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Herbert Smith Freehills

4.4
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees
Herbert Smith Freehills banner

About Herbert Smith Freehills

  • Law

What it does: Commercial law
Staff stats: Globally, 2100 lawyers and 4700 staff across 27 offices
The good bits: Prestige employer, award-winning culture
The not so good bits: Demanding clients
Hiring grads with degrees in: Law & Legal Studies

The Herbert Smith Freehills story

Herbert Smith Freehills was formed in 2012 through the merger between Australia-based Freehills and UK-based Herbert Smith. Freehills’ origins lie in the union of law firms in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to form Freehill, Hollingdale and Page, all formed in the latter half of the 19th century. When the name Freehills was adopted in 2000, the firm was a national powerhouse. By the time it merged with Herbert Smith, it had over 800 lawyers and 190 partners, with offices throughout Australia, as well as one in Singapore and associations or alliances with firms in Vietnam and China.

UK-based Herbert Smith was established in 1882 and originally specialised in company floats and providing legal advice to mining companies. It later moved into litigation and corporate work, particularly in relation to mergers and acquisitions and equity capital markets. At the time of its merger with Freehills, Herbert Smith had 240 partners and offices throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

The firm, now co-headquartered in London and Sydney, has 27 offices and over 5,000 employees worldwide. It is regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious law firms, particularly for its expertise in litigation as well as corporate and finance law. The firm’s reputation is reflected in its accolades with Law Firm of the Year Award (>500 employees) at the Australasian Law Awards 2017 and International Firm of the Year at the Australasian Law Awards 2016. Additionally, the firm was ranked 12th on the Global Elite Brand Index for law firms in 2016.

The culture

Herbert Smith Freehills promotes a culture of fairness, equality and inclusion and has been a innovator for an inclusive approach for some time. In Australia prior to the merger, Freehills – then known as Freehill Hollingdale & Page – embraced diversity half a century before it became a corporate buzzword, hiring Jews and Catholics at a time when few top-tier law firms would. Freehill Hollingdale & Page also became the first major Australian law firm to appoint a female partner in 1979. Additionally, UK-based Herbert Smith was one of the first law firms to develop a diversity programme, establishing the Inclusivity Group in 2003.

The firm continues to be an advocate for diversity and inclusion with a several global, regional and local diversity and inclusion committees, such as Women’s Network, Multicultural Network, IRIS Network and Flexibility Network. The firm benchmarks against best practice both in the legal and other industries, and their commitment to providing a culture of inclusion was recently recognised as an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality in 2016.

Social contribution

Herbert Smith Freehills has a long-standing tradition of providing pro bono legal services which has developed into a broader program of volunteering and charitable giving that involves a much wider range of people across the firm. Currently, the firm focuses on pro bono work that creates social inclusion, builds capacity in communities of need and helps fights climate change. At any one time, Herbert Smith Freehills may be providing free legal assistance to disadvantaged individuals, the governments of developing nations, NGOs and global charities.  

The recruitment process

Like many law firms, Herbert Smith Freehills offers its graduate positions to those who have completed a clerkship with the firm. The process for a clerkship involves applying online via the careers website. Your application should include a brief cover letter, current CV and a recent copy of your academic transcript. Applicants are asked to answer some questions about your interest in commercial law generally and Herbert Smith Freehills specifically. The next stages involve an online psychometric assessment, attending an informal event with Herbert Smith Freehills lawyers and doing an interview.

The firm’s graduate program is designed to develop your skills as a commercial lawyer. It involves three rotations across different practice groups and both formal development opportunities and on-the-job training from colleagues and partners. You’ll get a ‘trainee buddy’, regular feedback and performance reviews in the middle and the end of your rotations to ensure you understand how you’re doing in your development.

Career prospects

The typical career path at Herbert Smith Freehills is as follows: vacation clerk, graduate, solicitor, senior associate, special/executive counsel and partner. The firm provides a range of development opportunities, designed to discover your strengths and what’s right for you. You will be supported throughout your career at Herbert Smith Freehills and will receive the training and support needed to reach your goals.

The vibe of the place

Herbert Smith Freehills takes pride in its diverse, supportive and non-hierarchical workplaces. The firm is split into the following divisions: corporate; dispute resolution; finance; real estate and projects; employment, pensions and incentives; competition regulation and trade, as well as Alternative Legal Services. Your experience may vary depending on which practice group you’re in but the corporate culture should never be anything less than inspirational. (It’s not for nothing that The Australian ranked Herbert Smith Freehills as the top graduate employer in the legal industry in 2015, 2016 and 2017.)      

 

From the Employer:

"Join us as a Herbert Smith Freehills graduate with your degree behind you, but a world of opportunity in front of you.

As a Herbert Smith Freehills Graduate, you’ll be a part of everything. With 27 offices around the world, we can show you exactly what a world-class law firm has to offer, giving you the chance to work as part of an international team, on high-profile matters, for some of the most significant organisations in the market.

Our focus is on the future: the future needs of existing and new clients, the future of the legal profession and investing in our future lawyers. That’s why we aim to attract the best talent from a broad range of backgrounds, ensuring we are optimising our position as a progressive, forward-thinking professional services business. At Herbert Smith Freehills, you’ll be given the opportunity to develop the skills you need to help solve our clients’ most complex challenges in thoughtful and innovative ways.

We recruit people with the desire and ability to be exceptional, commercial lawyers. This means that we look for more than just a great academic record and strong technical aptitude. We seek people who are curious, empathetic and understand the importance of building relationships with clients and colleagues. We also look for an international mindset and a desire to work within our global network, not just one office.

Complex cross-border deals. A market-leading Disputes division. Worldwide reach. If you’re ready to be a part of it all, we’re looking forward to hearing from you.

OUR STRUCTURE

We’re organised along six global divisions – corporate; dispute resolution; finance, real estate and projects; employment, pensions and incentives; competition, regulation and trade and Alternative Legal Services.

OUR WORK IN THE COMMUNITY

At Herbert Smith Freehills our focus is on using our expertise and leadership to increase access to justice and opportunity for the benefit of local and global communities. At the core of Herbert Smith Freehills’ approach is a long-standing and proud tradition of providing pro bono legal services and advocacy. This commitment to pro bono legal services for members of the public has developed into a broader program of volunteering and charitable giving that involves a much wider range of people across this firm. Many of our vacation clerks participate in pro bono and community work and describe it as one of the highlights of their clerkship.

For more information about our pro bono and community work visit: herbertsmithfreehills.com/pro-bono-and-citizenship

A RICH AND DIVERSE CULTURE

Diversity can be easy to say, but harder to do. We believe allowing people to perform to the best of their abilities requires a culture of openness and authenticity, one that allows each of us to bring our whole selves to work. We work hard to create such a culture. Wherever you join us, you’ll find talented people with different views, experiences and backgrounds.

For more information on our diversity and inclusion program visit: herbertsmithfreehills.com/diversity-and-inclusion.

 

 

Graduate Review

Overall Score
4.4
Overall score based on 20 reviews
They Score Best in…
8.7
Culture
8.7
Satisfaction
8.8
Recruitment
8.8
Training
8.7
Culture
8.7
Satisfaction
8.8
Recruitment
8.8
Training
What Graduates Say About Them
  • The people and opportunities here. The people are down to earth, welcoming, intelligent and inclusive. There are also so many opportunities to learn and to get involved in co-curriculars e.g. volunteering, networking, innovation.
  • Great work and people; fantastic international opportunities/secondments
  • All the staff were kind and approachable; everyone made time to assist with questions and tasks.
  • HSF was extremely inviting, and everybody was easy to work with. There was lots of support and ways to improve both your personal and work-related skills. It was an amazing environment filled with very skilled and personable people. I learnt a lot.
  • The people - talented, enthusiastic, driven, friendly people.
  • The hours can be long, but so far, may have been fine relatively speaking.
  • People have different styles of communication, which can be difficult to navigate as a junior graduate.
  • Many senior partners are extremely busy and because of that not approachable. However, there is a number of standout partners who make an active effort to resist that tendency.
  • The expectancy to work late in some teams - although this is a general issue in the legal industry and not specific to my firm.
  • I cannot fault HSF.

Opportunities

Locations With Opportunities
  • Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth & Sydney
Hiring Candidates With Degrees In
L
Law, Legal Studies & Justice
Current Opportunities

Internship

This opportunity is currently a placeholder. You can “Save” this opportunity to add it to your dashboard or “Register Interest” to share your details with the employer and be notified when this role is open.

Internship

This opportunity is currently a placeholder. You can “Save” this opportunity to add it to your dashboard or “Register Interest” to share your details with the employer and be notified when this role is open.

Graduate Success Stories


Herbert Smith Freehills Graduate Sebastian Davies-Mills Profile
  • Graduate stories
I was always amazed when I was able to use my knowledge from university to draft a memo which later went out to the client either in its original form or with only minor edits.

Sebastian Davies-Mills

  • Graduate stories
I was always amazed when I was able to use my knowledge from university to draft a memo which later went out to the client either in its original form or with only minor edits.

Sebastian Davies-Mills

Herbert Smith Freehills Graduate Audrey Vong Profile
  • Graduate stories
As a clerk, paralegal and then graduate entering the legal market, I was excited to get into work at HSF and frustrated at the many stumbling blocks that would pop up along the way.

Audrey Vong

  • Graduate stories
As a clerk, paralegal and then graduate entering the legal market, I was excited to get into work at HSF and frustrated at the many stumbling blocks that would pop up along the way.

Audrey Vong

Herbert Smith Freehills Graduate Sebastian Davies-Mills Profile
  • Graduate stories
I was always amazed when I was able to use my knowledge from university to draft a memo which later went out to the client either in its original form or with only minor edits.

Sebastian Davies-Mills

  • Graduate stories
I was always amazed when I was able to use my knowledge from university to draft a memo which later went out to the client either in its original form or with only minor edits.

Sebastian Davies-Mills

Herbert Smith Freehills Graduate Audrey Vong Profile
  • Graduate stories
As a clerk, paralegal and then graduate entering the legal market, I was excited to get into work at HSF and frustrated at the many stumbling blocks that would pop up along the way.

Audrey Vong

  • Graduate stories
As a clerk, paralegal and then graduate entering the legal market, I was excited to get into work at HSF and frustrated at the many stumbling blocks that would pop up along the way.

Audrey Vong


A Day In The Life Of


Raymond Sun wearing a black suit and gray shirt
  • Day in the life

Raymond Sun

Raymond Sun completed a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Technology Sydney in 2020 and she is now working as a Paralegal at Herbert Smith Freehills.
  • Day in the life

Raymond Sun

Raymond Sun completed a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Technology Sydney in 2020 and she is now working as a Paralegal at Herbert Smith Freehills.
Herbert Smith Freehills Graduate - Young female professional
  • Day in the life

Linda Nguyen

Linda Nguyen graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics and Finance)/Juris Doctor at the University of Western Australia in 2018 and is now working as a Solicitor at Herbert Smith Freehills.
  • Day in the life

Linda Nguyen

Linda Nguyen graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics and Finance)/Juris Doctor at the University of Western Australia in 2018 and is now working as a Solicitor at Herbert Smith Freehills.
Raymond Sun wearing a black suit and gray shirt
  • Day in the life

Raymond Sun

Raymond Sun completed a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Technology Sydney in 2020 and she is now working as a Paralegal at Herbert Smith Freehills.
  • Day in the life

Raymond Sun

Raymond Sun completed a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Technology Sydney in 2020 and she is now working as a Paralegal at Herbert Smith Freehills.
Herbert Smith Freehills Graduate - Young female professional
  • Day in the life

Linda Nguyen

Linda Nguyen graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics and Finance)/Juris Doctor at the University of Western Australia in 2018 and is now working as a Solicitor at Herbert Smith Freehills.
  • Day in the life

Linda Nguyen

Linda Nguyen graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics and Finance)/Juris Doctor at the University of Western Australia in 2018 and is now working as a Solicitor at Herbert Smith Freehills.

Advice


Liz Henry

How to Land a Clerkship with Herbert Smith Freehills

Liz Henry, resourcing manager at HSF, has some suggestions for cracking the highly competitive process of getting a vacation clerkship with the firm. 
Liz Henry

How to Land a Clerkship with Herbert Smith Freehills

Liz Henry, resourcing manager at HSF, has some suggestions for cracking the highly competitive process of getting a vacation clerkship with the firm.