Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer reigns as the most European member of the Magic Circle. With over two and a half centuries of know-how and a vast international practice, Freshfields has rooted itself as a real cash cow and is at the top of the pecking order.
Cream of the Magic Circle Crop.
- Collegiate and supportive environment
- Excellent organised and ongoing training
- Access to big, complex deals and household-name clients
- An abundance of social events
- Trainees are excellent at helping each other out with work
- Lack of partnership prospects
- Quality of trainee work at times
- Limited informal training and mentoring, though you can get if you ask for it
- Hours can be extremely long – after all it's Magic Circle
Training Contract: We are looking for around 100 trainees to start training with us in London in 2015, split between two intakes in February and August. Our training programme is vital to us, because today's trainees are where most of tomorrow's associates and partners will come from. The firm wants its trainees to come from diverse backgrounds, and their choice of university or degree is immaterial. Current trainees studied at nearly 50 different universities. Many did a law degree, but others read subjects ranging from music to biochemistry. Whatever their background, trainees need some non-negotiable qualities. They need to be intellectually talented and have excellent English skills. They need to enjoy working on difficult problems, working alongside others, and never doing less than the best they can.
When to Apply: Law students can apply any time between 1 November 2012 and 31 July 2013 for a training contract to begin in 2015. Non-law applications have now closed but will open for our 2016 intakes on 1 November 2013. If you are an undergraduate, the earliest you can apply is the summer before you start your final year.
Salary: As a trainee lawyer we will pay you a salary of £39,000 for the first year, £44,000 for the second.
Vacancies: We recruit 100 trainee solicitors each year across two intakes (February and August).
Most firms would be more than happy with a place in the venerated Magic Circle; but Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is not most firms. Not content with its position amongst the UK’s five elite firms, in 2000 Freshfields became a true European powerhouse when it merged with the Germanic duo, Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber and Deringer Tessin Herrmann & Sedemund. The alliance created a law firm with equal presence on the Continent and in the UK, with senior management roles shared between English and German partners. Today, it is the third-largest firm in the world by revenue, employing over 5,000 people, including 2,500 lawyers.
Freshfields was first established in London in 1743, making it the oldest international law firm. The deregulation of the City’s financial markets in 1986 led to an emphasis on transactional work, in turn boosting the firm’s fortunes in the late '80s. The 1990s ushered in a period of expansion for Freshfields, with the firm cracking bubbly all across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, including Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Japan and Vietnam. Freshfields also has two US offices, New York and Washington, DC – one of the few UK law firms to do so.
In the 1990s, the firm’s revolutionary strategy was to target investment banks as a source of referral work, a tactic that has since been copied by many other firms. However, Freshfields was slower than its competitors in recognising the potential of private equity work, but it has since acquired some success in this field, advising clients such as KKR, Apax and Permira.
Freshfields is best known as a leading firm in public and private M&A, but is also a major player in several other areas, including competition work, contentious and non contentious dispute resolution, and restructuring and insolvency to name but a few. The firm’s clients range from Tesco to the Bank of England, and its practices include: antitrust, competition and trade, corporate, dispute resolution, employment, pensions and benefits, finance, intellectual property and information technology, real estate and tax.
Freshfields claims an altruistic first: it was the first major law firm to publish an international corporate social responsibility (CSR) report. This pioneering document tracks the community and pro bono work of all its offices, as well as their carbon footprints. The firm has worked pro bono on London’s successful 2012 Olympic Games bid, the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative, Lawyers Without Borders and Save the Children in Africa. It also has a unique role as the official legal services provider to the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.Read all 459 employee quotes
Freshfields’ ‘international scope and quality of work’ makes it a hot spot for graduates competing for the 90 or so training contracts on offer each year. Although the firm looks for consistency when it comes to grades – you’ll need to be armed with at least a 2:1 – Freshfields does consider ‘graduates from any background’. However, you’ll have to be ‘well-rounded, hard-working, and high achieving’ if you want to make the cut; sound ‘commercial awareness, excellent written and analytical skills, and attention to detail’ are expected from all trainees.
The hiring process at Freshfields involves nothing out of the ordinary. Following an online application, Freshfields will send you an email with an online verbal reasoning test for you to complete. Make the initial cull and you’ll be invited to the London office for a written test and two interviews. The first round is said to be more of a ‘casual(ish) chat with a partner’ and is likely to focus on your CV; so make sure you have a good answer to why you’ve applied as at this stage interviewers want to find out more about your motivation and interest in the firm. The second interview is ‘more formal’ and beforehand you’ll be given a passage to read (probably from the Economist or the FT) which will then be discussed in the interview to test your commercial acumen and legal understanding. Although you’ll be quizzed on the article, there will also be ‘a lot of general questions about the law and business’. Current trainees advise applicants to be ‘outgoing, friendly, and sharp – ask questions and look interested’ and to ‘be able to take criticism well’.
Unlike most law firms, Freshfields offers three-month seats, which enables lots of choice and means trainees ‘have the opportunity to do virtually every seat [they] want to’. While trainees could rotate through a maximum of eight seats, in reality most will complete between four and six. All departments and most sub-departments take on trainees – from ‘corporate, finance, dispute resolution, real estate, employment pensions and benefits, to tax and intellectual property/information technology.’ There is also the possibility to do a client or international secondment and ‘most people who would like to do one will get to’, with most going abroad ‘usually at the end of the training contract’.
Freshfields offers three vacation schemes which run from June to August, and last three weeks each. Completing one should give you a good idea of what life as an international lawyer is like – not least because you might even be given a chance to travel to some of the firm’s foreign offices (including Amsterdam, Dubai Frankfurt, Brussels, Hong Kong, New York, Paris and Washington)! During the vac scheme, you’ll work in one of Freshfields’ practice areas undertaking a bit of legal research, planning a group project, and having a go at a mock transaction. There’s also a social side to the scheme, with lots of after-hours events and drinks taking place. The hiring process for a vac scheme at Freshfields is ‘exactly the same’ as for hopeful trainees, and once the scheme is over, you might be invited to attend an interview for a training contract.
Freshfields Graduate Recruitment Info
Trainee Solicitor Recruitment Department
Tel: +44 (0)20 7785 5554
2015 Training Contracts: 31st July 2013 (law students and law graduates only)
2016 Training Contracts: 1 October 2013 – 6 January 2014 (all final year students and graduates) OR 1 June -31 July 2014 (all law students and law graduates)
2014 Summer Vacation Schemes: 1 October 2013 – 6 January 2014 (all penultimate year undergraduates)
No. of lawyers firm-wide: 2,500+
No. of lawyers in London: 876
London partners: 152
London associates: 517
London trainee intake: 90
London trainees retained: 89% (Sept 2012)
FRESHFIELDS: 2013 LAW RANKINGS
# 3 Most Reputable Law Firm (8.22/10)
1st year trainee: £39,000
2nd year trainee: £44,000
Newly qualified: £65,000
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65 Fleet Street
London EC4Y 1HS
Tel: +44 (0)20 7936 4000
No. of worldwide offices: 28
Ho Chi Minh City