Interview experiences for vacation schemes and training contracts. Law firms are sorted alphabetically.

Herbert Smith Freehills Interview

Herbert Smith Freehills Vacation Scheme Interview 2018

When was your Herbert Smith Freehills interview?
November 2018

What was it for?

Winter Vacation Scheme

Please describe the interview process at Herbert Smith Freehills.
Structured in 3 parts with one partner each: competency interview, case study interview and a scenario based interview.

The day starts off with a mini q&a with a partner to try and ease you in and get any questions you might have out of the way. Then, the participants are split in half and allocated different interviews together (i.e. 4 of you do a case study separately, while the other 4 do the competency interview separately). Note: every partner is told to read your application and your CV details (i.e. what you studied) so they can cater the interview to you. I quite liked that because it suggested this was a two-way process. I put effort in and so do they.

I had the competency interview first which eased me in for the rest of the day. The partner gave a little background to himself then started by asking me why I had chosen to pursue law and commercial law in particular, and why I had chosen the firm.Other questions included:

  • Why city commercial law?
  • Tell me about a time when you managed a team and faced challenges?
  • (Follow up question to the above question’s answer) How did you motivate your team, as this is a skill most lawyers need?
  • Tell me about a time when you had many priorities/deadlines and how you met them?
  • Tell me about a time when something went wrong and how you resolved it?
  • Unlike your above example, tell me about a time when you had to deal with a problem you didn’t foresee/a curve ball issue? (this one was pretty difficult)
  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with someone’s different opinion?

Then I had my case study interview which consisted of a presentation too. You’re put in a room where you have 40-45 minutes to read and prepare a presentation based on a list of questions the “client” (your partner) will want answering. My case study was a sponsorship deal gone wrong and you have to act for the subscription TV company that’s having issues with their sponsored – expensive, but popular – tennis player.

My partner quizzed me on a lot of things and made me realise I hadn’t spotted a few things. I quickly rectified them, but because he asked me if I was sure, it threw me off and I backtracked on some things I said, only to return to my original opinion again.

Finally, the interview I had no idea about: the scenario-based interview. This is entirely up to the partner to set-up so they usually take a case they’ve worked on/are currently working on, give you the bare bones of it and ask you questions relating to how their client should proceed. I had a banking litigation partner who spoke to me about an issue their client, a retail bank, had with repayments of a loan from a hotel group. We spoke about the retail bank’s reputation, reasons why they wouldn’t immediately secure collateral from the bank (their hotel buildings essentially), alternatives to securing it (I suggested increasing interest rates incrementally), how this would have differed if it were an American investment bank, why the hotel buildings were worth more than their literal worth (the answer is goodwill, look it up!) etc. etc.

He could ask me anything we wanted but what was great about this part was that it was a discussion and not a grilling. He didn’t sit in silence waiting for my answer. At some points I hazarded a guess, which he made me feel comfortable to do, and usually liked the answer. At other points, he coaxed and helped me get to the answer. This interview suggested they’re looking for potential and not the finished product.

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Herbert Smith Freehills interview?
The biggest thing you can do to prepare for this AC, because it’s harder than most, is learn the fundamentals of commercial awareness.

I was so glad I knew that HSF don’t necessarily quiz you on recent news/commercial updates, but on how well you know how a business runs, how they raise finance and other terminologies. I did this by reading and revising the entirety of Commercial Awareness by Chris Stoakes (Know the City is also OK), signing up for a class on M&A with Jaysen and signing up for a mock interview with him too, which allowed me to bounce off questions and answers about the case study part of the interview and get a bit more confident about it.

Other ways you should prepare are: practice and practice again your answer to why commercial law and why HSF? To have an eloquent answer to these two is crucial when giving a good impression to your interviewer.

Additionally, if one of your reasons for applying is the firm’s sector-specific/practice area strengths, have an equally strong answer as to why you’re attracted to them and put them into your answer without waiting for the partner to ask why. Also, this might go without saying but prepare some questions to ask your interviewer, but also, on the day, ask him about things he might have brought up himself. I asked my interviewer about how he developed his own practice area and I think he liked that.

Some things to remember for the competency interview:

  • Be careful with answering your motivation for commercial law. If they ask you why city law in particular, answer it with regional firms in mind. It might seem obvious but that wasn’t my first thought, annoyingly
  • A question is never started off “tell me about…” but they were obviously competency based so a STAR approach to your answers should be the way to go. Be careful with how much you speak. Waffling is so easy, but so is giving too little information.

To prepare for the case study you should remember:

  • Don’t neglect your presentation as the quality of it is judged
  • Have a strong understanding of the contract that’s in front of you, so what it covers the employer for and what it doesn’t. Don’t get bogged down on the background information. While it’s important, your answers about terminating the contract to the “client” will be based on the contract. Therefore, it makes sense to know it well.
  • There should also be draft letter at the end that sets out the termination of the contract but has a few errors. You will know they are errors because the contract sets out how the termination letter should be addressed/written.
  • The text that the HR lady reads out to you doesn’t need to be revisited when you highlight/make notes. They read it to you to save time with background info
  • EVERY line in the background information and contract beyond that is in there for a reason. Ask yourself what the relevance is for them giving you certain information.
  • Be quick. 45 minutes is good time but still never enough. Knowing the contract well is your best bet for a good interview

Herbert Smith Freehills Vacation Scheme Interview 2018

When was your Herbert Smith Freehills interview?
November 2018

What was it for?

Winter Vacation Scheme

Please describe the interview process at Herbert Smith Freehills.
Group exercise with all 8 candidates as a company expanding business into India we had to decide from a range of options what strategies they should use to develop their business, taking into consideration our budget. We had 15 mins to read the brief and 30 mins to discuss with group and agree on a solution.
Four partners were assessing us throughout the group exercise

Then there’s a case study and presentation. 45mins to read the case study and 10 mins to present to a partner. The case study based around contracts and contract law. The partner asks various questions about your recommendations

Then finally there’s a competency interview with another partner, I was asked the usual competency questions, as well as a question about a legal issue that the firm is working on and how I would approach it. Finally the day ended with a tour with trainees and lunch with a partner.

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Herbert Smith Freehills interview?
Read over contract law, especially about terms, warranties and remedies.

Don’t panic if the partner asks you about something that you might not have picked up in the case study, there was a slightly tricky question, and the partner basically had to give me the answer.

For the competency interview think about the different departments at a law firm, as there is a question that takes you through an acquisition and asks what departments would be involved at different stages.

The group task was probably the hardest part of the day as 8 is quite a large group, just try make sure you get your voice heard, but be polite. If you don’t agree with what someone is saying remain respectful of their opinion, at the same time if someone is taking really long to get their point across or keeps dwelling on the same point you can remind them of the time constraints and encourage them to move on.

Herbert Smith Freehills Vacation Scheme Interview 2018

When was your Herbert Smith Freehills interview?
November 2018

What was it for?

Winter Vacation Scheme

Please describe the interview process at Herbert Smith Freehills.
The day started off with a very brief talk by two of the Grad Rec partners who explained a bit about the firm, and you have a very brief Q&A with them before the interviews begin. The day was structured into three interviews which are supposed to last 35 minutes each, and also a tour of the office with a trainee (thankfully this is un-assessed).

For me, my actual assessment began with the case study based interview. You have a document brief that explains the instructions to you – you have 45 minutes to get through a sizeable amount of content and synthesise this into a 10 minute presentation to a partner. The partner will then ask you some questions based off of your presentation for a further 25 minutes, some of these are given beforehand too.

After this, I was moved onto the competency interview. This was the most nerve-wracking particularly as a non-law student as the partner started with the dreaded ‘why law?’ and ‘why HSF?’ questions. Then after this, I was asked about competencies like teamwork, organisation etc; the partner also picked up on my volunteering as a student teacher so asked me about the most challenging aspect of this experience.

Then came the office tour, which was pretty standard and was a good way to catch my breath.

The final interview that I had was a scenario-based interview. This was a bit of an odd one and is new this year. Essentially, this consisted of a partner talking to me about a piece of work that they had done and you end up talking through what you would do in this scenario and any points that you thought were pertinent.

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Herbert Smith Freehills interview?

My best piece of advice is to try to stay as calm as possible and be friendly to everyone you come into contact with. It was a real pleasure that everyone that I met on the day, both employees and the other candidates, were all lovely. I think that this helped to foster an atmosphere where, although you were in competition, it didn’t feel incredibly cut-throat. This is sort of supported by the fact that at the outset, Grad Rec tell you that the firm has enough spaces for all of the candidates that it deems good enough for a vac scheme!

One way that I prepared for the competency interview was that using my CV and other applications that I had completed, I wrote down all of my experiences and bullet-pointed the skills that I thought I had gained from each one. This helped me with being able to know what to talk about from each experience if a particular skill came up. As well as this, the partner who I had was very probing and he kept asking me to clarify so I’d say make sure you’re very carefully listening to the wording of the question so you are answering the question at all times.

As well as this, with the case-study interview, I would say definitely stick to a structure that goes over the main legal points in your presentation to the partner. Make sure that you’re reading through all of the information carefully so as to not miss anything but they give you questions to guide you so try to stick to these! BUT don’t just reel off the facts or go over the document in a chronological order as the ‘client’ (role-played by the partner) will not want to hear legal jargon but will want to know the most relevant points.

With the scenario-based interview, it isn’t too bad as long as you can justify what you’re saying or explain why you think X action is what you’d do. In my opinion, this scenario interview isn’t really one you can prepare for though since it’s just a case that the partner has done – you’d have to be the *luckiest* person in the world to get a case that you’d researched about beforehand so I wouldn’t worry about trying to pre-empt this scenario. Also, I would say the best strategy is trying to say whatever it is that you’re thinking so that the partner can see how you think and break things down.

Herbert Smith Freehills vacation scheme interview 2019 (from a successful applicant)

Preparation:
I found that the information provided by previous attendees at the corporate law academy was extremely useful. The assessment centre had three stages.

Competency and Motivational based interview:
This is a standard interview with no major surprises, just make sure that you feel comfortable talking about everything that is included in your applications. I found useful writing down some of the questions that usually come up to make sure I feel confident answering them. Make sure that your answers to why law? why commercial law? and why HSF? are excellent as one or all of them will come up.

Case-study interview:
I was unable to prepare enough for this step, as you don’t know what will come up. I think if you are a law student, this step is a bit easier as you are more comfortable referring to clauses at a contract and making sense of them.

Scenario based interview:
I prepared for that stage by reading Commercial awareness 2015/16 for an overall introduction to what is commercial awareness. I also read through the legal documentation of a Share Purchase Agreement, M&A agreement and a Loan. I also watched the Anatomy of a Deal on the A&O website.

The Assessment Centre:

Competency based interview:

  • Why commercial law?
  • Why law?
  • Why HSF?
  • Tell me about a time you worked in a team (make sure you stick to the STAR structure)?
  • Tell me why did you complete a Master’s degree?
  • Tell me why you chose this topic as your topic of interest in your application?
  • What are your best qualities?
  • What do you think will be challenging during your vacation scheme?

Case Study

  • A sponsorship contract
  • Prepare to be pushed in terms of time and during the interview
  • Pay the most attention to the clauses in the contract

Scenario Based Interview

  • It is mostly like a conversation
  • For me it was an acquisition
  • What kind of lawyers will be involved and how
  • I was dealing from the seller’s perspective

Herbert Smith Freehills vacation scheme interview 2019

The day begins with a meet and great by a member of the HR Grad team. They go through the day and answer any questions. There’s a group of about 6-8 candidates, but at no point does it feel like you are competing against each other. Perhaps due to the removal of the group exercise.

At this stage someone asked about whether it was possible to be considered for a direct TC. The member of the Grad team responded that the firm had taken the decision to recruit trainees solely through the vacation scheme. They had done analysis that a majority of their NQs who had stayed at the firm beyond the 3-4 years pinch point, had done vacation schemes at the firm.

Then a Partner comes in and provides a brief overview of their background and career history. There’s an opportunity to ask any additional questions.

The full group are then split into the various exercises; case study prep and interview, competency interview and scenario interview.

Case study prep and interview
45 minutes to prepare a presentation to a Partner on a fictional litigation issue, requiring answers to 6 questions. 10 double sides of A4 to read through. Some of the material is irrelevant and it’s worth having the confident to ignore it.

During my interview I referred back to documents and the Partner was happy for me to do so.

Throughout this interview I didn’t feel like the Partner was out to get me or intentionally was asking any trick questions. He did probe certain aspects of my presentation and ask questions on areas I missed out. I feel it was about understand your thought process and whether you could defend a point or provide an explanation as to how you arrived at a judgement.

I looked like he had a list of expected points and was ticking them off as I answered either through the presentation or subsequent discussion.

Competency interview
30 minutes with an associate on the traditional questions; why HSF, why law, why you, team work, challenge, etc.

Again in this and the case study, the interviewers really tried to put you at ease.

Scenario interview
30 minutes with a Partner discussing a case they worked on. For me this was a litigation case and the Partner would slowly build up the facts and ask what I thought the next steps would be. For example, before initiation court proceedings what things did I think were important to flag to the client? I mentioned alternative measures to resolve the dispute and costs.

Following all three interviews, there is a tour of the building with a Trainee.

Then a mini closing session to deal with expenses, answer any left over questions and return ID documents.

I was informed about an outcome on the same day.

When was your Herbert Smith Freehills interview?
February 2019

What was it for?

Summer Vacation Scheme

Please describe the interview process at Herbert Smith Freehills.
HSF: You go in at 9am with around 7 other candidates and start with a really informal introduction by a Partner. Candidates have their own room with refreshments and short breaks provided. I had the case study interview first, then the competency and scenario interview, with a trainee guided firm tour in between. The tour is not assessed, and the sequence of interviews varies.

case study: You get around 20 pages of info and 45 mins to read and make a 10 min presentation with extra 25 mins Q&A from the partner who assumes the role of a client. The info pack is manageable and they give you questions to structure your presentation.

competency: This is with a partner for 35 mins and is pretty standard. Although one question I got was “pick anything from you application form to talk about”. Competency questions I got include: handling an unforeseen task, team work and your contribution and challenges.

scenario-based: My question was on the process of conducting an independent investigation on a publicly listed company and any risks – the questions really depend on how your interview is going i.e. the partner might ask for an elaboration or follow up. After that, there were around 10 mins left, so the partner gave me an additional scenario – cyber security attack. After answering all that, there was still time left over and he proceeded to ask me about my application form.

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Herbert Smith Freehills interview?
case study: If you’re a law student (they adjust the questions based on your degree), refresh on contract law esp terms and remedies. I got a lot of questions like “are you happy with this drafting” “does this contract protect my interests sufficiently” and my advice is to only say no if you really do have points to elaborate on, I didn’t and simply said “nothing stands out to me at the moment”. Some candidates experienced the partner saying “you’re wrong” during the interview so be prepared to be challenged/called out.

competency: It’s really about prepping the standard questions. This doesn’t include any commercial questions and isn’t too tailored to your application. Also prep questions to ask at the end.

scenario: Everything I prepped for was useless so I answered just based on common sense. You can ask questions and for a reminder of the facts which is helpful. When I needed more time to think, I would reiterate the question asked and get confirmation. I think its really about staying calm and taking a (short) moment to think and answer the question as clearly and logically as you can. I was asked about employment law and said I wasn’t familiar with employment law but gave some examples and answered the question based on that ground and the partner was fine with it. I don’t think you’re meant to get more than one scenario or be asked about your application (my partner ran out of questions).

When was your Herbert Smith Freehills interview? 

January 2018

What was it for? 

Spring Vacation scheme

Please describe the interview process at Herbert Smith Freehills.

There were three stations: a group exercise, a case study interview, and a competency interview. All of the stations were assessed by partners, rather than by HR. Even though I was nervous as it was my first assessment day, I felt that the assessment day was well structured. Everyone was friendly and I felt that I was free to be myself.

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Herbert Smith Freehills?

Try to relax and be yourself! During the group exercise, try to contribute constructively and add original points, all while speaking clearly and concisely. For the case study interview, prior law knowledge is not required. It would be good to brush up on general commercial awareness and have some knowledge of how companies function – how they raise money, what their objectives are etc. Finally, for the competency interview, try to think of two or three “highlight situations” from your CV which you can then tweak to answer any competency questions, e.g. to show your teamwork/leadership skills.

When was your Herbert Smith Freehills interview? 

January 2017

What was it for? 

Vacation scheme

Please describe the interview process at Herbert Smith Freehills.

The day started with a group task followed by a case study interview and a competency and motivation interview.

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Herbert Smith Freehills?

For the group task it is quite hard to stand ut as there will be many people trying to say something. Just make sure you make some contributions and bring people into the discussion.

The case study exercise is hard because there are quite a lot of documents to read through in a short time. Skim read everything once then read the important sections in more detail. Make sure your presentation to the interviewer is not too short.

For the competency interview, show that you are motivated to have a career in law and showcase that you have researched the firm in depth. Use your commercial awareness when discussing the transaction scenario, for example when discussing the practice areas that would be involved in the deal, and make sure you practice the standard competency questions before the interview so that you can have some examples of when you showed certain competencies.

Herbert Smith Freehills future trainee – Emily Barrett

My vacation scheme interview at Herbert Smith Freehills was quite a while ago now, but I have put together some of the advice I received prior to my interview and some advice I have given to others previously. I can’t guarantee that the interview structure hasn’t changed but hopefully it will still be similar. I hope the advice is helpful and please do put the person in touch with me if they have any specific questions they would like me to answer.

Structure of the day:
* Case study group exercise
* Competency interview
* Commercial interview

Group Exercise
The day is really enjoyable because normally there are only a small group of interviewees (much fewer than at other firms). It is based on a case study. Mine was on advising a client about where to set up a new business and having to make a choice out of Africa, India, Brazil and a few other countries. A general knowledge about economies in various countries came in quite handy and general commercial knowledge. Another person I know had a scenario where the firm was opening a new office in India, and had to analyse the target clients, target sectors, promotional strategies, including consideration of costs. The facts and issues are generally simple.

It’ll be good if you can be the first to speak. You can do that by telling everyone you volunteer to be the time keeper, and then you suggest how much time to devote to each stage of the discussion. This helps you to display leadership skills. You can help to move discussions along when you feel they’re stuck by asking people to vote or tell everyone to move on and go back to that issue later. Do your best not to speak across people, but inevitably this does happen, so just apologise and ask them to continue with their point (this is generally common sense!)

Competency Interview
The competency interview is fairly relaxed but also expect to be asked commercial questions. For example I was asked about how I would go about advising a client to sell an online betting company (thinking about the various assets that the company is likely to have (particularly IP rights) and the various departments that are likely to be involved (e.g. corporate, finance, employment, pensions, property, tax etc). You’ll need knowledge of each aspect of the deal and which types of lawyers are needed. If you haven’t, you should watch the Allen & Overy The Anatomy of a Deal video on youtube and take notes on the aspects of a transaction. The information will come in handy. You’ll definitely have to prep for the competency questions. So questions like when have you displayed teamwork, how do you deal with stress, how do you manage your time, etc. Think of an example from each of your different experiences and memorise them

Commercial Interview
The commercial interview was the most difficult and really tests your commercial knowledge. You’re given a series of contractual clauses and you’ll need to examine them. You’ll need to read each clause carefully and there’s quite a few issues on contract and tort law. There’ll be general commercial issues as well so it’ll be difficult to do much preparation. The questions are in general specific and technical. If you study law then a reminder of basic contract principles / typical commercial clauses in contracts would come in handy. My commercial interview was based on a draft share purchase agreement (have a look online about the basic workings of one)

When was your Herbert Smith Freehills interview? 

November 2018

What was it for? 

Winter Vacation Scheme

Please describe the interview process at Herbert Smith Freehills.

Structured in 3 parts with one partner each: competency interview, case study interview and a scenario based interview.

The day starts off with a mini q&a with a partner to try and ease you in and get any questions you might have out of the way. Then, the participants are split in half and allocated different interviews together (i.e. 4 of you do a case study separately, while the other 4 do the competency interview separately). Note: every partner is told to read your application and your CV details (i.e. what you studied) so they can cater the interview to you. I quite liked that because it suggested this was a two-way process. I put effort in and so do they.

I had the competency interview first which eased me in for the rest of the day. The partner gave a little background to himself then started by asking me why I had chosen to pursue law and commercial law in particular, and why I had chosen the firm.

Other questions included:

  • Why city commercial law?
  • Tell me about a time when you managed a team and faced challenges?
  • (Follow up question to the above question’s answer) How did you motivate your team, as this is a skill most lawyers need?
  • Tell me about a time when you had many priorities/deadlines and how you met them?
  • Tell me about a time when something went wrong and how you resolved it?
  • Unlike your above example, tell me about a time when you had to deal with a problem you didn’t foresee/a curve ball issue? (this one was pretty difficult)
  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with someone’s different opinion?

Then I had my case study interview which consisted of a presentation too. You’re put in a room where you have 40-45 minutes to read and prepare a presentation based on a list of questions the “client” (your partner) will want answering. My case study was a sponsorship deal gone wrong and you have to act for the subscription TV company that’s having issues with their sponsored – expensive, but popular – tennis player.

My partner quizzed me on a lot of things and made me realise I hadn’t spotted a few things. I quickly rectified them, but because he asked me if I was sure, it threw me off and I backtracked on some things I said, only to return to my original opinion again.

Finally, the interview I had no idea about: the scenario-based interview. This is entirely up to the partner to set-up so they usually take a case they’ve worked on/are currently working on, give you the bare bones of it and ask you questions relating to how their client should proceed. I had a banking litigation partner who spoke to me about an issue their client, a retail bank, had with repayments of a loan from a hotel group. We spoke about the retail bank’s reputation, reasons why they wouldn’t immediately secure collateral from the bank (their hotel buildings essentially), alternatives to securing it (I suggested increasing interest rates incrementally), how this would have differed if it were an American investment bank, why the hotel buildings were worth more than their literal worth (the answer is goodwill, look it up!) etc. etc.

He could ask me anything we wanted but what was great about this part was that it was a discussion and not a grilling. He didn’t sit in silence waiting for my answer. At some points I hazarded a guess, which he made me feel comfortable to do, and usually liked the answer. At other points, he coaxed and helped me get to the answer. This interview suggested they’re looking for potential and not the finished product.

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Herbert Smith Freehills interview?

The biggest thing you can do to prepare for this AC, because it’s harder than most, is learn the fundamentals of commercial awareness.

I was so glad I knew that HSF don’t necessarily quiz you on recent news/commercial updates, but on how well you know how a business runs, how they raise finance and other terminologies. I did this by reading and revising the entirety of Commercial Awareness by Chris Stoakes (Know the City is also OK), signing up for a class on M&A with Jaysen and signing up for a mock interview with him too, which allowed me to bounce off questions and answers about the case study part of the interview and get a bit more confident about it.

Other ways you should prepare are: practice and practice again your answer to why commercial law and why HSF? To have an eloquent answer to these two is crucial when giving a good impression to your interviewer.

Additionally, if one of your reasons for applying is the firm’s sector-specific/practice area strengths, have an equally strong answer as to why you’re attracted to them and put them into your answer without waiting for the partner to ask why. Also, this might go without saying but prepare some questions to ask your interviewer, but also, on the day, ask him about things he might have brought up himself. I asked my interviewer about how he developed his own practice area and I think he liked that.

Some things to remember for the competency interview:

  • Be careful with answering your motivation for commercial law. If they ask you why city law in particular, answer it with regional firms in mind. It might seem obvious but that wasn’t my first thought, annoyingly
  • A question is never started off “tell me about…” but they were obviously competency based so a STAR approach to your answers should be the way to go. Be careful with how much you speak. Waffling is so easy, but so is giving too little information.

To prepare for the case study you should remember:

  • Don’t neglect your presentation as the quality of it is judged
  • Have a strong understanding of the contract that’s in front of you, so what it covers the employer for and what it doesn’t. Don’t get bogged down on the background information. While it’s important, your answers about terminating the contract to the “client” will be based on the contract. Therefore, it makes sense to know it well.
  • There should also be draft letter at the end that sets out the termination of the contract but has a few errors. You will know they are errors because the contract sets out how the termination letter should be addressed/written.
  • The text that the HR lady reads out to you doesn’t need to be revisited when you highlight/make notes. They read it to you to save time with background info
  • EVERY line in the background information and contract beyond that is in there for a reason. Ask yourself what the relevance is for them giving you certain information.
  • Be quick. 45 minutes is good time but still never enough. Knowing the contract well is your best bet for a good interview

With thanks to Hazal for sharing this very detailed experience.

When was your Herbert Smith Freehills interview? 

November 2018

What was it for? 

Winter Vacation Scheme

Please describe the interview process at Herbert Smith Freehills.

Group exercise with all 8 candidates as a company expanding business into India we had to decide from a range of options what strategies they should use to develop their business, taking into consideration our budget. We had 15 mins to read the brief and 30 mins to discuss with group and agree on a solution.
Four partners were assessing us throughout the group exercise

Then there’s a case study and presentation. 45mins to read the case study and 10 mins to present to a partner. The case study based around contracts and contract law. The partner asks various questions about your recommendations

Then finally there’s a competency interview with another partner, I was asked the usual competency questions, as well as a question about a legal issue that the firm is working on and how I would approach it. Finally the day ended with a tour with trainees and lunch with a partner.

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Herbert Smith Freehills interview?

Read over contract law, especially about terms, warranties and remedies.

Don’t panic if the partner asks you about something that you might not have picked up in the case study, there was a slightly tricky question, and the partner basically had to give me the answer.

For the competency interview think about the different departments at a law firm, as there is a question that takes you through an acquisition and asks what departments would be involved at different stages.

The group task was probably the hardest part of the day as 8 is quite a large group, just try make sure you get your voice heard, but be polite. If you don’t agree with what someone is saying remain respectful of their opinion, at the same time if someone is taking really long to get their point across or keeps dwelling on the same point you can remind them of the time constraints and encourage them to move on.

When was your Herbert Smith Freehills interview? 

November 2018

What was it for? 

Winter Vacation Scheme

Please describe the interview process at Herbert Smith Freehills.

The day started off with a very brief talk by two of the Grad Rec partners who explained a bit about the firm, and you have a very brief Q&A with them before the interviews begin. The day was structured into three interviews which are supposed to last 35 minutes each, and also a tour of the office with a trainee (thankfully this is un-assessed).

For me, my actual assessment began with the case study based interview. You have a document brief that explains the instructions to you – you have 45 minutes to get through a sizeable amount of content and synthesise this into a 10 minute presentation to a partner. The partner will then ask you some questions based off of your presentation for a further 25 minutes, some of these are given beforehand too.

After this, I was moved onto the competency interview. This was the most nerve-wracking particularly as a non-law student as the partner started with the dreaded ‘why law?’ and ‘why HSF?’ questions. Then after this, I was asked about competencies like teamwork, organisation etc; the partner also picked up on my volunteering as a student teacher so asked me about the most challenging aspect of this experience.

Then came the office tour, which was pretty standard and was a good way to catch my breath.

The final interview that I had was a scenario-based interview. This was a bit of an odd one and is new this year. Essentially, this consisted of a partner talking to me about a piece of work that they had done and you end up talking through what you would do in this scenario and any points that you thought were pertinent.

What advice would you give to future applicants for the Herbert Smith Freehills interview?

My best piece of advice is to try to stay as calm as possible and be friendly to everyone you come into contact with. It was a real pleasure that everyone that I met on the day, both employees and the other candidates, were all lovely. I think that this helped to foster an atmosphere where, although you were in competition, it didn’t feel incredibly cut-throat. This is sort of supported by the fact that at the outset, Grad Rec tell you that the firm has enough spaces for all of the candidates that it deems good enough for a vac scheme!

One way that I prepared for the competency interview was that using my CV and other applications that I had completed, I wrote down all of my experiences and bullet-pointed the skills that I thought I had gained from each one. This helped me with being able to know what to talk about from each experience if a particular skill came up. As well as this, the partner who I had was very probing and he kept asking me to clarify so I’d say make sure you’re very carefully listening to the wording of the question so you are answering the question at all times.

As well as this, with the case-study interview, I would say definitely stick to a structure that goes over the main legal points in your presentation to the partner. Make sure that you’re reading through all of the information carefully so as to not miss anything but they give you questions to guide you so try to stick to these! BUT don’t just reel off the facts or go over the document in a chronological order as the ‘client’ (role-played by the partner) will not want to hear legal jargon but will want to know the most relevant points.

With the scenario-based interview, it isn’t too bad as long as you can justify what you’re saying or explain why you think X action is what you’d do. In my opinion, this scenario interview isn’t really one you can prepare for though since it’s just a case that the partner has done – you’d have to be the *luckiest* person in the world to get a case that you’d researched about beforehand so I wouldn’t worry about trying to pre-empt this scenario. Also, I would say the best strategy is trying to say whatever it is that you’re thinking so that the partner can see how you think and break things down.