have any staff network groups?

Yes, we have five inclusive staff network groups:

      • REACH (race, ethnicity and cultural heritage) is a forum for networking and peer support. It supports and educates staff about ethnic, religious, faith and cultural matters.
      • Pride is a forum for LGBTQ+ staff and allies.
      • DAWN (disability and wellbeing network) is a forum for networking and peer support between people who have direct experience of, or support others with, long-term health conditions.
      • Balance is a forum for all staff managing careers and home lives.
      • Green network is a network for all staff that care about sustainability and the environment, including those who want to actively support the aims and objectives in our ambitious new environmental policy.

Each network has a steering group committee of partners, associates and business services staff who meet regularly to discuss the strategy of the group and to arrange events.

Does Macfarlanes partner with any external diversity organisations?

Our early legal careers team works closely with external diversity organisations, such as Aspiring Solicitors, Rare and upReach. Together we support and attract diverse talent to the legal industry, as well as provide support. This includes using contextual recruitment and running diversity-specific open days and mentoring programmes. Each year, we complete submissions for the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme as well as for the Social Mobility Employer Index. These give us insights into how we can develop and expand our diversity and inclusion initiatives in the firm. 

Do you have a multifaith prayer room at your office?

We have contemplation/multifaith prayer rooms, and these are accessible to all. You can access these rooms at any time while at the firm. We can also tailor your interviews on our schemes around these times as well as at assessment day stage.

What support can you give to those observing religious holidays, for example, during the vacation scheme?

Our REACH network celebrates a number of religious holidays, such as Eid al-Fitr, Purim and Diwali. We also have a firmwide religious and cultural events calendar that highlights important dates throughout the year to promote awareness and understanding.

Our inclusion team regularly share invitations to firmwide religious and cultural events, and they created a document called “Working with colleagues of different faiths”. This details practices from mainstream religions that could affect individuals at work. It is not a comprehensive list of religions, but we designed it to include those with practices that have direct implications in a work setting.

Our spring vacation scheme often takes place during Ramadan, so this is something we consider when organising the programme of events. Candidates can choose whether to join the evening social events, and we try and make sure that events are not centred on food or drink.

Is there a dress down policy at the firm?

We are now a dress down firm, so yes. There is a guidance document on our intranet detailing this. That said, everyone is encouraged to keep business attire at the office in case they need to attend an event or meeting where dress down would be inappropriate. There are changing rooms in our office for employee use. We do, however, recommend you wear business attire for assessment days and interviews at the firm. But note: some of your interviewers may dress down.

Can trainees get involved in pro bono work at Macfarlanes?

Trainees get in involved in our St Hilda’s legal advice clinic on a rotational basis. They lead the client relationship management and advise clients on a range of issues, from housing to employment.

Health and wellbeing

What is Macfarlanes doing to become a more sustainable and environmentally friendly business?

We are committed to reduce any negative environmental impact from our business operations and to continually improve our environmental performance.

Our Environmental Sub-Committee, made up of people from across the firm, leads the firm’s sustainable business agenda. And in June 2020 we adopted an ambitious new environmental policy.

The policy includes commitments covering our carbon footprint, emissions, waste, recycling, sustainable procurement of goods and services, office greenery and support for the legal sustainability community. We will set measurable targets against our three strategic priorities.

  1. Going plastic free
  2. Carbon reporting
  3. Food waste and recycling

If your questions are not answered above, please contact the early legal careers team.

Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

What is the SQE?

The SQE launches in autumn 2021 and is a new assessment process all aspiring future lawyers need to undertake.

The examination comprises two stages: SQE 1 and SQE 2.

SQE 1 tests your “functional legal knowledge” through multiple choice questions. This combines the knowledge you gain from a law degree or law conversion course in the fundamental principles of law with the knowledge you gain from the Legal Practice Course (LPC) in the basics of legal practice.

SQE 2 tests some of the professional skills required for practice, such as client interviewing, advocacy, case and matter analysis, legal research and legal drafting, among others.

If I have completed the LPC, will I still need to complete the Macfarlanes SQE preparation course?

No. However, you will need to complete the Professional Skills Course (PSC) during your qualifying work experience. 

What happens if I have completed the Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL)?

Then you can start the Macfarlanes SQE preparation course alongside your cohort of Macfarlanes’ future trainees

Where can I study the SQE preparation course?

All future trainees complete the SQE preparation course with their cohort of Macfarlanes trainees at BPP University, Holborn campus.

Where can I study the PGDL?

You can study the PGDL at any UK BPP university campus that offers the course.

If I complete my SQE independently will I be reimbursed for the costs of the exams?

The firm will reimburse SQE costs for anyone who is successful in securing a place on the training programme. 

If I choose an alternative route to qualify than the training programme will the firm pay for the cost of me sitting the SQE?

Not usually, unless you fall into the category of “experienced hires” or “foreign qualified lawyers” described in our SQE policies. However, the firm will provide study leave at the discretion of the practice area head.

If I am undertaking the SQE independently, will the firm sign off my QWE?

Yes, if the work experience is applicable.

If I am employed as a paralegal and complete the SQE and QWE independently, will the firm pay for my practising certificate once I am qualified?

Yes. The firm will do this as part of its bulk renewal process.

Upon successful completion of the SQE and QWE will I be able to apply for an NQ role at the firm?

Not automatically. Priority for NQ places is given to those who have completed the firm’s training programme. Where any NQ places are not filled by qualifying trainees you will be able to apply if you have suitable experience and where there is a business need.