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Fast Track: A-Z of employers: Clifford Chance

Age: Ten.

History: Two well-established City law firms, Clifford Turner and Coward Chance, merged to form Clifford Chance. It is now the largest law firm in the UK and the second largest in the world.

Address: Head office is at 200 Aldersgate Street, London EC1A 4JJ. There are also 23 offices in cities around the world including Barcelona, Prague, Hanoi, Shanghai, Tokyo and New York.

Ambience: Probably not as stuffy as some law firms, and a fair number of younger members of staff. There is an open and informal working atmosphere. But it is not exactly This Life or LA Law. Corporate law is hard work, requiring great stamina and a willingness to be flexible about your social life. The firm's view is that its working style is characterised by a sense of energy, enthusiasm and determination and that each individual is highly valued.

Vital statistics: There are 3,462 staff worldwide, with 206 partners and 230 trainee lawyers. The firm's work is divided into five areas: banking and finance, corporate and commercial, contentious business, property and tax, pensions and employment.

Lifestyle: Trainee lawyers start their two-year training contract in the London office and approximately 50 per cent of them will have a secondment to one of the international offices. The training period is divided into four six-month periods or "seats". There are training seats in all areas of the firm's practice.

Pay: Trainee lawyers' starting salary is pounds 20,000, increasing to pounds 23,000 for the second year of training. On completion of the training contract, the salary rises to pounds 31,500. In addition, the firm offers an interest- free loan facility, private health insurance, life assurance and permanent health insurance. Other benefits include scholarships to meet the fees and maintenance for the Common Professional Examination (CPE) and the Legal Practice Course.

Training: By the time trainee lawyers join the firm they will have completed the CPE (if a non-law graduate) and the Legal Practice Course. Trainees share an office and work closely with a senior lawyer. These are trained to supervise and to delegate to trainees. They are also expected to ensure the trainee obtains a wide range of experience. There is an extensive programme of technical and skills training and comprehensive induction programmes at the start of each new seat. Approximately 95 per cent of trainee lawyers remain with the firm once they have qualified. Significantly fewer make partner several years later.

Easy to get into? No. Competition for a place is tough. The firm will recruit up to 130 trainee lawyers to join in September 2000 and March 2001. Applications from both non-law and law students are welcomed and there are also 80 vacation appointments available each year to enable students to get a feeling for what the firm is like.

Glittering alumni: George Staple, QC, former head of the Serious Fraud Office. Sir Victor Blank, former head of Charterhouse.

Facilities: The London office houses subsidised staff restaurants with a reputation for great food, a fitness centre with a swimming pool, squash courts, a gym and exercise room and a staff shop where you can rent videos and buy everything from flowers to cat food.

Who's the boss? The senior partner is Keith Clark and the managing partner is Tony Williams.