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 Trainee

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 2021 first year insight scheme will be held from 30 March – 1 April 2021. 

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 2021 insight scheme opened on 1 October 2020. 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 January onwards.

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 2021 vacation schemes are as follows:

Easter: Tuesday 6 April – Friday 16 April
Summer One: Monday 28 June – Friday 9 July
Summer Two: Monday 12 July – Friday 23 July


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

Applications for the 2021 Easter and Summer vacation schemes are open from 1 October 2020 to 31 January 2021.

Assessment days for the vacation scheme take place from early January 2021. 

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 2020/21 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 2023/March 2024 training programmes are open from 1 October 2020 and close on 31 July 2021.

Assessment days for the training programme will run from February through to September. 

Click here to apply.

Applications will close on 31 July 2021.

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

Applicants applying for the 2023/24 intakes will be our first cohort to go through the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) route as the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is changing the routes to qualifying as a solicitor. The SRA are introducing a new, independent centralised assessment for all would-be solicitors comprising two standardised exams SQE1 and SQE2. Applicants are still required to complete two years of qualifying work experience (QWE). The firm is still in the process of finalising our approach to the SQE, but applicants should know that in all probability we will require them to complete some form of further study before they start their training programme. This will be funded by the firm and we will continue to provide additional financial assistance in the form of a non-repayable grant to future trainees during this time.

For those applicants who have already completed the GDL/LPC you will need to achieve or have achieved a commendation or above.

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