What we offer

£45k starting salary and comprehensive benefits package
84% of trainees go on client or international secondments
We’re leaders in inclusion with eight diversity networks
A chance to spend 10 days a year working on bringing your innovative idea to life

What we look for

You don’t need to have studied law to apply, we recruit from all disciplines. In fact, around half of our trainees didn't study law as an undergraduate degree. Already started working? We also encourage applications from those who have decided to change career. Whatever your background, joining us as a trainee will test your skills and develop you both personally and professionally.

We’re looking for a unique combination of skills and potential. That means more than a great academic record. Whether you’re fresh from university or a career changer looking for a new challenge, it takes confidence, empathy, diligence, drive, and an international mindset to be a Herbert Smith Freehills trainee. If you show us you have the skills and potential, you could have a successful future here.

Why not have a go at our quiz to see what we're looking for.

How to apply

Step one

Application form

This is your opportunity to tell us about your academic credentials, the skills you’ve gained from extra-curricular activities and work experience, and why you have the motivation and potential to become a great Herbert Smith Freehills lawyer.

Completing the form

We ask you to complete the following information in our form:

  • Academic achievements and grades (A-Level onwards)
  • Work experience history
  • Three written questions (each up to a maximum of 300 words):
    1. Introduce us to a topic you know about and explain why it interests you
    2. Explain why you’re interested in pursuing a career at Herbert Smith Freehills
    3. What skills, qualities and attributes would you bring to the role?
  • If you require any reasonable adjustments to be made within the application process please let us know by emailing: Anna.Odwyer@hsf.com. We understand it may be difficult to talk about your disability however, we want to support you through the process to ensure you have the best chance of success. All conversations will be treated confidentially.


  • Before you start, think about the skills needed and how to show them.
  • Look for the specified criteria. This is particularly true for academic requirements. We’re looking for a consistent 2:1 throughout your degree and postgraduate studies. If you don’t meet them, think about whether you should be applying. If you have mitigating circumstances that have affected your grades, including having a disability or long-term health condition, please let us know by filling in the relevant information box on the form. If you finished your studies some time ago, your academics may be less relevant than your subsequent work experience.
  • If you didn’t study in the UK, please input your grades and, to help us contextualise your achievements, tell us a bit about the grading system in the ‘further information’ section. We receive many applications from all over the world and have familiarity with many overseas qualifications. If we don't know, we can find out from our network.
  • When telling us about your extra-curricular activities and work experience, please use a narrative form, rather than a list of bullet points. For each activity or role, give us a few examples of how you were involved, the skills you gained and think about why this could be relevant to your application to us. If you have mitigating circumstances that have affected your involvement in activities at university and/or work experience, including having a disability or long-term health condition, please let us know by using the relevant information box on the form.
  • Where we have a word limit, make sure you are concise and sensible about what you include.
  • You don’t need to have legal work experience to get an interview for a vacation scheme. We recommend that when describing your legal and non-legal work experience, you tell us about the skills you gained that are relevant to a career in law with us.
  • If you’ve attended open days, live chats or met us at a virtual event or law fair, let us know. Taking the time to meet us helps to show your motivation.
  • Don’t talk about your skills in a list. It’s much better to use your experiences to highlight the skills you’ve learnt and how they’re relevant to a career in law.
  • Check your spelling and grammar. Ask someone else to read over your form.
  • Keep a copy of your form. If you’re invited to an assessment day, you’ll need a good knowledge of the examples on your form as you may be questioned about them. Also, make a note of any reference number, just in case you must follow it up later.
  • Remember the purpose of the application is to highlight your breadth of skills and suitability for the position at our firm. Make the most of every part of the form: the narrative section is just as important as your academic record. We’re looking for well-rounded individuals.
Step two

Online test

The online test comprises three types of question: situational-judgment (SJT), verbal reasoning and personality/behavioural questions. The SJT questions are bespoke to Herbert Smith Freehills and are reflective of the type of scenarios trainees can expect to experience if they were to join the firm. The blended nature of the test is designed to enable applicants to demonstrate their problem-solving and verbal reasoning skills, as well as their approach to scenarios relevant to the work at the firm.

The test takes approximately 30–35 minutes, although there is no strict time limit so candidates may complete the assessment at their own speed. The completion time is, however, recorded and will be considered during scoring.

If you usually receive extra time or adjustments when taking online tests or during exams, please email Anna O'Dwyer so that we can make the necessary adjustment(s).

Take a practice test

Step three

Assessment day

Our assessment centre includes three elements, designed to showcase your potential as a future lawyer. If you require any reasonable adjustments to be made for the assessment centre, please let us know as soon as you can beforehand by including this on your application form and emailing: Anna.Odwyer@hsf.com. We understand it may be difficult to talk about your disability, however we want to support you and ensure you have the best chance of success.


Engage with a real case study and present your thoughts to a partner.


Think on your feet when presented with a real-life commercial scenario with a partner.


Discuss your motivations and show you have the key skills required with a senior associate.

* Please note that for those applying for our vacation schemes, we’ll be holding the assessment centres virtually and replacing the case study interview with another scenario-based interview. We’ll be running a live chat with the GR team ahead of all of our assessment centres to help you prepare.

Preparing for the assessment day

Before you attend, we recommend you do the following.

  • Thoroughly review your application. Be comfortable with what you’ve written and be prepared to answer questions about it.
  • Think about the types of questions you may be asked. Make sure that whatever you decide to talk about in the interview, you know the subject well and can talk clearly and intelligently about it.
  • Research our firm and think about why you’re particularly interested in joining us. Find out what major deals/matters we’ve been involved in and ask yourself why working on these matters appeals to you.
  • Be prepared to talk about why you’re particularly interested in a career in commercial law. How have you come to make this decision?
  • Gain as much exposure as possible to our people. You can do this by attending our presentations, workshops, informal networking sessions or any other events that we run at your university, in our offices or online.
  • Attend mock interview sessions at your university.
  • Interviews are a two-way process: you should want to find out about us as well. Think about what you’d like to know about us. At the end of each interview, there will be time for you to ask questions.

Attending an assessment centre can be a daunting prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve put together a short video to give you an idea of what to expect at one of our assessment centres, offer some top tips to allow you to perform at your best and give details on each stage of the process:

Key dates

Take a look at the key application dates.

Vacation Schemes

Immerse yourself in our work and interview for a training contract at the end of the scheme.


(Finalists and graduates)

Applications open: 14 September–2 October 2020

Scheme: 30 November–11 December 2020


(Penultimate-year students, finalists and graduates)

Applications open: 14 September–4 December 2020

Scheme: 6-16 April 2021


(Penultimate-year students, finalists and graduates)

Applications open: 14 September–4 December 2020

Schemes: 14 June–2 July 2021 and 5–23 July 2021

First Year Opportunities


(First-year Rare Candidates)

Applications open: 1 October 2020–31 January 2021


(First-year students)

Applications open: 1–31 January 2021

Workshops: 29–30 March 2021 and 12–13 April 2021


(First-year students)

Applications open: 1–31 January 2021

Open Days

Build in-depth knowledge at our open days.


12 October 2020

Applications open 1–27 September 2020


20 October 2020

Applications open 14 September–2 October 2020


11 November 2020

Applications open 14 September-11 October 2020


18 November 2020

Applications open 14 September–25 October 2020


25 November 2020

Applications open 14 September–11 October 2020

Apply online

If you’re ready to apply to our firm, you can begin the process here. We recommend that you carefully read through all of our advice and content before doing so: this will give you the best chance of making your application successful.