Why did you choose to apply to Herbert Smith Freehills?
I applied to a vacation scheme to get a more in-depth experience of what HSF was like, although I did so slightly late in my academic career. Whilst doing my GDL, I managed to get a spot on the 2014 winter vacation scheme and from there applied directly for a training contract. The firm contacted me one day before Christmas to give me the news that they wanted to offer me the job and I can confidently say that the offer makes it into the top three of my 'Best Christmas Gifts of All Times' list.
The short answer to why I chose HSF is that the firm simply felt right. I had previously gained work experience at other law firms and the people at HSF were genuinely the friendliest (at least in my opinion). After my vacation scheme, I could easily see myself working here long term which was a major factor in my decision. The other decisive factor was that HSF offered me the best package of opportunities. Since I have an international background and focused on EU competition law in my LLM, I wanted to work for a firm that had a wide global reach and a strong competition department; HSF ticked both boxes.
What does your role involve?
The role varies depending on the department you're in. I am currently sitting in litigation where a lot of the work involves legal research to assist my supervisors in preparing and strengthening their arguments for trial. My other responsibilities include includes drafting letters to clients, communicating with the clerks at chambers, and generally doing the ground work in terms of document management. As such, my supervisors are likely to rely on me to ensure that their documents are in order and files have been prepared in such a way as to facilitate the flow of the case.
What training did you receive?
Just having started my 1st seat, the training (next to the work in my department) has not been that extensive yet. However I have already been to workshops on refining my advocacy skills and my note-taking abilities (yes, shorthand!), and on how to efficiently use various research platforms in the context of a very narrow sector-search.
Before starting my actual training contract, the firm also supported my desire to improve my language skills and helped me in financing French classes.
How is the scheme structured?
As a pre-condition to my training contract, I first completed the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at BPP Law School in London. Having done so, my six years of university life have come to an end and I am formally part of the firm.
The training contract is structured in four six-month seats, two of which are set by the firm (one in corporate and one in litigation). Regarding the remaining two, trainees have the (difficult) choice between a variety of departments and sub-groups, and can also apply to go on a secondment. Going to a client or one of the international offices for one seat is popular amongst trainees the choices are numerous and range from within the closer European offices to far-off destinations such as Australia, Japan or China. Apart from the departmental training, the firm also offers a large number of skills training sessions, seminars and workshops, and trainees have the option to attend talks on various topics (which do not necessarily need to relate to the department they are currently in).
What has been your highlight so far?
In the time that I have been with HSF I have already been given the opportunity to assist on a £1bn pound case. It's quite exciting being part of a team which works on matters that you normally only hear about in the news!
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love the intellectual stimulation that the job brings with it. I have always been a fan of jigsaw puzzles and riddles, and it feels a bit like that with every new case that I get my teeth into. The more you dig into the underlying issue of a case, the more pieces fall into place and the clearer the overall picture becomes; plus, since every case is unique in its circumstances, you get a new puzzle every time.
What challenges have you faced and what support did you receive to overcome them?
For me, it's mostly the little IT-related things that I struggled with the most: booking holidays or actually getting the photocopier to work rather just silently standing there and 'laughing' at my technological incompetence…
However, it's good to know that you have a large team you can rely on; and that is not just the team of trainees and associates, but really anyone in the department or wider firm. The PAs are wonderful and usually know the ways around the office better than I ever could, and HSF's graduate recruitment team are always there in case you need support or have a question that you would rather raise with someone confidentially. The gist of it is that, no matter how difficult a situation may seem, you are never alone – the only challenge is asking for help.
What do you enjoy most about working for Herbert Smith Freehills?
It's probably becoming a theme by now, but the people here really are super-friendly and the atmosphere is great
As mentioned before, the international profile of the firm really makes it stand out for me
On top of that HSF also offers a lot of other non-work related activities which makes life pretty fun at the firm. This week alone, our Sports and Social Events committee has organised a casino night and a sushi making class! And during my vacation scheme, we all went to circus school (flying trapeze and everything); if that is not perky, I don't know what is.