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Herbert Smith Freehills

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

About Herbert Smith Freehills

  • Law

What it does: Commercial law
Staff stats: Globally, 2100 lawyers and 4700 staff across 27 offices
The good bits: Prestige employer, award-winning culture
The not so good bits: Demanding clients
Hiring grads with degrees in: Law & Legal Studies

The Herbert Smith Freehills story

Herbert Smith Freehills was formed in 2012 through the merger between Australia-based Freehills and UK-based Herbert Smith. Freehills’ origins lie in the union of law firms in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to form Freehill, Hollingdale and Page, all formed in the latter half of the 19th century. When the name Freehills was adopted in 2000, the firm was a national powerhouse. By the time it merged with Herbert Smith, it had over 800 lawyers and 190 partners, with offices throughout Australia, as well as one in Singapore and associations or alliances with firms in Vietnam and China.

UK-based Herbert Smith was established in 1882 and originally specialised in company floats and providing legal advice to mining companies. It later moved into litigation and corporate work, particularly in relation to mergers and acquisitions and equity capital markets. At the time of its merger with Freehills, Herbert Smith had 240 partners and offices throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

The firm, now co-headquartered in London and Sydney, has 27 offices and over 5,000 employees worldwide. It is regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious law firms, particularly for its expertise in litigation as well as corporate and finance law. The firm’s reputation is reflected in its accolades with Law Firm of the Year Award (>500 employees) at the Australasian Law Awards 2017 and International Firm of the Year at the Australasian Law Awards 2016. Additionally, the firm was ranked 12th on the Global Elite Brand Index for law firms in 2016.

The culture

Herbert Smith Freehills promotes a culture of fairness, equality and inclusion and has been a innovator for an inclusive approach for some time. In Australia prior to the merger, Freehills – then known as Freehill Hollingdale & Page – embraced diversity half a century before it became a corporate buzzword, hiring Jews and Catholics at a time when few top-tier law firms would. Freehill Hollingdale & Page also became the first major Australian law firm to appoint a female partner in 1979. Additionally, UK-based Herbert Smith was one of the first law firms to develop a diversity programme, establishing the Inclusivity Group in 2003.

The firm continues to be an advocate for diversity and inclusion with a several global, regional and local diversity and inclusion committees, such as Women’s Network, Multicultural Network, IRIS Network and Flexibility Network. The firm benchmarks against best practice both in the legal and other industries, and their commitment to providing a culture of inclusion was recently recognised as an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality in 2016.

Social contribution

Herbert Smith Freehills has a long-standing tradition of providing pro bono legal services which has developed into a broader program of volunteering and charitable giving that involves a much wider range of people across the firm. Currently, the firm focuses on pro bono work that creates social inclusion, builds capacity in communities of need and helps fights climate change. At any one time, Herbert Smith Freehills may be providing free legal assistance to disadvantaged individuals, the governments of developing nations, NGOs and global charities.  

The recruitment process

Like many law firms, Herbert Smith Freehills offers its graduate positions to those who have completed a clerkship with the firm. The process for a clerkship involves applying online via the careers website. Your application should include a brief cover letter, current CV and a recent copy of your academic transcript. Applicants are asked to answer some questions about your interest in commercial law generally and Herbert Smith Freehills specifically. The next stages involve an online psychometric assessment, attending an informal event with Herbert Smith Freehills lawyers and doing an interview.

The firm’s graduate program is designed to develop your skills as a commercial lawyer. It involves three rotations across different practice groups and both formal development opportunities and on-the-job training from colleagues and partners. You’ll get a ‘trainee buddy’, regular feedback and performance reviews in the middle and the end of your rotations to ensure you understand how you’re doing in your development.

Career prospects

The typical career path at Herbert Smith Freehills is as follows: vacation clerk, graduate, solicitor, senior associate, special/executive counsel and partner. The firm provides a range of development opportunities, designed to discover your strengths and what’s right for you. You will be supported throughout your career at Herbert Smith Freehills and will receive the training and support needed to reach your goals.

The vibe of the place

Herbert Smith Freehills takes pride in its diverse, supportive and non-hierarchical workplaces. The firm is split into the following divisions: corporate; dispute resolution; finance; real estate and projects; employment, pensions and incentives; competition regulation and trade, as well as Alternative Legal Services. Your experience may vary depending on which practice group you’re in but the corporate culture should never be anything less than inspirational. (It’s not for nothing that The Australian ranked Herbert Smith Freehills as the top graduate employer in the legal industry in 2015, 2016 and 2017.)      


From the Employer:

"Join us as a Herbert Smith Freehills graduate with your degree behind you, but a world of opportunity in front of you.

As a Herbert Smith Freehills Graduate, you’ll be a part of everything. With 27 offices around the world, we can show you exactly what a world-class law firm has to offer, giving you the chance to work as part of an international team, on high-profile matters, for some of the most significant organisations in the market.

Our focus is on the future: the future needs of existing and new clients, the future of the legal profession and investing in our future lawyers. That’s why we aim to attract the best talent from a broad range of backgrounds, ensuring we are optimising our position as a progressive, forward-thinking professional services business. At Herbert Smith Freehills, you’ll be given the opportunity to develop the skills you need to help solve our clients’ most complex challenges in thoughtful and innovative ways.

We recruit people with the desire and ability to be exceptional, commercial lawyers. This means that we look for more than just a great academic record and strong technical aptitude. We seek people who are curious, empathetic and understand the importance of building relationships with clients and colleagues. We also look for an international mindset and a desire to work within our global network, not just one office.

Complex cross-border deals. A market-leading Disputes division. Worldwide reach. If you’re ready to be a part of it all, we’re looking forward to hearing from you.


We’re organised along six global divisions – corporate; dispute resolution; finance, real estate and projects; employment, pensions and incentives; competition, regulation and trade and Alternative Legal Services.


At Herbert Smith Freehills our focus is on using our expertise and leadership to increase access to justice and opportunity for the benefit of local and global communities. At the core of Herbert Smith Freehills’ approach is a long-standing and proud tradition of providing pro bono legal services and advocacy. This commitment to pro bono legal services for members of the public has developed into a broader program of volunteering and charitable giving that involves a much wider range of people across this firm. Many of our vacation clerks participate in pro bono and community work and describe it as one of the highlights of their clerkship.

For more information about our pro bono and community work visit: herbertsmithfreehills.com/pro-bono-and-citizenship


Diversity can be easy to say, but harder to do. We believe allowing people to perform to the best of their abilities requires a culture of openness and authenticity, one that allows each of us to bring our whole selves to work. We work hard to create such a culture. Wherever you join us, you’ll find talented people with different views, experiences and backgrounds.

For more information on our diversity and inclusion program visit: herbertsmithfreehills.com/diversity-and-inclusion.



Graduate Review

Overall score based on 30 reviews
Office Work Environment
Office Work Environment
  • - The networks I am building from the amount of talented people I come into contact with - The steep learning curve; we are constantly being challenged and pushed - The branding associated with my workplace
  • The high calibre of the training you receive and the respect you are treated with by all staff.
  • Working on great matters with great people.
  • I am empowered to grow and take responsibility right from the get-go. There are numerous opportunities for mentoring and development, both legally and commercially.
  • Working with the best minds in the legal industry and working with sophisticated clients.
  • The long hours and high pressure environment.
  • Hours can be long when busy.
  • Sometimes the hierarchy can mean work is not provided to you in the most timely way.
  • Irregular hours and lack of control of workflow.
  • Sometimes there are long hours and late nights but that is to be expected when working at a top tier commercial law firm.


  • Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth & Sydney
Law, Legal Studies & Justice