Vacation Scheme Student at Herbert Smith Freehills

Insight / Vacation Scheme (< 4 Weeks)
Harrogate Yorkshire and Humberside
Review Date
Less than £ 10,000


About You
The Organisation
Everything Else


About You

Role Description

Spring Vacation Scheme

1. To what extent did you enjoy the insight?

I really enjoyed my time as a vacation scheme student at Herbert Smith Freehills. I found the working culture to be supportive and friendly, and at no point during the scheme was I made to feel as if I was in direct competition with the other vac scheme students. I sat in the Finance and Dispute Resolution practices during my two weeks at the firm and found that the work given to me was interesting and varied; from developing my understanding of complex financial transactions to attending the Commercial Court for a day. It is also clear to see that the firm puts a lot of effort into making the vacation scheme experience as rewarding as possible. For instance, the firm arranged several social events across the two weeks for us, organised a lot of departmental presentations and interactive workshops, and actively sought to connect us to trainees or associates in particular practice areas with whom we wanted to speak.


2. To what extent did you feel valued during your time at the company or firm?

One of the best insights into HSF that I took from my vacation scheme was that my impression of the firm as it is portrayed online (firm website, The Lawyer, RateMyPlacement, RollOnFriday, GlassDoor etc.) was correct. From my experience, I found HSF to be a genuinely inclusive place with a positive atmosphere. I don't recall speaking to anyone who said they didn't enjoy working at the firm or that they didn't feel appreciated/valued by their teams. As vacation scheme students, we were given exposure to Graduate Recruitment Partners, Business Development, trainees and associates from all practice areas, and the CEO (Q&A). On our first day we were also each paired with a 'trainee buddy' to help integrate us into our respective practice areas. In particular, I also found that my supervisors took a genuine interest in me and were happy to take the time to explain key concepts and answer my questions - something I found to be integral to getting the most out of my scheme.


3. How much guidance/support did you receive during the insight?

The firm fosters a really supportive environment, as I have already mentioned. Specifically, I found that my supervisors were really helpful in terms of giving me feedback during the course of the two weeks. With regard to my written work, both supervisors encouraged me to ask questions if I was uncertain as to how to approach tasks, which were intentionally demanding. It was also reassuring to know that I could turn to my trainee buddy for their advice. Graduate Recruitment were also incredibly supportive throughout the two weeks, offering advice on training contract applications and arranging feedback sessions to reflect on our initial assessment centre interviews.


4. To what extent did/will the skills you developed, and information you received, assist you in your degree studies and beyond?

Ultimately, I think that undertaking a vacation scheme at a City law firm will give you a far greater insight into commercial law as a profession than would be possible to acquire from reading materials alone. In terms of developing an understanding of what it means to work in different practice areas, like Corporate or DR, these schemes are invaluable. I also think that these schemes, like most types of work experience, are helpful in relation to understanding office dynamics and learning how to interact with people in a professional environment. At HSF, the focus on producing written work each week is great because you gain a greater appreciation of the overall standard expected of trainees during their rotations. I also enjoyed the exposure we receieved with respect to partner networking events and Q&A sessions; opportunities to practice the inter-personal skills needed to succeed in a business environment were appreciated by everyone.


The Organisation

5. How well structured was the insight?

The scheme genuinely ran like clockwork. Everyone knew what their commitments were each week and if there were any amendments to the schedule GR would notify us promptly. The scheme was also structured so that we could take advantage of the various events and assessments during the two weeks. For example, vacation scheme interview feedback sessions were arranged prior to a presentation on training contract applications and a networking workshop preceded a Partner Drinks event. I would also add that, from the outset, GR were absolutely transparent as to what the assessment criteria would be in terms of applying for a training contract at the firm.


6. How was the general atmosphere during your insight?

The atmosphere at Herbert Smith Freehills was really positive in my experience. The other interns were friendly and engaging, and the firm makes the effort to make you feel like a cohort from the first day. Trainees and associates want to get to know you and offer to help out or chat more informally at every opportunity. I would also add that I was placed into two very busy practice areas during my scheme and, although there were times when the atmosphere was less convivial due to the demands of the work, I was never made to feel anything less than 100% welcome.


7. In terms of personal training and development, to what extent did the company or firm invest in you?

Personal development included vacation scheme interview feedback, ongoing feedback from supervisors, and one-to-one discussions on aspects of the firm's work in my respective practice areas (Finance and DR).


8. To what extent did the insight help you to understand what it would be like to have a full time role with the company or firm?

The vacation scheme is designed to give you an insight into the kinds of tasks that a trainee working at the firm might do. In this respect, the scheme at HSF was useful in granting that kind of exposure. GR also delivered a presentation on 'Life as a Trainee' which added more detail to this picture.


9. How much did the insight help you in understanding the company culture?

As I've already mentioned, the vacation scheme provided a great insight into the firm's working culture. Several lawyers at the firm, including those working in departments to which I was not assigned, reached out to me so that we could meet in person to discuss life at the firm in a more informal setting. For example, I received an email from my university's alumni network at the firm during my first week to ask if I wanted to go for coffee and ask any questions.


10. How valuable was the content in helping you to decide on your future career path?

This experience has certainly reaffirmed my career motivations in relation to pursuing a career in commercial law.


Other Information

11. Were you paid or reimbursed adequately for this experience?

I was paid £400 per week during my vacation scheme.

12. Were there opportunities for networking and meeting other employees of the company or firm?

We were given primary liaison contacts in our departments (trainee buddies), supervisors to mentor us each week, access to Q&As with trainees and the CEO, exposure to other aspects of the business such as Pro Bono and Business Development, and networking events with a variety of partners and senior associates. If we wanted to contact someone from another practice area, GR would arrange a meeting. In short, we were afforded ample opportunity to meet with employees from HSF.


13. How were the networking/ social event opportunities?

The networking/social opportunities were among my highlights of the vacation scheme. Social events were arranged across both weeks and included the following: dinner with the other interns, a sushi-making course, a quiz night with future joiners and the other interns, partner drinks, and a farewell drinks event on the final Friday. I was also invited out for lunch on a few occasions with my supervisors and trainee buddies. HSF made a conscious effort in this area to make us feel integrated into the firm and to make sure we enjoyed our time there.


14. Did you find out about activities that employees can get involved in outside of work?

Throughout my two weeks, I was able to ask a number of employees about their activities outside of work: these ranged from sports clubs, Pro Bono volunteering, sabbatical experiences, and network membership (e.g. WTLN). As someone who is really interested in sport, I would have appreciated a slightly more formal presentation on the clubs and sports networks that existed at the firm. However, with that said, almost all the information I wanted in this respect I received by asking like-minded employees at the firm.


15. Would you recommend this insight to a friend?

I would certainly recommend the experience to a friend. For an interesting and varied work experience scheme, with an open and friendly culture, I could not recommend HSF more.