Herbert Smith Freehills offers future trainees £8,000 to defer TC start dates

By on

Six month delays

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has become the latest City law firm to delay the start dates of its future trainee solicitors in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

From a September 2020 intake of 28, HSF confirmed eight rookies will be deferred for six months. The firm — which has already implemented a number of financial measures in a bid to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 — is also seeking six month deferrals further down the recruitment line: 11 from its March 2021 intake and 14 from its September 2021 starters.

Deferred trainee solicitors-to-be will receive a payment of £8,000, HSF confirmed, and potentially a further £1,000 to put towards an educational programme which benefits their legal career, such as a language or coding course.

The delays appear to stem from the firm’s decision to suspend its international secondment programme globally for six months from this September, in anticipation of continued restrictions on international travel. In light of this decision, HSF will have more trainees than usual undertaking seats in its London HQ over the next year or so.

The firm — which takes on around 60 trainees each year — said it will accept applications for deferral on a first-come, first-served basis. It will select names randomly if it fails to receive a sufficient number of volunteers.

Secure your place: The UK Virtual Law Fair Series 2020

A spokesperson for the firm said:

“Our people, including our trainees, are very important to us. This decision has not been taken lightly. We have only decided to take this step after careful consideration and as part of our wider prudent measures to keep our business resilient and protect our people in it.”

HSF isn’t the first law firm to take such action. Last week, Legal Cheek revealed future trainees at DLA Piper were being offered up to £10,000 to voluntarily put back their start dates by a year. Elsewhere, DWF and Irwin Mitchell have both delayed the start dates of its next UK trainee cohorts by six month in light of the pandemic.

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub



That’s not the only thing that’s happening at HL. Wait til the NQ news drops….




Greenberg Glusker LLP has executed Order 66.

Every single HSF NQ has resigned, grabbed as much stationery as they can carry, and gone to join the ‘Berg.



Spoiler alert

Greenberg wasn’t funny when it was all the rage as a meme in 2017. It still isn’t funny.



HL? The article is about HSF. Try spending less time gossiping and more time proofreading


Showround @ Bakers

Shut up HSF lacky



Will never understand why people post these cryptic messages in the comments section of Legal Cheek (see also: stealth redundancies at unnamed US firms). What is the issue with posting it?



I think it’s well known that the US firm you’re talking about is Kirkland…



I said “unnamed US firm” as that is how it’s been presented in the comments I’m referring to – I have nothing to say on stealth redundancies.

The nudge-nudge wink-wink style of these comments is weird in an anonymous comment section.



If it weren’t for the comments sections that name and shame the firms in question we wouldn’t know what’s going on. I’ve heard about Kirkland too.

Kirkland NQ’s Supervisor

Wait until the news about the shafting of Eversheds Sutherland’s soon to be NQs drops…..



Tell me more…



Well, JDP, the newly qualifieds at Eversheds. They are shafted.


Showround @ Bakers

Ahhh yes HSF, the Durham of the legal world


Fourth Seater

Mate of mine tells me there’s a lot going on with the fourth seaters turning NQs too…



Such as?



Apparently fourth seaters will be on their trainee salaries for 3-6 months when they qualify.


Le Gasp

Apparently they’re on trainee salaries for 3-6 months


sir roger

Apparently they’re on trainee salaries for 3-6 months



This sounds very harsh but I guess it is better to have any job at all rather than not get retained given the current state of the job market. A trainee salary is still better than going on the dole. I have NQ friends who aren’t being retained this summer and the job market is a blood bath right now.

Do we know how many HSF has retained? Hopefully if they are doing this they are keeping all of them.

HSF fourth seater

Nope retention is going to be dire – around 60% most likely


Yikes, this can’t be good news… Do any actual lawyers out there know how this will affect trainee intake later down the line?



Unfortunate news for students, but it seems inevitable that firms will implement various cost-cutting measures, which include reducing a trainee intake. Many experts expect this pandemic crisis to be much worse than 2008 crisis…You will be surprised to know even big law firms like NRF do not have enough cash at this time. Difficulty returning back to office is another factor why firms may hesitate to retain their trainee intake… But wishing good luck to all!


incoming future diversity open day candidate

Will I be SURPRISED to know that EVEN big law firms like NRF??? A behemoth like NRF?? Which has ABSOLUTELY NOT had rumours of struggling financials for some time now? If you’re surprised then you don’t know what you’re talking about.



Don’t be a dickhead – I made the statement based on data published by the Lawyer

NRF has less than £20m at the bank, which is even less than Eversheds, Simmons, Pinsents

FYI, HSF has around £25m. Compare NRF and HSF’s cash to other firms (severely alarming) –
Linklaters – £180m
Freshfields – £100m
HL – £80m



None of these firms are on the verge of going bust, partners can easily inject capital into the business when needed!


HSF had upped capital contributions and renegotiated an existing credit line they can draw down. How businesses manage cash vs debt is a more complicated question than that


It’s tough to say. While it’s rational to think that firms may want to cut as harshly as they did in 2008-9, they are also keen to avoid the pipeline problems that were created by those deep cuts.


The freehills has eyes. But sadly no cash.

Honestly HSF Have never really been that great a firm. Although they peddle the ‘almost magic circle’ lore they are nowhere near as prestigious (or as profitable as the soon to drop NQ story will highlight).



The salty HSF losers will be coming at you now for stating some cold hard facts as if that will save their firm from becoming the next KWM


No vested interest

It’s not like they’re working on some of the biggest ongoing public cases, including the first landmark investment arbitration against the EU, defending the Bank of England against Venezuela (in lieu of FF), advising Parliament on the NI backstop, worked on the biggest TMT transactions of the decade or anything like that… Nahhh



Yes and your point? “Biggest ongoing public cases”- yet still deferring their trainees, NQs on trainee salaries and all firmwide bonuses frozen for a year.

Litigation cases notoriously take forever to invoice, “big public cases” wont help them right now



Surely the reason they have given for deferring (that there will be too many trainees in London since they can’t go abroad) makes some kind of sense? Of course it’s not the only reason for the decision but there is some sense in it. NQ freeze I agree is more difficult to justify


Right then

I’m not sure you know how long-term heavyweight litigation is invoiced? Typically on a monthly basis….


The freehills has eyes. But sadly no cash

@Piglet- Perfectly put. I am simply stating the facts. HSF don’t have their finger in the most lucrative pies (i.e PE+big project finance work) and so are struggling by reducing pay. Look at Slaughters in comparison. Most of their M&A has dried up but they still have their fingers in plenty of other lucrative pies, enough for them to keep trainee salaries pretty high.

@No vested interest-Just because you mentioned those cases on your application, stop getting salty.


Random passer-by

Not sure what you are on about. HSF is a big player in project finance work, but agree they do not do well in the PE/Funds area. Slaughters is the go to firm for corporate work in the City. They will get instructed regardless. Not sure what else they do so well as you suggest.

Passer by

Hilarious – haven’t Slaughters also announced a salary decrease?

Sounds like a mud pie to me…


Macs & Travers > HSF



Macs yes, travers no



Maybe in terms of prestige, but not size and revenue.



Both irrelevant considerations. If they were so important Dentons and DLA would be considered the best out there.


Too right never hear about them treating their trainees like this. But tbf what’s happening tat HSF is part and parcel of larger intakes, even MC trainees get treated badly at times.

Moral of the story: train somewhere with a moderate intake!



Unfortunate news for students, but it seems inevitable that firms will implement various cost-cutting measures, which include reducing a trainee intake. Many experts expect this pandemic crisis to be much worse than 2008 crisis…Even big law firms like NRF do not have enough cash at this time. Difficulty returning back to office is another factor why firms may hesitate to retain their trainee intake… But wishing good luck to all!



September 2020 qualifiers are gonna be totally nuked in this market.

Some trainee putz at my firm already knows he’s not being kept on and is currently hawking his CV to recruiters, apparently most of them have been furloughed and have their out of office emails on. 😂😂😂


HSF fourth seater



Big d__k Lathy

@HSF fourth seater

Sorry to hear that old sport. I’ve just put down a deposit on a new studio apartment. If you want the dollar, you shoulda gone American.


Funb Duck

Rofl you’re being had if you actually spaffed money on moribund shyte like off-plan studio apartments.



Any news what’s happening with current trainees and September intake at Gateley?!


Confused too

Whats a Gateley? Isn’t that a Pokemon?



Oh yeah, I forgot that everyone here works at Kirkland. Go for a walk as lack of fresh air during lockdown clearly affected your head.


It was only a slight tolchok

Seriously tho, what’s a Gateley? If it’s a shoe brand, do they offer chocolate brown monkstraps?



Stop embarrassing yourself please


a friend tells me many fee earners (including partners) have been furloughed, with 20% wage cuts across the board. firm looks like it has been hit bad. start date will be delayed 12 months my guess



What firm is that?



Legit – Apart from litigation what are hsf good at? Finance/real estate??



And litigation. Litigation and litigation. And that is about it. And litigation is not what it was.



What are you talking about. They have impressive competition, energy, projects, public law, trade law, investment funds, governance, employment, ip/tmt, public m/a practices



Hi, HSF marketing department. We don’t care.



Here is some news for those about to enter the legal jobs market. Those that start working during a recession earn between 10-15% less over the working lives than those that don’t.



@Passer by

Yes Slaughters cut salaries but they are still paying reasonable NQ salaries. HSF NQs are on peanuts… US firm or bust isnt it really.


Right then

Lol HSF NQs are on 90k (for now at least) base. By my count that’s 3,000 ‘peanuts’ more than SM….


Comments are closed.

Related Stories