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


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

A vacation scheme is designed to give you a two-week snapshot of life as a Macfarlanes trainee.  You will be given as much hands-on experience as possible, enabling you to gain a real understanding of the firm’s culture and work.  Therefore, a vacation scheme is a good opportunity to find out whether Macfarlanes is right for you.  However, if you feel that you have enough legal work experience and have researched the firm well, you can apply directly for the training programme.  If you are successful in gaining a place on one of our assessment days, you will have the opportunity to 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 a vacation scheme and a training programme we suggest applying for the vacation scheme first and waiting to hear the result of your application, before then completing an application form for our training programme.

I graduated some years ago now; can I still apply for a vacation scheme or the training programme?

Yes, you can still apply.  

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

Vacation schemes are designed to give you as much experience as possible within a law firm.  As such, they can be invaluable in helping you decide whether or not a career in law is right for you.  However, they are not a requirement when applying for the vacation scheme. Any work experience, regardless of whether or not it is within the legal sector, will be taken into account when reviewing your application.

For the training programme, we do require you to have some level of legal work experience. This does not have to be a formal vacation scheme; any legal exposure will be recognised as a way that you are demonstrating your commitment to a career in law.

My higher education academics do not meet your minimum requirements; can I still apply?

We only accept applications from candidates who have gained, or who are expected to gain, a minimum 2.1 in their degree.  If you have already completed the GDL and/or LPC, you are required to have achieved at least a commendation. If you have extenuating circumstances which mean that you do not meet these requirements, you may still apply and detail these circumstances in your application form for us to consider.  You can also arrange a call with the graduate recruitment team to discuss further.

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 still apply for the training programme if I am currently studying elsewhere?

Yes, you can.  We will invite you to attend some of our evening in-house seminars to meet the rest of your cohort.

Who can attend a vacation scheme?

Whichever degree subject you are studying (law or non-law) you are eligible to apply for a vacation scheme in your penultimate year of study onwards.  

Who can apply for a training programme?

You can apply for a training programme in your penultimate year and onwards (if you're a law student) or in your final year and onwards (if you're a non-law student).

I require a work permit, can I still apply?

Yes, we accept applications from all candidates who meet our minimum requirements.  Any training programme offer would be conditional on you having obtained 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 of 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? When can I apply for the training programme?

This will depend on the degree subject that you are studying.  If you are studying a law degree, you are eligible to 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 one of our vacation schemes from your penultimate year onwards. When applying for the training programme you should be in at least your final year. If you are studying abroad in 2020/21 you will be able to complete our assessment days for the vacation schemes virtually. The day will run via Zoom and our virtual assessment day platform.

Can I reapply if my application isn’t successful?

If your application is unsuccessful at the application stage then you are eligible to reapply.

Unfortunately, if you attend our training programme assessment day and are unsuccessful you are ineligible to reapply.

Do you only accept applications from certain universities?

No, we accept applications from all UK and international universities. If you are interested in a career in commercial law and would like to start your career at Macfarlanes, we welcome your application.

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

Yes. A number of our current trainee cohort had a previous career before applying to our training programme.

I didn’t study Law at university. Can I still apply? 

Yes, we accept applications from applicants who studied any degree subject at any UK or international university. 

I am already a qualified lawyer in an overseas jurisdiction, can I apply for the vacation scheme or training programme?

For lawyers who are already qualified in other jurisdictions we would encourage you to apply directly for post qualified lawyer vacancies at the firm rather than pursuing the vacation scheme or training programme as these routes are aimed towards applicants who are not already qualified. Please get in touch with the recruitment team if you have further questions. 

Additional support and extenuating circumstances

If I require additional support during the assessment process who do I contact?

You can detail this on your application form. The graduate recruitment team will always arrange a follow up call with you before an assessment day to discuss any adjustments further.

Do you cover the cost of travel for candidates?

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

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

Please contact the graduate recruitment team directly and we will work with you to understand the changes you require and ensure that these are implemented correctly

I’m worried that if I tell Macfarlanes about my disability this will be seen negatively. I’ve had a bad experience in the past and feel it’s ‘safer’ not to disclose my disability.

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

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

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

The graduate recruitment team will be guided by you and steered by our external advisors, to ensure the best possible set up is in place to help you to perform at your best.

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

Our HR team liaise, as appropriate, with third party occupational health and other medical professionals to discuss adjustments required by our employees and ensure these are implemented. To raise awareness and understanding of neurodiverse conditions such dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism in the workplace and to detail the support available to employees, we recently released a firmwide video which was published on our intranet. For those experiencing mental health conditions we offer a confidential counselling service for all employees as well as 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 from across the firm who are trained to provide a confidential space to share issues that employees feel they need to discuss. Our EnABLE network focuses on ensuring the whole firm is more confident in its understanding of disability. The network runs awareness-raising events, 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 (first year of a three-year or second year of a four-year course). Do you have a first-year programme?

Yes, we have a first year insight scheme which takes place 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 paid is reviewed annually and is within market range.

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

We recruit 55 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 annually.

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

We recruit 33 trainees annually across two intakes (March and September).

How far in advance of the deadline should I apply?

We do not recruit on a rolling basis for our graduate recruitment opportunities, so will not begin screening applications until the deadline has passed.    

Which entry route will I be more likely to be successful in obtaining a training programme place through (a vacation scheme or applying directly for the training programme)?

Both routes of entry provide an equal chance of obtaining a training programme with us. We will always recruit trainees from both vacation scheme and directly in each intake.

I am not yet at university, are there any programmes for me?

Yes, we are launching a school access programme in 2021 for students who are currently competing their A-levels. We also take part annually in the Pathways to Law programme with The Sutton Trust.

The application form

What is the application process?

Vacation scheme – You will need to complete an online application form. If your application is successful at the screening stage, you will then be invited to an assessment day.

Training programme - You will need to complete an online application form. If your application is successful at the screening stage, you will then be invited to an assessment day.

First year insight scheme - You will need to complete an online application form. If your application is successful at the screening stage, you will then be invited to attend a telephone interview.

Will attending a Macfarlanes event help my application?

Attending an event with us can enable you to get a better understanding of what we do as a firm and what we can offer you as a potential future trainee. The knowledge you gain from the event may potentially assist you when you are writing your initial application.

How long are the big questions?

There is an “About you” section within both the vacation scheme and training programme application forms, each containing four questions. The maximum word count for each of these questions is 300 words. For the first year insight scheme application form the maximum word count is 500 words for the interests and achievements question and 300 words for the other questions.

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

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

How long does the application form take to complete?

There is no set time to complete your application form but we would suggest ensuring that it isn’t rushed or left to the last minute.

Do you use psychometric testing in the application process?

No, we do not use psychometric testing at any stage during the application process.

What if I do not yet know my grades?

Please indicate 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’ve already submitted my form, but I have forgotten to mention something.  How do I add it to my form?

Please contact the graduate recruitment team. If your application has not yet been reviewed, we may be able to add the updated information to your application.

Can I get feedback on my application?

Due to the high number of applications we receive, we are unable to provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates at application stage.  We do, however, provide feedback to all of those who have attended an assessment day. Some common areas which lead to applications not passing the screening stage include 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 2021/22?

We hope to run our assessment days for our vacation schemes and training programmes in-person in 2022 but we will continually review Covid-19 government guidelines to see whether this is possible. If not, we will continue to run the assessment days virtually in 2022.   

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

The virtual vacation scheme assessment days consist of the following assessments:

- a group negotiation exercise with five or six other applicants assessed by a solicitor. You will be divided in sub teams of two or three and given 15 minutes to prepare for the negotiation in a separate Zoom breakout room. You will then come back to the main Zoom room for the negotiation with the other sub team. The solicitor may then ask some follow up questions about the negotiation.

- a written exercise which you will complete on our online assessment platform.  Full instructions will be given by the graduate recruitment team prior to the exercise;

- an interview with a partner and a senior solicitor. In the first section, the in-tray exercise is where you will be asked questions about a business case study that you will have prepared for 15 minutes prior to the interview. The second half of the interview assesses whether you possess some of the key skills required to be a successful trainee such as team working, communication, time management and analytical skills as well as your motivations for pursuing a career in commercial law at Macfarlanes; and 

- a virtual 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 our virtual vacation scheme assessment day are application blind so your assessors will not have seen your application form.

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

The virtual training programme assessment days consist of the following assessments:

- a written exercise where you will be expected to read a source text and complete two written pieces. You will have 45 minutes to complete this exercise;

- an in-tray exercise where you will be given three business case studies to prepare in 30 minutes. You will then meet with a partner and a senior solicitor and they will ask you several questions relating to 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, so please ensure that you refamilarise yourself with your application prior to the day.  They will also ask you questions about your motivations for pursuing a career in commercial law at Macfarlanes as well as how you work with others and your commercial awareness; and   

- a virtual networking session with our trainee solicitors. This part of the day is not assessed but we encourage you to have questions prepared.

All assessments at our training programme assessment day are application blind except for the application interview.

Please visit our visit the ‘Apply’ page on our website to view a video about our virtual 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 graduate recruitment opportunities, so will not begin screening applications until the deadline has passed. Click here for more information on key dates.

When is the deadline for the first year insight scheme?

31 January 2022

When is the deadline for the vacation scheme?

3 January 2022

When is the deadline for direct training programme applications?

25 July 2022

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 the firm to understand more about what you do?

We run a variety of campus and in-house events over the course of the academic year. Please visit the events page on the website to find out about our latest events. Please note that all of our events will be held virtually until further notice.

Diversity and inclusion

Does Macfarlanes have any staff network groups?

Yes, we have four inclusive staff network groups:

  • REACH (race, ethnicity and cultural heritage) is a forum for networking and peer support which aims to support and educate staff about ethnic, religious, faith and cultural matters.
  • Pride is a forum for LGBTQ+ staff and allies.
  • EnABLE is a forum for networking and peer support between those 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.

Each network group has a steering group committee made up of partners, solicitors 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 graduate recruitment team works closely with external diversity organisations such as Aspiring Solicitors, Rare and upReach to support and attract diverse talent in the legal industry. This includes using contextual recruitment and running diversity specific open days and mentoring programmes. We annually complete submissions for the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme as well as the Social Mobility Employer Index to provide us with insights into how we can develop and expand our diversity and inclusion initiatives in the firm. 

Do you have multifaith prayer room facilities at the office?

We have a multifaith prayer and contemplation room in our London office which is accessible to all. You are able to access this room at any time during your time 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 during the vacation scheme, for example?

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

Our inclusion team regularly share invitations to firmwide religious/cultural events and have created a document entitled "Working with colleagues of different faiths". This document details practices from mainstream religions that could impact individuals at work. It is not a comprehensive list of religions, but has been designed 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 around food or drink.

Is there a dress down policy at the firm?

Yes, we are now a dress down firm. There is a guidance document available on our intranet detailing this. All colleagues are encouraged to have formal business attire stored at the office in case they should need to attend an event/meeting where dress down would not be appropriate. There are changing room facilities in our London office for employee use. We do however, recommend attending assessment days and interviews at the firm in formal business attire but be prepared that some of your interviewers may be in dress down.

Health and well-being

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the firm?

The Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented and fast-moving situation. The challenges we face nationally, as well as individually and within our families and communities, are immense.

We have continued to recruit throughout the lockdowns and held all three of our 2020 vacation schemes virtually using a portal developed by our in-house legal technology team. We also continued to run our assessment days virtually using the platform TopScore. We will shortly be launching our open access work experience programme which you will be able to complete via an app on our graduate recruitment website.  

As a firm, our focus continues to be on the health and wellbeing of our people, candidates and clients. As you would expect our decisions on matters such as returning to the office are informed by government guidance and feedback from the market and our people.

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

Macfarlanes is fully committed to reducing any negative environmental impact from our business operations and to continual improvement in our environmental performance.

Our Environmental Sub-Committee, made up of individuals 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 be setting measurable targets against our three strategic priorities:

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

If your question is not answered above, please contact the graduate recruitment team.

Trainee solicitors