Known for being a powerhouse within the litigation and corporate sectors of the law, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) is one of the most prestigious law firms outside of the Magic Circle. From their award-winning expertise to their strong international presence, HSF has earned themselves an unparalleled reputation of excellence. This firm’s main practice areas include corporate, finance, dispute resolution, real estate and employment, as well as its Alternative Legal Services division.
Originating in 2012 from a merger between UK based firm Herbert Smith and Australian ‘Big Six’ firm Freehills, Herbert Smith Freehills has grown to become a global success. This firm currently has thousands of lawyers across 26 global locations, including offices in New York, Dubai and Hong Kong. HSF uses its global network to combine diverse perspectives to offer its clients innovative solutions. Such a strategy has rewarded this firm with an elite list of clientele, including 18 FTSE 100 companies and 34 FTSE 250 companies.
Another special element of this firm is its genuine commitment to battling inequality. Their vision is to become the leading global firm for diversity and inclusion, as outlined in their Leading for Inclusion 2018-21 strategy. Within this strategy, HSF outlined their comprehensive plan to include diversity within its firm. They also work with organisations such as Rare Recruitment to ensure they hire a diverse range of individuals. Additionally, this firm has set specific gender targets to increase the proportion of women within its organisation. Furthermore, their global IRIS Network aims to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion and support.
In August 2021, the work of HSF’s pro bono team prompted a historic change in South Korean law. Following their review of child-support law in South Korea, the law has been revised in favour of the Korea Child Support Agency, permitting them to make personal details of child-support debtors public. They are also granted powers to suspend the debtor’s driving license and ban them from leaving the country. While doing a lot of pro bono work, HSF also provides legal advice to major corporations and commercial organisations. For example, their legal advice to EasyJet led the airline to become the first to secure a loan through the UK Export Finance’s EDG scheme.
HSF has won several recent accolades, including Australia Law Firm of the Year 2021, (Chambers Asia-Pacific Awards), Asia-Pacific Law Firm of the Year 2021 (Chambers Asia-Pacific Awards) and Most Innovative International Law Firm in the Asia Pacific 2020 (Financial Times).
The environment at HSF is said to be friendly and encouraging with a great team spirit. Generally, trainees have given positive feedback about the firm, claiming they receive good quality training with a high level of support from senior lawyers. Their Trainee Associate Programme offers four six-month seats, allowing trainees the freedom to select their seat preferences ahead of rotation. Additionally, HSF has partnered with BPP University Law School to create the City Consortium Solicitor Training Programme, providing trainees with a programme to support them through the SQE. 84% of Trainee Associates client secondment or international secondment, allowing them the chance to spend six months in one of HSF’s multiple global offices.
Other perks for trainees include private medical insurance, a subsidised gym membership to Virgin Atlantic, access to a mortgage broker, PGDL grants, travel and dental insurance, social and sports clubs, pension contributions and 25 days’ annual leave.
The work/life balance at HSF appears to be the same, if not better, than other top tier law firms. Generally, there is no expectation for trainees to put in painfully long hours unless urgent work matters take place. Additionally, voluntary paid overtime is offered to those wishing to put in the extra time. Secondees are said to have lower working hours than first-year trainees. With this being said, the type of work given generally differs depending on the departments. While disputes include more fascinating, high-calibre work, departments such as finance or corporate tend to deal with more administrative and process heavy tasks. Starting salary for trainees is £47,000 and increases to £52,000 for second-years.
Dispute resolution, offers a complete litigation service, finance, competition, regulation and trade, intellectual property, real estate and more, as a truly global law firm.
Given the opportunity to spend 10 days a year working on bringing your innovative idea to life.
Involvement with Equality Schemes
Leaders in inclusion with 8 equality schemes—Ability which is for supporting those with long term health conditions or disabilities, Multiculturism, Women Lawyers, LGBT +, Family, Social Mobility, Military, winner of the Stonewall Top Global Employer 2020 award.
Closely following instructions and recommendations of local authorities, staff working from home at times.
3 parts with one partner each: competency interview, case study interview and a scenario based interview.
Subsidised membership of Virgin Active which is next door to their London office, complete with Molton Brown products, Surface Pro Laptops , iPhones and HD curved monitors are handed out liberally.
84% of trainees go on client or international secondment.
Winter Vacation Scheme Deadline
1 November 2021
Summer Vacation Scheme Deadline
3 December 2021 Learn More
Spring Vacation Scheme Deadline
3 December 2021
More About HSF
Learn more about what HSF has to offer.
Work Experience Opportunities Available
Roger Leyland Memorial Scholarship, first year workshops, campus ambassadors, vacation schemes.
No minimum requirements.
Application form, online test, assessment day.
Location of Offices in UK
Number of Places Available
Number of Seats
Four, six months each.
Retention Score of Trainees:
Introduction by Ceire Quinn and breakdown by Kirsten Box