About Herbert Smith Freehills
Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) is an international law firm most famous for specialising in dispute resolution. Co-headquartered in London and Sydney, Australia, HSF was created in 2012 when UK firm Herbert Smith, a so-called 'silver-circle' firm in London merged with one of Australia's 'big six' firms, Freehills.
Renowned for having the most FTSE 100 clients, Herbert Smith Freehills is a prestigious law firm which attracts the highest calibre of applicants, drawn to its reputation for litigation as well as financial and corporate work. HSF also has a growing reputation for exciting and interesting work, particularly in the energy and resources sector.
HSF offers a number of opportunities for graduates including vacation schemes and training contracts as well as open days, campus ambassador and various work experience and scholarships. Applications for vacation schemes and training contracts follow the same process.
HSF does not require applicants to have studied law when making an application, welcoming applicants from all backgrounds, as well as those who have additional work placed experience and then have decided to change career to law. HSF prides itself on building a diverse workforce and actively seeks candidates from a range of backgrounds and skill sets.
The application process begins by the candidate completing an online application form, in which information around academic background and relevant work experience should be set out.
There are then three written questions to which responses must be prepared, with a maximum of 300 words per question. These questions are broad and allow for candidates to draw on their knowledge, skills and expertise to showcase their personality and fit for HSF.
The current questions are:
- Introduce us to a topic you know about and explain why it interests you
- Explain why you're interested in pursuing a career at Herbert Smith Freehills
- What skills, qualities and attributes would you bring to the role?
Successful candidates are then invited to submit online tests, which are specific to HSF, and take around 30-35 minutes to complete, although there is no official time limit. There are three types of questions included in the test: situational-judgment, verbal reasoning and personality/behavioural, with both the time taken and the accuracy of the answers reflected in the scoring.
Situational judgement test
Situational judgement tests present typical workplace based scenarios, similar to which trainees can expect to face in their day to day work, and then ask questions based on the scenarios from which the candidate must decide which of the courses of action is most likely, or least likely, or rank responses.
The HSF tests are blended, so they will also test verbal reasoning and make personality based assumptions based on the candidates responses. Candidates might expect to face scenarios which reflect ethics, management, working practices such as time management or prioritisation, or client facing scenarios.
Verbal reasoning tests assess verbal comprehension in the form of ability to read and understand the written word. After reading a written paragraph the candidate will be asked a number of questions. Based solely on information provided in the written scenario, which are not related to each other, candidates will be assessed on their ability to draw conclusions and differentiate between fact and opinion, by responding to whether a statement is true or false, or that you are unable to say.
The personality / behavioural element to the questions allows HSF to make more informed decisions about whether a specific candidate suits the culture and nature of the work at the firm. The questions require the candidate to answer whether given traits are 'most like me' or 'least like me', from which a personality type is identified. Whilst it can be tempting to second-guess which traits HSF are seeking, overall it is better to be honest.
Those that successfully complete the online application form and online tests will be invited to attend an assessment day. There are three elements to the assessment day - all of which require thorough preparation. The assessment days for trainees are held in person but currently vacation scheme applicants are being invited to attend virtual assessment days where the case study interview is replaced with a second scenario-based interview.
Case Study Interview
The case study interview takes the form of presenting your opinions / advice on a case study (based on a scenario which you would expect to encounter during your work as a trainee) to a partner.
Candidates will need to demonstrate commercial awareness, an ability to think quickly under pressure, to reach a conclusion or give next steps. You will have 45 minutes in which to prepare a ten minute presentation based upon a list of questions provided in the case study. The presentation is followed by an interview/ discussion, so you should also be prepared to discuss and robustly defend your thoughts and arguments.
Similar to the case study is the scenario-based interview, in which you will take part in a discussion with a partner about a real-life commercial scenario, usually one upon which they are currently working. You will need to think from the client's perspective as well as considering commercial awareness and business strategy. You will not be expected to have in-depth legal knowledge, but will be assessed on your strategy and ability to think and discuss a problem with someone more senior, whilst bringing your own ideas and defending your proposals.
Lastly, you will face a competency interview with a senior associate, in which you will be interrogated on your reasoning for choosing a career in the law, at HSF in particular, and what skills and values you can bring to the firm. You should thoroughly prepare for this, having answers to hand in relation to why you are interested in law, your strengths and weaknesses, why you want to work at HSF and how you align with the visions and values of the firm, as well as the particular departments that you are interested in.