What it does: Commercial law
Staff stats: Globally, 2100 lawyers and 4700 staff across 26 offices
The good bits: Prestige employer, award-winning culture
The not so good bits: Demanding clients
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 26 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.
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.
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 cvMail. Your application should include abrief 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 assessment, attending an informal event with Herbert Smith Freehills lawyers and doing an interview. When applying for either a clerkship or a graduate position you’ll be required to complete an online psychological assessment.
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.
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 both 2015 and 2016.)
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.
We have 26 offices around the world so wherever you join us, and whatever you do, you’ll be part of a global team managing, achieving and delivering cutting-edge work for international and multidisciplinary clients.
Takeovers and mergers. Arbitration and litigation. Finance and real estate. As a world class professional services business, our work is incredibly varied. Thanks to the quality of our global network and world-class Business Services professionals, we work with some of the biggest international organisations on some of their most ambitious projects.
We are interested in who you are and the strengths you can bring. We look for exceptional people from a diverse range of backgrounds with the passion and ability to become truly brilliant lawyers.
And there’s more to that than just a great academic record. There’s fantastic perception and communication skills. There’s confidence and collaboration skills. Empathy, an international mindset and diligence. And there’s the drive to not only experience everything, but to be a part of it.
Join us as a Herbert Smith Freehills graduate and you’ll do more than just experience life at a leading law firm, you’ll be a part of everything we have to offer.
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
Herbert Smith Freehills is proud to promote a culture of fairness, equality and inclusion. We believe that having a diverse and open workplace adds new dimensions to how we tackle client challenges and drives innovation forward. Wherever you join us, you’ll find talented people with different views, experiences and backgrounds.
In Australia, we have focused our efforts to be more inclusive and our first priority was to run inclusive leadership sessions for the entire partnership so that we could each understand why diversity and inclusion is a business imperative for our firm.
For more information on our diversity and inclusion program visit: herbertsmithfreehills.com/about-us/diversity-and-inclusion."