Herbert Smith Freehills Training Contracts & Interview Questions

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Law Training Contract: Application Dates and Information

Applications run from either the first week of October to the end of January, or the beginning of January until the end of January, depending on what path you are applying for.

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Firm Overview

Herbert Smith Freehills is an international law firm, formed through a merger of Herbert Smith – a member of the Silver Circle – and Freehills, one of the Australian Big Six. It is the 29th largest law firm in the world by revenue. It is seen as one of the most elite and selective law firms in the world, and has a particular reputation in dispute resolution. It retains the most FTSE 100 clients of all law firms. It is considered to be the most prestigious UK-headquartered law firm outside of the magic circle.

Law Training Contract: Firm Specialisms & Training Contract Seats

Freehills is one of the few firms who allow you to select your seat preferences before each rotation, meaning that you can tailor your program as your interests develop – rather than at the outset. The firm emphasises that developing sector knowledge is crucial to understanding clients’ needs. You will therefore be able to select seats focused on a specific sector, enabling you to qualify with better knowledge in that sector.

You will go through four six month seats. Seats are available in dispute resolution, corporate, finance, competition, regulation and trade, IP, employment, pensions and incentives, and tax. You can also take a legal technology and innovation seat, or a seat in the digital law group. You can also take a seat in ESG, and indeed pro bono secondments to the in-house legal teams of charities and NGOs. Throughout, you will be supervised by a senior associate or partner, and share an office with them. 

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Law Training Contract: Past Interview Format & Questions

The structure at Freehills consists of a case study interview, a scenario-based interview, and a competency interview.

The case study:

This encourages you to ‘engage with a real case study and present your thoughts to a partner.’ From previous trainees and applicants, examples include:

A case study focused on a company who bought a former airport landing space, which the previous owner now wants to have back. The core question was about whether the old owner could be granted permission by the secretary of state to force the new owner to sell.

Another student explains that the case study consisted of 45 minutes’ reading time, in which they read a contract and had to then summarise the information and provide feedback through a ten minute presentation. Supposedly, their contract was too long to read in the time frame, which made structuring the presentation tricky. This case study was followed by challenging questions from the partner, who pretended to be the client, and made sure to pick up on any points that had been missed.

Scenario-based interview

This is your chance to ‘think on your feet when presented with a real-life commercial scenario with a partner.’ From previous trainees and applicants, it seems that these can be very varied. Examples include an asset-financing transaction involving a Russian air corporation who had leased aircraft on credit. Another applicant explains that they were paired with a partner in corporate / asset management, and that their scenario was therefore on a supplier who had been late with deliveries repeatedly over the past two years. The client therefore wanted to terminate the contract – the scenario involved exploring how this could be done. The partner was interested in different contractual mechanisms. Supposedly, the scenario can be much more about legal and commercial awareness and knowledge than about your situational judgement skills.

Competency Interview

The competency interview is the final part of the Freehills assessment day, and will include the most ‘typical’ questions that you might expect. The firm describes this as a chance to ‘discuss your motivations and show you have the key skills required with a senior associate.’

Previous questions include:
– Why Law?
– Why Herbert Smith Freehills?
– What is about the culture or work here that interests you?
– When have you made a mistake whilst working as part of a team?
– When do you think you might struggle whilst working here as a trainee?
– Why did you choose to study Law?
– Describe a time when you worked in a team to achieve a goal.
– Describe a situation when you managed a conflict.
– How do you manage your time?

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