20 / 11 / 19
Last summer, I was lucky enough to take part in Herbert Smith Freehills’ Internship programme. Over the course of the eight-week scheme, I was given the opportunity to work on real cases for real clients.
During the programme, you’ll take part in two month-long practice group placements, work on a pro bono project and receive brilliant soft-skills training from Herbert Smith Freehills’ Learning and Development team.
You’ll also be given the opportunity to immerse yourself in firm life at Herbert Smith Freehills – whether it’s a client meeting or a Mini World Cup football match, there’s plenty to do both inside and outside of the office!
I spent my first month working with the Corporate team. Right from the start, I was given plenty to do. The tasks ranged from weekly meetings with clients to legal drafting and document review for actual cases.
We were given a number of training videos to watch and documents to read through in order to familiarise ourselves with the work style.
The induction that I and the other interns in Corporate received really helped to ease us into working life! We were invited to attend practice group discussions with senior members of the team and were given one-to-one feedback on our work.
I most enjoyed the work pace and the variety of the projects that the Corporate team dealt with! Most of my work was on Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), many of which were from all over the globe – it was a brilliant opportunity to see the differences between jurisdictions and how Herbert Smith Freehills tackle cross-border transactions and deals.
I spent my second month in the Real Estate department.
It was a bit of a risk – as a first-year student, I hadn’t actually started to study Property law. Where in Corporate I had a base understanding of Contract law, I was going into my second seat utterly blind – but I stood to learn the most by going into a practice group I knew absolutely nothing about.
Even though I had not studied the area of law before, I didn’t feel that I was at a disadvantage: I was afforded the most incredible support from my colleagues! If I ever had a question or any concerns, they were always eager to help in any way they could.
The internship is as much an opportunity to work as it is an opportunity to learn. Our completed tasks were always checked, and feedback was provided frequently.
Some of my responsibilities included legal drafting and research in preparation for both client and counterparty meetings. On one occasion, I was asked to reach out to an executive agency to seek guidance for a client – you are given a remarkable degree of responsibility! It’s an excellent insight into what life is really like at a top commercial law firm.
In addition to our billable responsibilities, the other interns and I were also working with one of Herbert Smith Freehills’ biggest pro bono clients – the International Senior Lawyers Project (or ISLP).
One of the ISLP’s main aims is to help developing countries maximise revenue from natural resources. They had asked us to produce a detailed database about sixteen resource-rich countries – including information regarding foreign direct investment (FDI), international tax treaties and their effects on investment.
As part of the project, Herbert Smith Freehills had arranged for us to have three video conferences with Partners in Paris, Frankfurt and London.
It was certainly one of the highlights for me! All three of the Partners were incredibly friendly and very generous with their time.
One in particular actually came into his office in Paris early so that he could make time to discuss the project with us!
The pro bono project was the best chance to meet and work with the other interns. As we were all spread across the office in different practice groups, this was our opportunity to work together on a project. At the project’s end, we were able to give a presentation to the client and discuss our findings with them.
Our research has been used by the ISLP to create a practice paper for these developing countries. It’s been used as the foundation for the ISLP’s much larger product. I still can’t quite believe that the interns and I contributed to an international project like this!
Every year, the Herbert Smith Freehills team give interns the opportunity to contribute to a bespoke pro bono project. Who knows what the task will be this year!
But it doesn’t stop there! We were also provided with excellent soft-skills sessions. We spent our Wednesday afternoons improving our self-confidence, teamwork skills and presentation techniques. We did an Escape Room exercise, a CV workshop, a LinkedIn masterclass, a mock interview and much, much more!
At every step of the way, Herbert Smith Freehills’ Learning and Development team made sure we were constantly improving. Every Monday morning, we had a review session of the previous week, and every other Tuesday we were given a one-to-one session with our Managers to discuss our progress.
The support from the Learning and Development team allowed us to develop crucial soft skills, complementing the legal and technical training that we received from our practice groups.
There is an awful lot that goes on outside of work. Herbert Smith Freehills have a number of networks that we were encouraged to get involved with!
At the end of our first week, the Sports Network had organised a Mini World Cup football competition and, on our last day, another intern and I competed in the Mini Wimbledon tennis tournament.
On the last Friday of every month, the Women in Business Network organised a Dress-Down day to raise money for charity.
One of Herbert Smith Freehills’ biggest networks is the Inclusion, Respecting Identity and Sexuality Network (or IRIS).
Through the IRIS Network, we were able to take part in the Belfast Pride Festival on behalf of the firm and were offered the opportunity to attend an exclusive networking event to fundraise for The Rainbow Project and SAIL.
Herbert Smith Freehills frequently offer their support to a number of social mobility schemes. On one occasion, we were offered the opportunity to help run a workshop for the Pathway Opportunity Programme – it provides talented students across Northern Ireland with work experience and a guaranteed conditional offer at Queen’s University Belfast.
The team was committed to providing the students with a fun, educational day – another great testament to the social commitment values at the heart of Herbert Smith Freehills’ ethos.
The Internship is open to law students – even to first-years!
Herbert Smith Freehills’ Belfast Office have practice groups in Disputes, Funds, Finance, Corporate and Real Estate. The work in each is different from the next – there’s something there for every budding commercial lawyer!
If you’re thinking about a career in a commercial law firm, there is no better experience than this – eight weeks of high-quality work, unparalleled soft-skills training and, above all, an awful lot of fun.
If you have any questions about the internship, feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org– I’m very happy to share more about my time with the firm!
Applications will be opening in January – so stay tuned!
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