Pre-eminent in dispute resolution and with an outstanding reputation for high value transactional advice, Herbert Smith LLP is a leading international law firm. Its main clients are prominent global and national businesses that it serves from offices in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Alongside Herbert Smith’s outstanding reputation in dispute resolution and corporate work, the firm has leading practices in finance, real estate, competition and employment, pensions and incentives. It is also acknowledged as a leader in several industry sectors, including the energy and natural resources and financial institutions sectors.
As well as a strong academic record, applicants require a strong level of commercial awareness and the common sense to be able to make their own way in a large firm. Combine these qualities with a creative and questioning mind, and Herbert Smith will offer you great challenges and rewards.
The strength and breadth of the firm’s practice areas, including corporate, dispute resolution and finance, guarantee excellent training and development opportunities for trainees. The training process balances contentious and non-contentious work; early responsibility and support. An emphasis is also placed on professional and personal development. Trainees rotate around four six-month seats, including a seat in a specialist area such as IP or competition. Trainees are also encouraged to go on secondment to a client or to one of the firm’s international offices. Herbert Smith’s global reach makes this a possibility for many.
Applications close Thursday, 31st March 2011.
What we look for
Preparation before the Assessment Day
- - Make sure you know the dress code of the organisation, if it is not clear from the invitation to interview correspondence, ring and ask
- - Make sure you know your journey – how long will it take? Check whether there are any expected delays if travelling by public transport
- - Thoroughly review your application. Be comfortable with what you have written and be prepared to answer questions about it.
- - Think about the types of questions you may be asked – if you were interviewing, what would you want to know? Make sure that whatever you decide to talk about in the interview, you know well and can talk clearly and intelligently about it.
- - Research the firm and think about why you are particularly interested in joining them. Find out what major deals/matters they have been involved in, look at their website etc.
- - Be prepared to talk about why you are particularly interested in a career in the law. How have you come to make the decision?
- - Gain as much exposure as you can to the people who work in the firm. You can do this by attending drinks receptions, presentations, workshops or any other events that organisations run either at your university or in their offices. Your careers service may even be able to put you in touch with relevant alumni.
- - Attend mock interview sessions run either by potential employers or your careers service.
- - Try to settle your nerves before the interview / assessment day.
- - Interviews are a two-way process; you are there to find out about the employer as well. Therefore, think about what you would like to find out about the firm / organisation – most interviewers give you a chance to ask questions (generally at the end of the interview).
During the Assessment Day
Group exercise tips
- - The purpose of the group exercise is to observe the behaviour of participants as they interact, often simulating a typical team situation in the workplace. All candidates will be provided with a brief in the group exercise and will have the opportunity to ask questions before the exercise begins. There will be a time allowance for candidates to familiarise themselves with their part and make notes before the discussion begins.
- - During the discussion, the assessors will make notes of the candidates' behaviour and contributions, both verbal and non-verbal and observe evidence of the required skills.
- - Try and relax during the exercise and behave as you naturally would in that situation; people with different team and communication styles can perform equally well in this exercise;
- - Although it is important to contribute, do not just talk for the sake of it. It is not a competition to see who can dominate the group. The quality of what you say is more important than the quantity. However, if you say nothing or very little, you are missing the chance to demonstrate your skills;
- - Try to prepare before hand by thinking about your strengths and weaknesses when communicating and working with others; think of situations in the past when you have worked in a team and how your behaviour impacted those around you.
- - Speak clearly and concisely
- - Think about the way you are sitting, try not to cross your arms as this looks defensive and not relaxed / confident. At the same time, try not to slouch, or look too laid back
- - When you meet the interviewer, shake hands firmly and maintain eye contact. Remember their name.
- - Consider again the tips on body language used in the group exercise.
- - Take your time to answer questions. If you are unsure as to what the interviewer is asking of you, ask for clarification.
- - When asked to provide examples to demonstrate your capabilities, use the best examples you have, but do not use the same example for every question area. Some thought should have been given to what examples you might use prior to the interview.
- - Use a balance of academic, work experience and extra curricular activities in your examples.
- - Make sure you listen to and answer the question – try not to go off on a tangent.
- - Portray yourself honestly, but in the best light possible
Case Study Presentation tips
- - There is no prior preparation you can do in relation to the content of the case study exercise, beyond continuing to build your commercial knowledge and understanding.
- - On the day, when starting the exercise make certain that you pay particular attention to the amount of preparation time.
- - Think logically in order to structure the content of the presentation and use information to make a case or advance an argument. Focus on important rather than unimportant information. Be prepared to justify your responses in conversation with the interviewer once your presentation is complete.
- - Speak clearly, audibly and distinctly to the interviewer, using language (such as technical jargon or terminology) appropriately and varying the tone of your voice.
- - Again consider your body language.
- - During the Q and A, if you do not know the answer to a question, be honest and say so. Tell the interviewer how you would go about finding the answer, if appropriate.
- - Take your time before answering a question to ensure that the answer you are giving is considered, logical and presented in a concise manner.
After the Assessment Day
- - Review how you got on. Think about what you did well and what could be improved.
- - Reflect on the questions the assessors asked and the examples you used in response.
- - Think about what you liked and disliked about the organisation you visited.
- - Make learning notes for your next assessment day.
A day in the life of a trainee: Trevor Davies
08.45 - I get to the office with just enough time to grab a quick cup of coffee before heading to the corporate division's fortnightly briefing meeting.
These meetings give trainees a great insight into the variety of work being conducted by the division and usually involve discussions on high-profile, interesting deals.
09.50 – After the meeting I head back to my desk to check my emails (I had a quick skim through on the way to the gym to make sure that there were no urgent messages!) and organise the rest of my day.
10.10 – My supervisor has asked me to amend a document for him, which includes drafting some new provisions. This is typical of the work I am given and when it is in relation to a deal you are currently working on, you very much feel like you are contributing to the overall effort.
12.25 – Drafting is a skill that can only be gained through practice and once I have finished my first draft, I sit down with my supervisor and listen to how it could be improved upon (much better than being given your work back covered in red pen with no explanation!). To reinforce my understanding, he then asks me to draft an email to the client explaining our amendments and the logic behind the new provisions.
13.00 – As it is Wimbledon fortnight there is a screen up outside the office showing the action from Centre Court. I meet up with a group of trainees from my intake and head down to pick up some lunch, sit in the sun and watch the tennis.
13.45 – I have been asked by one of the partners to assist on a pitch document. The first draft is ready but needs to be tailored to the clients needs. Local counsel in two of the jurisdictions involved also need to be contacted for their input. Both of these jobs have been delegated to me.
16.30 – The amendments have been made and local counsel are compiling their credentials, ready to send tomorrow morning. I go through my additions with the partner and we agree on some other minor amendments before finalising the draft. I then circulate this to the proposed team with an explanatory email.
16.40 – I get started on a research note. My supervisor wants me to look at the possible use of an LLP as a joint venture vehicle for a client. As my supervisor is in meetings for the rest of the day we agree to talk through the note tomorrow morning.
19.30 – Having finished the note, I take advantage of a free evening to meet up with some other trainees and grab a quick drink before heading home.
Vacation Scheme Profile: Alex Thomson
Having done Vacations Schemes at other City Law firms, I thought that I knew what to expect upon my arrival at Herbert Smith – but the reality of the experience surpassed all my expectations.
The scheme was very well structured. There was an equal balance between organised activities (such as lunchtime lectures, workshops and social events) and ‘free time’ which I spent doing ‘real work’ in our seats. The structure ensured that I was constantly busy, but it also allowed me to see the day-to-day working of the firm both broadly, from the taster lectures and workshops and in depth, from the time spent in our departments. To guide us through all these activities were our Trainee buddies, Partner mentors and Supervisors who were there to answer any questions, show us around and generally help us settle in at the firm. All of my ‘guides’ were friendly, patient and approachable and their different levels of seniority did not affect their relationship with me at all - whether it was explaining complicated points of law or discussing the tennis at Wimbledon!
The work I did during the scheme was nicely varied. I sat in Real Estate for the first fortnight of the scheme where I undertook a number of tasks. The included preparing a lease summary, drafting a car parking license and writing a research note for my supervisor. In the third and final week I sat in Litigation, where I did more research, prepared an attendance note and reviewed documents. It is important to stress that everything that I did was real work, pertaining to actual client matters. Indeed I was lucky enough to attend a client meeting as if I was a valued member of a team. To have this kind of responsibility was exceptionally rewarding as it not only gave me a true insight into what a trainee solicitor would do on a daily basis at Herbert Smith, but it also made me feel valued and not ‘in the way’ as I had been on other schemes.
The people I met at Herbert Smith will remain friends of mine, and this was encouraged by the excellent social events organised by the Graduate Recruitment team. The team were also extremely helpful and transparent about discussing future prospects at the firm offering advice sessions about our impending training contract interviews.
Soon after the scheme ended I was informed by the Graduate Recruitment Partner that I had been offered a training Contract which I was delighted to accept. The scheme truly showed me the culture and the work that the firm did and instilled in me a desire to work there. I look forward to starting in March 2013!