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Herbert Smith Freehills Training Contract Interview Questions

Updated March 1, 2022

Written by the WikiJob Team

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Training contracts at Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) are only currently available to candidates who have successfully applied for and completed a vacation scheme.

To get a place on one of HSF’s vacation schemes, candidates must first complete a rigorous application process.

In short, candidates will be expected to complete an online application form followed by an online test.

Successful candidates are then invited to attend Herbert Smith Freehills’ London offices for an assessment day, which includes three interviews with partners:

  • A competency interview
  • A case study interview
  • A scenario-based interview

We cover the application process in full via this comprehensive article. Here, we'll look specifically at the interview questions you may be asked, and how to prepare for them.

Herbert Smith Freehills Training Contract Interview Questions
Herbert Smith Freehills Training Contract Interview Questions

What Is HSF Looking for at Interview?

Herbert Smith Freehills is looking for diverse candidates to build a diverse culture, reflective of the diverse societies in which it operates.

HSF recruits from a wide range of backgrounds (half of HSF’s trainees come from a non-law background), seeking candidates who possess the qualities it looks for in its lawyers.

These include:

  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Confidence
  • Empathy
  • Clarity of thought
  • Ability to see the bigger picture
  • The ambition to grow personally and professionally

Interviewers will be looking for candidates to demonstrate:

  • Commercial awareness
  • Business strategy skills
  • The ability to think around a question
  • Quick thinking while under pressure

Here are some general tips to help you stand out at the HSF interview:

  • Make the most of any mock-interview workshops run by your university.
  • Prepare questions to ask the partners, showcasing your interest, motivation and awareness.
  • At the assessment day, make sure that you read everything you are provided carefully, as nothing is included without reason.
  • Make sure you are familiar with recent financial news regarding HSF, its clients or the legal industry generally, as well as how a business runs and raises finance. Don’t forget about contract law, terms, warranties and remedies.

General Interview Questions

Most competency interviews will begin with a set of standard interview questions that will be used to get to know you and your motivations for applying for the role.

They will also be testing your knowledge about HSF, the wider business environment and law as a career.

Questions may include the following:

Law in General

  • Why law?
  • What other careers have you considered and why did you choose law?
  • Why City commercial law?
  • Why have you decided on a City firm over regional firms/smaller firms?
  • Why did you decide not to be a barrister?

Herbert Smith Freehills Specifically

  • Why HSF?
  • Why have you decided on a City firm over regional firms/smaller firms?
  • What distinguishes HSF from its competitors/who are HSF’s competitors?
  • Talk about a deal HSF was involved in that caught your attention
  • What's an event you're following in the media that would affect HSF or one of its clients?

Think about HSF and what kind of firm it is and what attracts you to that kind of work. You will need to do specific research.

You will need to be prepared to answer more specific business or legal questions. Ensure you’ve revised the various parts of a deal and are confident using business jargon.

Sample questions to consider:

  • What do you think will be challenging on the vacation scheme?
  • How do interest rates affect the market?
  • Is a [specific legal principle] in a client’s best interests?
  • How would you advise a client who wishes to sell an online betting company?

You might also be asked ethics-based questions; for example, hypothetical situations where you need to balance loyalties to the firm and its clients.

For all questions relating to advising clients, remember the client is likely to be a business. Think about the various assets that the company is likely to have (don’t forget IP rights) and the various departments that are likely to be involved (e.g. corporate, finance, employment, pensions, property, tax, etc.)

Competency-Based Interview Questions

Prepare for the competency-based interview by going over everything you included in your application form.

You'll need to present a confident discussion of the skills you have, what you learnt and what you can bring to HSF that aligns with its values and strategy.

When discussing teamwork, challenges, the topic of interest you wrote about in your application form, and your personal qualities, remember the STAR Technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result) and make sure you can confidently address all parts.

First, you will need to identify the key competencies that the interviewer will want to see demonstrated during the interview.

These are summarised above, but also consider the job description and highlight all competencies listed.

You then need to make sure you can talk about specific examples of when you demonstrated these skills or behaviours.

Be specific and make a list. Draw on work experience, extra-curricular activities, hobbies and university societies, and any pro-bono or voluntary work that you carry out.

You could also seek input from tutors, friends or family about your skills, particularly identifying weaknesses and how you might have made steps to address issues.

In your preparation, ensure you keep to the positives and describe your contributions. Do not criticise others to make yourself sound better.

Rehearse your answers and ensure you are prepared to answer the following questions:

  • How do you deal with stress?
  • How do you manage your time?
  • What are your best qualities?
  • How do you balance competing priorities?
  • When have you managed a team and faced challenges?
  • Describe an event which shows your teamwork/leadership skills
  • How did you motivate your team?
  • Tell me about a time when something went wrong. How did you resolve it?
  • Describe a situation where you dealt with a problem you didn’t foresee
  • Tell me about a time when someone more senior to you had a differing opinion
Herbert Smith Freehills Training Contract Interview Questions
Herbert Smith Freehills Training Contract Interview Questions

Case Study Interview Questions

For this interview, you will be provided with a case study and given 45 minutes to prepare a ten-minute presentation based on a list of questions the ‘client’ (played by the interviewing partner) has posited.

This is then followed by an interview with the partner, based on the presentation you gave.

Candidates report that there is a fair amount of information to read and digest. You can mark up the documents and refer to them as needed.

Previous scenarios have included:

  • A draft share purchase agreement
  • A sponsorship deal gone wrong

Remember that everything included in the background information is there for a purpose – but do not get too bogged down in it.

Have a strong understanding of any contracts that are given to you: Who do the various clauses cover? For what? What is not included?

The quality of your presentation is also being judged by the interviewer, so stick to a structure that is based around the questions that you are asked to address.

Do not just reiterate the facts but include your opinion – and be prepared to back that up when the partner challenges your conclusions.

Scenario-Based Interview Questions

The scenario-based interview is also with a partner and will be based on a matter that they are working on. They will give you a detailed outline and ask questions on how you think their client should proceed.

For example, a banking litigation partner may ask you how you would advance a matter that a client (a retail bank) had instructed her on. This might be an issue with the repayment of a loan from a hotel group.

You will need to consider the problem from the client’s perspective. Don’t forget to identify what other lawyers will need to be involved.

It is going to be hard to prepare for specific examples, as this will be very much related to whatever the interviewer is working on and the question will differ for each candidate.

Candidates report that this is a two-way discussion – HSF will be looking for potential in the way that you think and discuss, and will not expect in-depth legal knowledge.

Think out loud, ask for more information if needed, and be prepared to revise your opinion. The interviewer is looking for a candidate that is interested, curious and engaged in the topic.

Questions for the Interviewers

At the end of each of the interviews, you will be asked if you have any questions for them. An interview is a two-way process, even if it doesn’t feel like it, so you should ensure you have prepared some questions you can ask.

A good way to lead into this is to start by enquiring whether you have answered all of their questions, or if there is anything they’d like you to elaborate on.

If appropriate to the tone of the interview, you could ask the interviewer some questions more specific to them, such as:

  • What do you like most about working for HSF?
  • What is one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on?
  • Is there anything we haven't covered that you think is important to know about working here?

It is advised that you do not ask any of the following, no matter how tempting:

  • What is the salary? (This is clearly stated on the website)
  • What are the hours?
  • Any intrusive personal questions
  • Enquiring about background checks, drug tests or any reference issues.

Don’t ask for feedback in the interview – you will have a chance to do this later in the process.

Don’t say that you have no questions. There is always something you can ask.

Final Thoughts

Here are some final tips:

  • Know your application form answers inside out. Be prepared to speak confidently about any of the information you mentioned on the form.
  • Remember that the interview process is a two-way street. You will also be making a decision about whether HSF is a place and culture that suits you, so prepare to ask questions and find out as much as you can.
  • Be yourself. It is tempting to pretend to be the kind of person you think they want to hire, but that is never going to be a suitable long-term strategy. However, always try and link your skills and experiences to the key competencies for the role.
  • Revise your knowledge of contract clauses and terms, the anatomy of a deal and business jargon. Keep a note of any HSF clients that have been in the business press recently.
  • And finally, practise. Use the sample questions we have provided to practise answering Herbert Smith Freehills interview questions out loud. Have a look at our articles on tricky interview questions and the most common interview questions for more ideas.

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