The Aussie Corporate

Herbert Smith Freehills

Prestige and Type-As abound

AusCorp Remarks

Considered by many as the top law law firm in Australia, HSF is everything you would expect from a Biglaw firm. resulted from a merger between Freehills in Australia and a Silver Circle firm, Herbert Smith in the UK in 2012. 

Unlike the Allens x Linklaters alliance, this one seems to fare a bit better for the Australian counterpart. So much so that we think any options to work overseas with Herbert Smith is probably a bit redundant given the ambitious Freehills lawyer would likely end up at a Magic Circle or US firm anyway. HSF has a global footprint with 26 offices in Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and the Middle East – but it goes without saying that its main headquarters are in Australia and London.

HSF has built and maintained a stellar reputation in the market, despite the Sydney office being marred by a massive sexual harassment scandal in 2018 with the dismissal of rainmaker Peter Paradise and a mass exit of the firm’s money-raking project finance team (to White & Case) in 2015. However, the reputation of the firm’s work has always maintained a high standard. Walk in the door at HSF and many more will open for you in the future. The slight catch is in the pay, and while not horrible, at nearly all times, you certainly won’t feel like you are being compensated fairly for the amount of blood, sweat, tears and hours you are putting. At least the people are nice, you might say. And that is generally true, except for the occasional few bad actors. 

HSF wants to produce well-rounded lawyers and its focus on excellence means you will receive exceptional training as well as support from dedicated staff that will be able to help you out when you are getting crunched for time. And there is no doubt you will be on many an occasion at a behemoth like HSF. Late nights are a dime in a dozen and throughout your career, you can expect to do a few all-nighters or many, especially in transactional practice areas such as M&A or PE. Really brings us back to the good ol’ uni days of desperate cramming for end of sem exams!

In saying that, if you can cope with the standard Biglaw culture, constantly converging deadlines and the pressure of a high-paced environment, there really isn’t another firm in the Australian market that is more elite or prestigious than HSF. Whilst it has impressive capabilities across the whole gamut of commercial law, it is traditionally known for its litigation prowess, and by example worked on defending CGMA in the now precedent-setting ANZ cartel case. That’s not to say that this should take anything away from its transactional strength, as megadeals are bound to find you in its impresssive Band 1 practice. If you’re hungry for the best deals in the market, you can’t go wrong with HSF.

Final appraisal

Quality of work
Perks (including salary and bonus)
Prestige / Reputation
Training and support
Working hours

From the horse's mouth

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