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Guide to Working at Clifford Chance

If you’re looking for a future-focused law firm that highly values mentorship and learning opportunities, Clifford Chance is one to keep in mind. With 34 offices in 23 countries, this international law firm has resources, clients, and opportunities across the globe.

So, what’s it really like working at Clifford Chance? In this guide, we’ll cover:

What Is Clifford Chance?

Clifford Chance is an international law firm with clients in the finance investment community, government, trade bodies, non-profit, and the commercial and industrial sectors.

The firm started as a merger between two London firms, Coward Chance and Clifford Turner, with the goal to provide legal advice that transcended boundaries and industries. Then, the company merged again — with a German firm (Pünder Volhard Weber & Axster) and a New York firm (Roger & Wells). Today, Clifford Chance is a global law firm with international expertise in Europe, Asia Pacific, the Americas, and the Middle East.

Clifford Chance is one of the top ten largest law firms, both by lawyers (3,000) and revenue ($2.3 billion). The company is also a member of the “Magic Circle,” a term given to London’s most prestigious (and wealthiest) multinational law firms. 

Clifford Chance distinguishes itself as a forward-thinking law firm and aims to be “the global law firm of choice for the world’s leading businesses of today and tomorrow.”

Clifford Chance Jobs and Salaries

Most Clifford Chance employees are lawyers, yet the firm does hire non-legal positions in fields like recruitment, accounting, and information technology. According to Glassdoor, salaries for non-lawyer positions are:

  • Legal recruiting coordinators average about $80,000 a year.
  • Business development managers average about $162,000 a year.
  • Facilities manager supervisors average about $82,000 a year.
  • Software engineers average about $140,000 a year.
  • Help desk analysts average $73,000 a year.

Clifford Chance Attorney Salaries

Attorneys at Clifford Chance earn a base pay salary depending on how many years they’re out of law school. The base pay follows the Cravath associate compensation scale, which is based solely on seniority. 

The scale is as follows:

  • 1st year: $215,000
  • 2nd year: $225,000
  • 3rd year: $250,000
  • 4th year: $295,000
  • 5th year: $345,000
  • 6th year: $370,000
  • 7th year: $400,000

Student and New Graduate Opportunities at Clifford Chance

Summer Law Clerk Program 

Clifford Chance’s summer program comes highly rated. According to Vault-Firsthand, the company has the top summer associate law program and the best summer program for career development.

The U.S. summer program is for second-year law (2L) students and takes place over ten weeks. The program is a mix of hands-on and formal training, and each clerk is paired with an office mate (a first or second-year attorney) who acts as a mentor.

Clerks spend most of their time in the New York office but also have the chance to spend one to two of the ten weeks in one of Clifford Chance’s global offices. They work on various practice areas — and are encouraged to explore new areas of the law — and complete assignments like writing briefs and memos, helping with closings, and sitting in on client meetings.

“The summer program really mirrors what it’s like to be an associate at the firm,” Michelle Williams, Partner at Clifford Chance in Washington, D.C., says in a firm video about the summer law clerk program.

>>MORE: See all international opportunities for students and new graduates at Clifford Chance.

Diversity Scholarships

Clifford Chance also offers 1L and 2L diversity scholarships for the summer law clerk program. These scholarships aren’t a one-time offer — they’re a starting point to help you build relationships with the Clifford Chance team.

Scholarship recipients can receive up to $50,000 in addition to the summer clerk’s salary. The payment is set up in installments to be paid out as you join the clerk program and yearly as you finish each year of being an associate. You must be enrolled full-time in an ABA-accredited law school to apply.

Virtual Experience Programs

If you’re looking for the analytical skills you need to succeed as a lawyer, the firm has a collection of virtual experience programs through Forage. Its programs cover a wide range of areas in the law, including:

These programs are free and don’t require any application to enroll.

Get noticed by top recruiters

Explore Forage's free virtual work experience programs.​

Clifford Chance Benefits

While Clifford Chance does not list its U.S. benefits on its site, employee reviews speak highly of the firm’s benefits on Indeed. According to the reviews, the firm offers health insurance, retirement plans, paid vacation and holidays, and parental leave. 

Clifford Chance is also heavily focused on mentorship and learning and development. It provides onsite training with practice-specific training programs and general programs through the Clifford Chance Academy. In addition, the firm promotes a “non-stop learning environment” that expands your global business skills, including presentation skills, business development, client communication, and management skills. Mid and senior-level associates even get training through offsite development centers and create individual development plans with the help of partners.

Other reported Clifford Chance benefits include:

  • Hybrid work policies (three to four days in office, according to Comparably)
  • Flexible working
  • Work-from-home stipend
  • Wellness stipend (therapy and counseling, gym membership, seminars)
  • Emergency child care and elder care
  • IVF/fertility coverage
  • Bar exam, association, and membership dues and fees

Clifford Chance Culture

Employees tend to rate Clifford Chance highly. It was named one of the top five best firms to work for in the 2022 Vault Law Firm Associate Survey, which surveyed over 20,000 law associates. Employees on Indeed rate Clifford Chance 4.2 out of 5 stars.

Despite having offices across the globe, Clifford Chance focuses on working as one cohesive team with a highly collaborative, inclusive, and meritocractic environment.

Employees echo the sentiment that Clifford Chance is highly collaborative and mention that everyone is friendly, patient, and makes an effort to get to know one another, regardless of seniority. 

Employee Reviews at Clifford Chance

Other employee reviews from Vault-Firsthand touch on more details of Clifford Chance’s benefits and culture, from partner-associate relationships to diversity and inclusion. 

Partner-Associate Relationships

  • Partners are approachable and care about mentoring younger associates.
  • Partners recognize associate contributions and express gratitude for everyone’s work. 
  • Performance reviews are transparent, and associates can do a self-reflection every year.

Hours and Compensation

  • Respect for people’s time and flexibility comes from the top down. People care about work-life balance and are fair about weekend and holiday work.
  • Compensation is competitive and matches the market. 
  • Pro bono work counts as billable hours and is strongly encouraged and supported by the firm.
  • When evaluating compensation, the firm recognizes all kinds of work, including pro bono work and knowledge contributions.

Quality of Work

  • People feel challenged and like they’re doing work that interests them. If they get work above their level, they’re given adequate support and mentorship to get that work done.
  •  Partners regularly check in about what associates are interested in working on and their workload.

Career Development

  • There are a plethora of both formal and informal mentorship opportunities. 
  • Home-grown associates often make partner, but they’ll know early on whether this is possible. If not, there are ample exit opportunities. These associates often go into government, clerkship, or other firms.

Diversity and Inclusion

  • The firm is intentional with its diversity and inclusion practices in hiring, including recruiting from historically Black colleges and offering diversity scholarships.
  • The firm has various diversity groups and committees that help keep it accountable. 
  • Clifford Chance has achieved Mansfield Rule certification in the U.S. for six years. This certification measures whether a law firm has considered at least 30% women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities for leadership positions, promotions, and other opportunities.

Clifford Chance vs. Other Magic Circle Law Firms

Clifford Chance is part of the Magic Circle, a group of international law firms headquartered in London. While all of these firms are prestigious, competitive, and high-earning, their focuses and culture are slightly different. 

  • Allen & Overy: This firm practices in banking, finance, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), litigation, funds, and I.P. work. A&O prides itself on innovation and is known for high-quality transactional work.
  • Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer: This firm has a balanced split between corporate and litigation and focuses on sustainability in business. Also known as Freshfields, the firm has a unique eight-seat training system where trainees get exposure to multiple departments.
  • Linklaters: Known for high-profile pensions litigation and regulatory disputes, Linklaters focuses on uplifting junior staff through initiatives like reverse mentorship.
  • Slaughter and May: Like the other Magic Circle firms, Slaughter and May works across various areas of law, including M&A, corporate and commercial, financing, tax, financial regulation, and real estate. The firm has no internal billing targets to promote learning and togetherness.

Compared to the other Magic Circle firms, Clifford Chance is more known for its leading global corporate work and its dedication to upskilling employees through a culture of learning.

Compensation for each firm varies slightly but is within a similar range. Work-life balance is also similar, according to employee reviews on Indeed. Attorneys at each firm generally work long hours (that one might expect from BigLaw), but there’s some effort to promote better flexibility.

How Does the Clifford Chance Interview Process Work?

According to Indeed reviews, interviewees at Clifford Chance generally rate the interview process to be of average difficulty and relatively quick; most candidates said the process was usually about a week, and none said it was more than a month.

The interview process for clerks may include an initial virtual interview with associates and partners. This interview is heavily focused on your soft skills and getting to know you as a whole person.

Interview Tips

“Be your authentic self,” Emily Wicker, a partner in New York, says in a video on the Clifford Chance careers page. “I want to know what your experiences were when you were a little league referee. That matters. It’s about who you are, so be you.”

Williams echoes Wicker’s sentiment about talking about non-law-related experiences. 

“I look for candidates who are curious about the law, who have done other things, and have interests,” she says. “What that tells me is that they’re able to focus on more than one thing. If anything, the practice of law is having to focus on more than one thing.”

The Clifford Chance hiring team is also looking for the following:

  • Candidates who are excited about what the firm is working on: “We interview so many people in one sitting,” Liz Wangu, associate in Washington, D.C., says in the firm’s summer program video. “The ones who are really enthusiastic, you know, have taken the time to do their research, and you can tell that they’re excited, passionate, and informed. Those are the ones that we tend to remember.”
  • Candidates who have done their research: “The bad questions are the ones where clearly he or she hasn’t given thought to the question,” Josh Berman, a partner in Washington, D.C., says in the same video. “They’ve done no research on the law firm. To ask us, ‘does Clifford Chance have any overseas offices?’ We’re a global international law firm. But if it’s a sincere question, it’s probably a good one.”
  • Candidates with global or international experience or interest: Because Clifford Chance is an international firm, its often interested in candidates who have global experiences, whether that’s studying or working in another country, working cross-functionally with international colleagues, or a passion for global business and policy.

Takeaways

  • Clifford Chance is a highly renowned international law firm and part of the Magic Circle, with competitive pay and an extensive reach to match its reputation.
  • The firm is focused on learning and development. It offers opportunities for 2L students to participate in a top-rated summer program that concentrates heavily on mentorship. Current employees also have access to learning academies and development courses.
  • To stand out in the Clifford Chance hiring process, worry less about your technical skills and more about what you bring to the table as a well-rounded person.

Explore all Clifford Chance virtual experience programs on Forage.

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