About your career

We pride ourselves on providing a learning experience that is genuinely distinctive. What defines that experience? Above all, it is an enduring commitment to the development of trainees that is woven into every aspect of life at the firm.


/bɪˈspoʊk/ development
The kind of training you can expect from us

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It starts with selecting rare individuals
We look for a rare combination of character, drive and intellectual curiosity – these are the qualities that will enable you to deliver more for our clients, and fulfil your potential when it comes to your career.

Dealing directly with clients
We work with some of the world's most high-profile organisations and business leaders. Through close partner support, we enable you to deal directly with clients and to assist on complex transactions.

Providing a breadth of learning
We handle a broad range of matters, from corporate, real estate and litigation to private client. In addition, our work has a substantial international dimension. That means wider exposure for you and greater insight into the issues facing our clients.

Giving the support you need to thrive
We give you all the support you would expect from a leading law firm along with the benefit of close mentoring from partners and regular reviews.

First year insight scheme

The first year insight scheme is designed to provide you with an insight into City law and to give you the opportunity to meet trainees, solicitors and partners within the firm.

Whilst the first year insight scheme enables us to meet you, this is a two way process. We want to equip you with the knowledge and offer as much advice as you need to help determine whether a career in law is right for you. 

During the week you will undertake:      

  • A negotiation exercise
  • An application skills workshop
  • Lunch with trainees, solicitors and partners
  • Speed networking
  • Work shadow a trainee

Work shadowing one of our trainees offers invaluable experience. You will get exposure to the work that goes on in one of our practice areas. You may find yourself sitting in on a conference call, assisting with some research or looking through a draft agreement. We will also help you with application forms, offering advice on what you should and shouldn't write. The scheme is all about helping you decide if a career in law would be right for you so we recommend that you come armed with plenty of questions. You will have several opportunities to speak to trainees, solicitors and partners during the course of the week and we want you to make the most out of the time you spend with us.

During my vacation scheme, I sat with a trainee supervisor who provided invaluable advice on life as a trainee at Macfarlanes, the business development opportunities and pro bono activities available to trainees at the firm.
Dale Phillips Solicitor who completed our vacation scheme in 2017.

George Mitkov


"It was the exposure to real work and to solicitors across practice areas and at different levels at Macfarlanes that really impressed me."

See George's profile

When is the first year insight scheme?

Our 2022 first year insight scheme will be held from 19 – 22 April 2022. 

Who should apply?

We welcome applications from candidates with either a law or non-law background with an outstanding academic record. You will need to be in either the first year of your undergraduate degree or second year of a four-year undergraduate degree.

How to apply?

Applications for our 2022 insight scheme opened on 27 September 2021. The application form itself is simple and is designed to give you every opportunity to impress us.

If your online application for the first year insight scheme is successful you will be invited for a telephone interview before being offered a place on the day. Telephone interviews will take place from February onwards.

First year skills development initiative       

The programme is an excellent opportunity to develop the key skills and competencies that we assess throughout our vacation scheme application process as well as giving you the opportunity experience working life and the culture at a commercial law firm.

Applications open: Tuesday 25 January 2022

Applications close: Thursday 31 March 2022

Scheme dates

  • Monday 15 August – Friday 19 August 2022

The first-year skills development initiative is a week-long work experience programme aimed at single honours law undergraduates at the following universities: University of Bedfordshire, University of East Anglia, University of Greenwich, University of Kent, London South Bank University, University of West London and University of Worcester. 

During the first year skills development week, you will take part in:

  • a negotiation exercise;
  • a series of skills workshops;
  • an application skills workshop and mock interviews;
  • a group project and presentation;
  • lunch with trainees, solicitors and partners;
  • speed networking with all our practice areas; and
  • work shadowing with a trainee.

The mock assessment interviews will allow you to gain an insight into the interviews undertaken on a vacation scheme assessment day and you will be provided with feedback on how you get on. The group project will enable you to develop your commercial awareness, research and presentation skills, whilst working collaboratively with others on the programme.

You will leave the programme with a thorough understanding of the skills needed to succeed in your application for a vacation scheme or training programme. 

Vacation scheme       

The vacation scheme at Macfarlanes is designed to give you an insight into life as a trainee over the course of two weeks.

What to expect

As a vacation scheme participant, you will be given as much hands-on experience as possible, enabling you to develop a real understanding of the firm's culture and our work. You might draft a letter and then work through the draft with a solicitor or trainee; or you might do some research on a live issue for a client. Alternatively, you may be taken to client meetings or to meet counsel.

The two weeks will be split across two different practice areas to maximise your exposure. You will find yourself working alongside a partner, solicitor or trainee. At the same time, you will undertake a mock transaction that will run for the duration of your placement.

Away from the work, the scheme has a strong social component. As well as the organised events (socials with our trainees for example, or lunch with our partners), there will be many opportunities to get to know people throughout the firm and to find out if Macfarlanes is right for you.

In the second week of the vacation scheme you will have the opportunity to be assessed for the training programme.

Scheme dates

The dates of our 2022 vacation schemes are as follows:

Spring: Monday 4 April – Thursday 14 April 2022
Summer One: Monday 27 June – Friday 8 July 2022
Summer Two: Monday 11 July – Friday 22 July 2022


To apply for the vacation scheme you will need to be in at least the penultimate year of your degree. 

Applications for the 2022 spring and summer vacation schemes are open from 27 September 2021 to 3 January 2022.

Assessment days for the vacation scheme take place from late January 2022. 

I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the vacation scheme. It was great to get involved in real work while also getting to know the different personalities at the firm.
Maria Angela Cannatella Solicitor who completed the vacation scheme in 2017

The Lex 100


Following a survey of 3,000 trainee solicitors from 165 top UK firms, Macfarlanes was ranked as a winner in the "Confident of being kept on" category.

UK 300

Macfarlanes has been voted as one of the 300 most popular graduate employers in the UK by almost 75,000 current undergraduates and will be appearing in the 2021/22 UK 300.

The training programme

We pride ourselves on providing a learning experience that is genuinely distinctive. What defines that experience? Above all, we have an enduring commitment to the development of trainees because they are intrinsic to what we do and the future of our firm. It means your training contract at Macfarlanes will combine hands-on experience with a first-class education programme.

Seat rotation
As a trainee you will spend six months in four different practice areas, with most of our trainees completing a seat in corporate and M&A seat. You will have the opportunity to submit your seat preferences and we will do our best to ensure you get to work in the seats that most interest you. In each seat, you will be personally supervised by a partner or senior solicitor who will support you in your work.

Once you begin your training programme you will follow an intensive schedule of seminars and lectures – these will mostly be presented by partners or senior solicitors from within the firm. The programme is 'front-loaded' to develop your knowledge and skills from the start. In some practice areas, you may even be asked to contribute to a seminar or to update the team on recent developments in a particular area of law.

Feedback and mentoring
Each of your seats will feature a mid-seat and end-of-seat review. This is an opportunity to help gauge your progress. You will be allocated a partner principal who is personally responsible for you for the duration of your training programme. As well as that, all our trainees are divided into small ‘constituency’ groups to give you direct and regular access to your own Trainee Solicitor Committee partner, who can discuss any issues you have. Six-monthly reviews will be held with both your partner principal and Trainee Solicitor Committee partner. All of these mechanisms are there to ensure you get the best and most appropriate experience during your first years. What may surprise you at the outset is how quickly you will become part of the team and how soon people at all levels in the firm will know your name and value your contribution.

Applications for our September 2024/March 2025 training programmes are open from 27 September 2021 and close on 25 July 2022.

Assessment days for the training programme will run in August. 

Click here to apply.

Applications will close on 25 July 2022.

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

The firm has partnered with BPP to design a bespoke programme which goes beyond helping you to pass SQE assessments.

The 32-week course will include all elements needed to ensure that you are fully prepared to work in City practice. You will also complete modules which are bespoke to Macfarlanes. The programme combines classroom and digital learning to embed knowledge and uses business simulation exercises to help you to apply your knowledge in realistic practice scenarios. 

All elements (including the bespoke Macfarlanes modules) will be paid for by the firm. We will also continue to provide additional financial assistance in the form of a non-repayable grant during this time.

During the year when you are completing your SQE preparation course you will also attend regular seminars from the firm when you will hear from our practice areas. These sessions will help to build your legal knowledge and inform your seat choices. You will also be invited to attend social events at the firm so you can start building your network before joining us.

SQE Timeline (for training programmes due to commence in 2024/2025)

  • Spring/Summer 2022 – Receive your training programme offer from Macfarlanes.
  • Summer/Autumn 2023 – Begin studying for the SQE with BPP.
  • Autumn 2023 – Sit the SQE1 examination.
  • Spring 2024 – Sit the SQE2 examination.

You will then start your two years qualifying work experience in September 2024 or March 2025 after you have sat SQE2.

If you have completed a non-law subject at undergraduate level you will also be required to complete the Postgraduate Diploma in Law course (PGDL) at BPP. This will be completed in the year between receiving your training programme offer and commencing your studies for the SQE. For those applicants completing the PGDL you will need to achieve a commendation or above on the first sitting. As with the SQE preparation course, the firm will cover your fees and you will receive a non-repayable grant.

The practice area seminars delivered by the firm prior to starting my training programme provided a fantastic insight into the different practice areas and provided context to the theory learnt in the further study programme which was really useful. The seminars are a great opportunity to hear from partners, meet the rest of the intake and get to know everyone including people I didn't have any classes with.
Chanel Yusuf Trainee
Trainee solicitors