Herbert Smith Freehills

The Legal Cheek View

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF’s) is arguably the most prestigious UK-headquartered law firm outside the magic circle. Indeed, its elite litigation and arbitration practice – which includes an in-house advocacy unit staffed by a host of QCs – is probably on a par with the best dispute resolution departments on the planet.

Trainees rave about the quality of training and work in HSF’s flagship division, where, alongside the junior-level admin-based tasks, there is exposure to some huge cases and “a fair bit of direct client contact”. One reports: “The firm’s market-leading position in disputes allowed me to work on cutting edge, high profile cases which I found rewarding. Definitely felt like I was at the ‘top of my game’, which was great for an aspiring disputes lawyer. Obviously had to do my share of bundling tasks (you do anywhere) but also got to carry out substantive research, discuss with more senior colleagues, draft letters to opposing counsel and attend client meetings and court (in my first and second seats). Don't think I could have got better disputes training elsewhere.”

However, since merging with Australiasian powerhouse Freehills in 2012 – to assume true megafirm status, serving 20 countries across 26 offices – HSF has become increasingly known for the range of its practice, which these days spans every area of corporate law you can imagine. Priorities at the moment reportedly include energy, banks, financial buyers, fintech, real estate, TMT, infrastructure and transport, mining, consumer products, pharma and healthcare.

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Key Info

Training contracts 60
Latest trainee retention rate 80%
Offices 26
Countries 20
Minimum A-level requirement No minimum
Minimum degree requirement 2:1

Insider Scorecard

Quality of work
Peer support
Partner approach-ability
Work/life balance
Social life

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.


Average arrival time 9:12am
Average leave time 7:35pm
Annual target hours 1,700
Annual leave 27 days


First year trainee salary £44,000
Second year trainee salary £48,000
Newly qualified salary £82,000
Profit per equity partner £760,000
GDL grant £8,000
LPC grant £7,000

Newly qualified pay calculated at average rate, and can reach £90,000 with maximum bonuses.


UK female associates 48%
UK female partners 22.5%
UK BME associates 20%
UK BME partners 5%

Figures from HSF's 2017 UK Diversity Audit, which had a 79% response rate for the UK.

Universities Current Trainees Attended

The Firm In Its Own Words