Herbert Smith Freehills offers £10,000 London GDL maintenance grant

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£9,000 in the regions

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) is offering its future London trainees £10,000 in financial support during the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).

The sum equates to an uplift by a quarter (25%) on the global firm’s previous offering of £8,000. The rise is effective from autumn 2019 and will apply to all current offer holders. This means the UK-headquartered megafirm now matches the £10,000 grant it awards its Legal Practice Course (LPC) students.

The firm confirmed those studying outside of London will also benefit from a 29% boost — from £7,000 to £9,000.

HSF’s newest recruits complete the GDL — the conversion course non-law grads must complete to train as a lawyer — at BPP Law School in Waterloo. The firm, which offers 60 training contracts each year, also fully funds GDL course fees.

The 2020 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Four out of five of the magic circle have increased GDL maintenance grants to £10,000 in recent months. Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Slaughter and May and Linklaters all award their future trainees the coveted five-figure sum. Allen & Overy offers its GDL’ers £9,000.

Turning to the silver circle, which HSF is part of, the only other outfit to award its new joiners £10,000 is Macfarlanes. The firm confirmed a 43% increase in April.

Our Firms Most List shows GDL grants can vary by as much as £4,500 to £12,850 across the leading law firms in the UK.

Today’s news comes amid rising student living costs in London. Although costs will vary depending on lifestyle, an official university guide recently estimated the maximum amount needed for a course lasting nine months or more in London would be £11,385.

The GDL is being phased out by 2021 in favour of a new two-part solicitor super-exam, the SQE.

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What’s the grant at SPB?



’bout a tuppence and three figs.


Angus, Exeter University LL.B.

Top whack.



Good shop. Quality work, good people, and decent whack


Tyson; Leeds Beckett LL.B

Isn’t HSF quite posh



Terribly, don’t listen to their tokenism about ‘diversity’.


Law Grad

As someone who is interested in litigation but doesn’t think they’d be able to get an offer from HSF (mix of 2.1 and 2.2 grades) which firms would LC commenters suggest applying to? Open to boutiques as well (provided they offer TCs of course)

Sorry if this is a bit of a dull question but you guys seem pretty knowledgeable



You’re only clever enough for regional firms.


partner kirkland

Try a high street practice in somewhere like Bradford, Luton or Tower Hamlets.


David Boies

Start with Quinn Emmanuel and, on the off-chance that doesn’t work out, go for Skadden.


Disappointed NQ

Could we possibly offer the poor chap some decent advice?



Apply to a range of firms. Start with UK mid market and work up.


LLB undergrad boi

Wot about Dechert ?




Law career guru

If I were you I’d follow the managing partner of each MC firm around with a long lens. Sooner or later you’ll find somehting compromising and then your career is sorted.


Law Grad

Is this the fabled “career coaching” I’ve seen offered by certain authors of LC articles?


Law career guru

Yes. I got 3 Es and A’level, and a third from the University of Cumbria in Media Studies. I got a lovely picture of a senior partner at a major US law firm visiting his bit on the side and am now head of debt cpatial markets at 1 year PQE.


To Law Grad

“Interested in litigation” is a WIDE range – to avoid endless debate let’s just assume you’re interested in firms with a commercial focus i.e. businesses are the clients rather than divorce practices or PI/Clin Neg claimant-side high street practices. Mostly because working in those areas require you to love the subject and hate/not consider being paid. Although if all else fails, just hang around one of these and show you can complete a crossword puzzle. Helps if your from a wealthy family that are already clients of the firm (e.g. the high street firm has a private client practice as well).

Mix of 2:1 or 2:2? If your final degree is a 2:2 I would suggest ignoring London and any “Top 50” UK firms for the most part (at least until you’re qualified – if you’re good, you should be able to swing something after a few PQE). It doesn’t seem fair but almost all of these firms use 2:1 as minimum entry requirement. Even more unfair, most still consider A-levels a key factor and their HR teams filtering out applications are slaves to the policy… looking at you, DWF. So many people get filtered out despite having very high 2:1s and even Firsts on an LLB but only had BBB or thereabouts at A-Level. Be honest and realistic.

If you did finish with a 2:1, consider Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester: there’s some impressive commercial litigation work taken on by the bigger firms there, and there’s generally slightly less competition than in London. This could potentially also include the regional offices of Top 50 firms (Pinsents, DLA, Eversheds, you get the idea).

However, if London shops with relatively reputable commercial disputes teams remains the goal, look at the firms that tend to be on insurance panels. BLM, Kennedys, DACB, Beale and Company, Clyde & Co (although they are raising their recruitment standards regularly), Browne Jacobson, Fenchurch Law, etc etc. All of these will pay you peanuts in comparison with the MC/American firms. However, there’s enough name recognition within the industry that these firms work in that there’s good opportunity to switch to in house at BIG name companies or lateral to a slightly more reputable BigLaw or boutique firms.

No matter where you end up, plan on completing the LPC on your own and probably expect to paralegal for 1-3 years before being taken seriously as a TC candidate. With the exception of the MC/SC, I would say it’s becoming the norm to paralegal for a while first. You might have a better chance of getting a paralegal role without the LPC in the regions or in a conveyancing role, but if you choose the latter, you may face difficulty proving your interest in litigation.

Good luck.


Law Grad

Thank you, that’s a really detailed response and I appreciate the time you took to write it.

For clarity I do have a 2.1 from a good RG uni, looking for TCs in London and would much prefer not to take on more debt (and rather have the LPC funded as part of a TC). Is this an unrealistic goal?


To Law Grad

Depends on your work experience so far, and if you have any inside connections. If you don’t have experience, I would say it’s highly unrealistic unless you absolutely kill it at assessment centres. Remember, the London legal market is flooded with RG uni grads with 2:1s in a wide range of subjects.

To help your odds, find a UK top 200 law firm by revenue list and apply to the London offices of the top 20-30 plus the firms suggested above, but think about excluding the MC. Do not say anything about being interested in litigation unless that’s what the firm specializes in – Most will make less than 1/3 of annual revenue in litigation. If at the end of the 2 year process you still want to do litigation and there’s no NQ offer for you in their dispute teams, downgrade to one of the firms mentioned earlier. That is a very common thing to do.

Again, your chances of success would be drastically increased if you consider DLA/Pinsents/Eversheds/similar in the regions; the pay packet you get lets you be comfortable in those towns. Plus you would get the CV name recognition for eventually moving to a mid-tier shop in London (or transferring internally to your firm’s London team), and of course in-house at a major corporation HQ’d in London. Be honest with yourself: do you want to be a lawyer or do you want to live in London? Depending on your priorities you may want to be more flexible on location or career. Up to you.


Law Grad

Thank you for the advice on not mentioning litigation upon application – that’s the kind of insight that I would not be able to glean from HR/open days.

I’ve got decent experience (no vac schemes, but internships/placements) and would definitely like to stay in London. I’m aware it’s super competitive so I’m not sure whether I should rule myself out of going for law and instead maybe answer the daunting question “if not law, then what should I do?”.

Consensus seems to be that my grades are a bit of a handicap, but thank you for being one of the serious replies to the comment.

I think I may apply this year and see what happens – just wanted to check where would be a good place to be applying for a person in my position I suppose


Careful on selling the work experience. Recently went through the process and noted many of the “top 20” law firms use a lazy points based system. Many, including firms like PM, don’t allocate points for non-legal work experience and in extreme cases, you only get points for completing traditional vac schemes with similar firms – even paralegal roles are excluded.

Law Grad

Re carefully selling the work experience – that’s an interesting insight. I suppose there’s not much I can do to negate this other than apply for vac schemes.


Do not fund the LPC if you do not have enough money to do so, especially if you target law firms that could potentially fund your LPC later once you secure TC with them.
My example: I come from low income family so following my law degree (1st from good non-RG uni) doing the LPC was definitely not an option for me. However, I had some legal experience under my belt when I graduated and I found well-paid paralegal position in-house. I then did a couple of vac schemes (RIP my annual leave entitlement) and got my TC with a firm that will pay for my LPC + maintenance.
Good luck!


Law Grad

Thanks Londoner! Glad to hear you’ve smashed it

Aim higher

Hey mate I graduated with a 2:1 LLB from a Russell and also had a few 2:2s in tort, public and contract specifically. I received two TC offers this year (my final year) one from the most profitable SC firm and the other from a US firm. I also had two TC interviews at MC firms and 1 at another US.

Please do not think your grades will hold you back. I do have quite good range of volunteering experience and legal experience but nothing more than most applicants will tbh. My advice is to be ambitious, if I applied for Eversheds, Pinsents etc type of firms like my careers officer advised I would have never received much better paid offers elsewhere.

You have nothing to lose other than a few hours of your time if you do apply



What firms will take me with a low 2:1 overall in first year with a 2:2 grade in Contract? My preferences are SC/MC/US. Should I apply to winter vac schemes?


Aim higher

Yes definitely but that is assuming you have good work experience, volunteering, committee experience to balance out poorer grades. If so apply to a few
Winter schemes, also don’t forget the lesser known US firms for Summer Vac (Covington Burling, Cooley, Orrick, Paul Hastings, Goodwin etc) lot of them only receive 200-350 apps so technically competition is not as stiff


Law Grad

Fair play mate! Admittedly though I have more than just a “few” 2.2s so I reckon it will noticeably hold me back to some extent



Shet firm; shet oxbridge haven.


Law Grad

How can so many students parrot the word “shet” in the comments?

Have you ever worked at this firm? Or indeed any firm?

No you’re an undergrad – your opinion is just based off of other people’s opinions


Penis Pump

Firm attracts mediocre Oxbridgers




At least a decent number of them actually studied law at Oxbridge.

I did the rounds at Simmons a few years back and almost every trainee and junior I met had an Oxbridge 2:1 BA in History, Fine Art, or History or Art… one or two languages. The only LLB grads I met were from the likes of Exeter or York and all graduated near the top of their year.



So you think Oxbridge LLBs are somehow better than Exeter LLBs? LOL!


Snarky LC Reader

Speaking as a non-oxbridge grad, they most definitely are.

There’s objectively a higher quality of teaching + higher pressure – 2.1 from Oxbridge is better than 2.1 from Exeter when the two results are compared on paper



No, I say any uni grad with the devotion and intelligence to complete a LLB with a 2:1 or First is better suited to be a lawyer than an Oxbridge gad who spent three years studying the artworks of medieval eastern Europe.


Snarky LC Reader

Read “LLB”


The LC comments section sadly descended from the rude-yet-entertaining to pure skullduggery and mental retardation. Well done for f*cking up the only reason I ever visited this site Alex, it’s not like anyone actually reads this shyte pap.



So just another day in LC world, really.


QMUL Law Student

What’s the current grant at Weston Benshoof Rochefort Rubalcava & MacCuish?



“HSF’s newest recruits complete the GDL — the conversion course non-law grads must complete to train as a lawyer — at BPP Law School in Holborn.”

Nope. No GDL at Holborn.


Tommy's putrefied grandma

Be nice to my Tommy you bully.



Yeah, Jonathan Sumption is such a mediocre jurist isn’t he?



Anybody know whether this applies to future trainees starting the GDL this month?



HSF’s Online Q&A is happening right now and even 35 minutes in, the vast majority of peoples’ questions remain unanswered. Is it really that hard?


Comments are closed.

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