The Legal Cheek View
Life right now for Herbert Smith Freehills is pretty good. The firm has put in its third consecutive year of strong financial results – most recently boosting turnover by 6.7% to £870 million and profit per equity partner by 5% to a whopping £840,000. And Herbert Smith Freehills is sharing the bounty with its young, upping pay for its newly qualified solicitors this year to a bonus-linked package worth between £82,000-£90,000.
All this happy financial information is a strong signal that the 2012 merger between elite London-based global firm Herbert Smith and Australiasian powerhouse Freehills has worked rather nicely, with the notoriously difficult assimilation period having been completed to leave a megafirm serving 20 countries across 26 offices.
In London – where Herbert Smith Freehills offers 70 training contracts annually – the firm is particularly well regarded for its elite litigation practice, which is set apart from rivals by an in-house 'Advocacy Unit' staffed by a host of top QCs. But post-merger HSF is all about the range of its practice, which spans across every area of corporate law you can imagine. Priorities at the moment reportedly include energy, banks, financial buyers, real estate, TMT, infrastructure and transport, mining, consumer products, pharma and healthcare.
As a place to start your career, HSF is right up there, with Legal Cheek's Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey showing high levels of satisfaction with the quality of training and praise for a "culture of mentoring" that knits together generations at the firm. HSF is also one of the better firms for international secondments, both in terms of the opportunities for doing one (our survey shows that over a third of current rookies have spent time in an overseas office) and variety of location (current HSF trainees have spent time in Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Moscow, Dubai, Sydney, Singapore and Seoul, among other places). Secondees apparently receive lots of perks, such as free languages lessons and a generous accommodation allowance.
Back in London, HSF's young lawyers benefit from a wide range of societies (including the City's only trainee solicitor women lawyer's network) and an in-house Benugos. It's also worth noting that the firm is situated in one of the City's more stylish offices – Exchange House, built in 1990, is a 'building-bridge hybrid' that sits above the trains coming in and out of Liverpool Street Station. But there are apparently some major discrepancies between the floors. While floor six is apparently "lovely and new", and features motorised adjustable desks that move between standing and sitting, other levels of the building are rather more ordinary. There is however a subsidised membership to a very snazzy Virgin Active next door, complete with Molton Brown products.