I was a 2019/2020 Vacation Clerk at Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF). My pathway to HSF was a lot longer than most other students. I left high school wanting to be a film producer but quickly realised that I preferred an academic over a creative challenge. I found my way to law school almost by accident and have never looked back since. My pathway is also long in the literal sense as I came from New Zealand. I ended up applying to HSF due to its exceptional litigation practice. In addition, it made sense as I loved Sydney and was tempted by the bigger cases across the ditch. Over my nearly three months at the firm, I was surprised at how much the firm valued kiwis. I was constantly being barraged with recommendations of the best day trips and the incredible cheap eats that Sydney has to offer.
A typical day at the office
A typical day as an HSF clerk would begin at 9am in the office. You would come in and check in with your buddy or coach who was in charge of assigning work. Shortly after, the morning often involved a coffee with the team or fellow clerks before getting launched into the work. We would normally have a clerk presentation during the day. This gave us an opportunity to explore different practice groups at the firm as well as various pro-bono and innovation programs. At lunch, it was standard for all the clerks to meet at 12:30pm to eat together.
Aside from the work from my team, I was also lucky enough to work on an innovation project around wellbeing and even present it to a member of the Australian regional executive. I also had a graduate in my first team who was proactive in getting me involved with the work HSF does with Shopfront. The day would also include coffee catch-ups with my buddy or coach. As I was not from Sydney, they were very proactive in arranging coffees with solicitors from other teams so I could get an idea of graduate rotations. The day would normally end between 5 and 6pm. If we didn’t have clerk sports on, more likely than not, you would find the clerk group at a local pub.
Expectations before joining
I didn’t really know anything about HSF before starting in November. I expected the classic corporate environment where people were only interested in getting the job done and where the standard was 80 hour weeks. I quickly learnt this was not the case. Everyone made it clear that HSF was somewhere where you could be yourself at work. Excellence was clearly valued, but people were not afraid to have a laugh along the way. It felt like an environment where people were genuinely interested in your life and wanted to form real friendships. For someone who came to Sydney without any friends or foundation, this helped me settle and helped form my support base in a new city.
The most interesting thing I learnt during the clerkship
The most interesting thing I learnt was how diverse the occupation was. At law school, the primary skills you learn are research and applying law to fact scenarios. I found these skills to be most relevant within litigation. But even within that practice, I found that questions with carefully selected answers (like those in law school) were far too convenient for actual practice. The reality of research was that there was often no answer. I found this to be an incredibly interesting and challenging introduction to the legal practice.
When I did my corporate rotation, the skills required and the work that we were doing was unlike anything I had ever done in law school. Research was scarce, legal knowledge was relevant but it was business acumen which dominated. During my time in private equity, I worked on a restructure, private M&A deals and even sat in on client calls. This helped me realise that law school is only fractionally representative of a career in a diverse industry.
“We believe that there is no single path to becoming an exceptional lawyer. We come from many different backgrounds, we are united in our willingness to challenge assumptions and embrace curiosity and creativity to find a better way forward. This is what inspires and drives us to be the best at what we do. “
About the firm
With over 25 offices spanning Asia, Europe, Australasia, and the Middle East, careers at Herbert Smith Freehills offer our graduates the opportunity to experience being part of a truly global law firm. Working with some of the most significant organisations in the world, opportunities to have social impact, and learning from our world-class team every day will enable you to create solid foundations on which to build your career in law.
Opportunities for students
As working together is a great way to get to know each other, we often fill many of our graduate positions through our vacation clerkship program. Each year, we offer a range of summer and winter clerkships in each of our Australian offices. During this immersive experience, you’ll receive hands-on practical experience, as you work on some of the diverse challenges facing the team you’re collaborating with.
Throughout our immersive clerkship program, you’ll receive hands-on practical experience and actively contribute to the team you’re collaborating with, as you work together to overcome some of the diverse challenges that they are facing.
You’ll gain a deeper understanding of life at our firm and what your future could look like if you join us. Some key features of our clerkship include the opportunity to:
• Sit within a specific team, delivering real work for key clients
• Navigate the first step of your career with partner and graduate mentoring support
• Attend workshops and presentations covering all our practice areas
• Contribute to our pro bono practice
• Work with cutting-edge technology through our innovation projects
• Meet and network with people across the firm
If you have queries about graduate or vacation clerk positions, please visit our website or contact one of our graduate recruitment consultants.
Location: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth
Areas of expertise:
- Alternative Legal Services (Alt)
- Competition, Regulation and Trade
- Corporate Crime and Investigations
- Corporate Governance
- Crisis Prevention and Management
- Cyber Risk Advisory
- Dispute Resolution
- Employment, Industrial Relations & Safety
- Environment, Planning and Communities
- Esg, Sustainability and Responsible Business
- Financial Services Regulatory
- Legal Operations
- Mergers and Acquisitions
- Real Estate
- Restructuring, Turnaround and Insolvency
- Technology, Media and Entertainment, And Telecommunications
Staff: +2,600 Lawyers globally
Graduate Recruitment Consultant, Sydney
Corporate advisory team.