Herbert Smith Freehills Graduate Recruitment & Test

About HSF and Its Hiring

Herbert Smith Freehills, also known as HSF, is one of the UK’s leading law firms, with an application process befitting such a firm. Preparation is vital and this page is designed to give you tips on how to do just that. The focus is on the recruitment process for the graduate training contract and the vacation scheme, as they are the most comprehensive. Experienced hire applicants will also find this page useful.

Herbert Smith Freehills graduate recruitment has a three-part application process. Running throughout these three stages are the key criteria they are looking for in you. These are more qualities than competencies and they include: Common sense; Intelligence to make your way in a big firm; Assurance; Perceptiveness; Ambition; Attention to detail; All round people skills; Ability to think creatively; and Commercial nous.


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Herbert Smith Freehills Application Form

Herbert Smith Freehills receives over 2,000 application forms each year. You have to make yours shine in order to be invited to the assessment centre. The Herbert Smith Freehills form is straightforward: it asks for your academic details, language skills and work experience. The only open-ended question in the application form is about your extracurricular activities; this is where you need to make the biggest impact. Herbert Smith Freehills is looking for applicants who are more than just a lawyer, so make sure to include your interests and all things interesting you have done. Show that you have had a broad range of experiences.

Herbert Smith Freehills have provided some tips for the application form:

  • Look for the specified criteria.
  • Identify what the firm are looking for and develop your own examples of you meet these criteria. Use examples from academia, work and extracurricular activities.
  • Follow the instructions.
  • Answer the question asked on the form.
  • Tailor your application form to the company and the job you are applying for.
  • Check your form for spelling mistakes.
  • Keep it simple and specific - use examples that fit.
  • Be concise.
  • Keep a copy of your form - you will be asked about it at later stages.
  • Keep the information you provide on the form truthful.

Gain more tips with the PrepPack™'s guide to law firm application forms. 

HSF Online Aptitude Tests

Everyone who submits an application form to Herbert Smith Freehills is invited to take online tests. All the tests in the recruitment process are provided by Sova, one of the largest providers of psychometric tests. There is a set of practice tests based on Sova methodology, along with answers and feedback, to really help you understand what you need to do to get a good score in the test. Two of the most significant tests are:

Verbal Reasoning Test

The Verbal Reasoning test measures your ability to evaluate and interpret the written word - key qualities that every good lawyer should possess. Verbal Reasoning tests are time-limited, meaning that as well as the pressure of reading and processing information to answer questions, the verbal reasoning packs can help you prepare.

Logical Reasoning Test

The Logical Reasoning test assesses the way you understand problems and draw out logical solutions. These tests contain sequences of pictures and you have to use logic to pick out the next picture in the sequence. In order to be successful in a logical reasoning test, you need to be able to understand how to identify the logic in patterns. This can only be achieved through practising tests of this type. See the logical practice packs to understand how these tests work. 

In Summary

The scores that you receive in all three tests are then combined with your application form to inform the decision to invite you to the assessment day. Don’t forget to practise the tests to ensure that you achieve a good enough score to come back and really show them how good you are face to face. 

The Herbert Smith Freehills assessment day is a whole day exercise at the firm’s London offices. The assessment day allows the graduate recruitment team to assess your skills and abilities face to face.


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Group Exercise

The purpose of the group exercise is to allow the recruitment team to observe how you interact in a group setting which may mimic a real life situation. For this exercise, you are given a brief and a role to play within your group. Time is given to revise the role you are playing, make notes, and ask any questions of clarification, before the discussion begins.

During this exercise, you are assessed on your behaviour and contributions, and how you work within the team, including quieter participants. You must show evidence of the desired skills, particularly your commercial skills. The group exercise is not a competition with the other members of your team, you do not need to say the most comments; they are more interested in the quality of your contributions. Getting the balance right in a group setting can be difficult, see how JobTestPrep’s group exercises practice can give you tips to take with you.

Case Study Presentation

In the case study exercise, you are given 45 minutes to analyse a case study, answer questions on what you have read, and prepare a ten minute presentation to deliver to two partners at the start of your interview. Your interviewers will ask you questions about what you have read, but not necessarily based on your presentation or the questions you have already answered. Focus on the key points in the case study, and be prepared to answer questions on all the documents you were given to read. Through the case study exercise, Herbert Smith Freehills is looking to test you on your ability to absorb and present information, and on your commercial skills. The topic of the case study will be business related. An example of a past topic was of a UK based firm who were struggling at home, but were exploring options for expanding into Europe.

The case study exercise contains several key elements. First there is the topic of the case study itself, which cannot be predicted ahead of time. The firm recommends that you build up your commercial knowledge and understanding ahead of the assessment day to address this section. The next element of the case study is how to deal with the case study itself. See how JobTestPrep can help you prepare for your case study exercise. And finally, there is the presentation on the case study. 


The Herbert Smith Freehills interview is the last part of the assessment day. You are interviewed by two partners, the interview will be approximately an hour long, and cover three main sections. The first ten minutes of the interview involve answering questions about the case study. The partners focus on the commercial aspects of the case study. The next section of the interview is competency based. In this section, the interviewers are interested in how you solve problems, and the way you structure your answers. The final 30 minutes of the interview will be spent discussing your CV and motivations for a career in law. This section is about the partners trying to find out more about you and the activities you enjoy.

Herbert Smith Freehills advice to candidates:

  • Think in advance of the type of questions you may be asked.
  • Research the firm, why you want to join. Any major deals/ matters they have been involved in.
  • Why a career in law? Why have you made this decision?
  • Think of questions in advance to ask of the interviewers. These should show that you have researched the firm and have a genuine interest in the work the firm does.
  • Have a mock interview
  • Prepare examples to use to answer questions

Some questions and topics asked in previous interviews include:

  • Why not a barrister?
  • Interest in law and business.
  • Credit crunch.
  • What would you do if you were an advisor to a national leader for the day.
  • Tell me about a commercial issue that has interested you.
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Interview preparation is key, and as Herbert Smith Freehills even advise you, a mock interview can really improve your interview technique. 

In Summary

The UK firm Herbert Smith merged with Australian firm Freehills in 2012 creating Herbert Smith Freehills. The application process in place is one that befits the position of Herbert Smith Freehills as one of the City’s top law firms, and it will challenge you throughout. Competition is high as you would expect for a firm of its’ position. Preparation and practice is what will get you through each stage of this process. We have guided you through each stage and listed the resources available to help you get this preparation. We hope you have found this useful and look forward to helping you achieve your best possible performance throughout your application. Good luck.

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