A RECENT recruitment drive in Sydney and Melbourne by international law firm Herbert Smith was just one dangling carrot luring Australian lawyers over to the firm’s London office.
Herbert Smith partners Alexander Currie and David Wyles were recently in Australia to interview and recruit Australian talent.
The plan, the partners told Lawyers Weekly, was to gather a small number of exceptional lawyers who are interested in taking up long-term positions at the firm, and who will eventually be capable of filling partner roles.
But Australian universities have also been approached by the firm in a groundbreaking decision to select several penultimate year law students to work in the firm’s London office during their summer break. Seven undergraduates started work at the firm this week as summer interns in the firm’s new program.
The four-week program is an effort to tap into the “very talented undergraduates” in Australia, Christopher Parsons, graduate recruitment partner at Herbert Smith, said in an interview.
“They will come over, see what it’s like to work at one of the international law firms. We will have a detailed program of events to show them what it’s like to work at such a firm. The most important part will be that they will sit with partners or senior associates as if they were trainees doing the sort of work that we would expect trainees to do,” he said.
The firm will offer the students the opportunity to interview for a training contract, with the view to joining the firm as a trainee in due course. If students are successful for a traineeship, they will return to Australia to complete their degrees, and the firm will support them through law school in Australia. On completing their two-year training program, they will then take the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test so they can practise in either jurisdiction.
The program is run in a similar way to the rotation schemes the firm runs for undergraduates in the UK, said Parsons. “So they can come in and try and get the flavour of what it would be like to work with us as a trainee.
“We run the UK scheme over the Christmas, Easter and summer periods [for two weeks], and because we are bringing people so far, we have extended the program to four weeks,” he said.
Parsons denies the program is a reaction to a shortage of talent at the more junior levels in London, and argued that the firm has not had a major problem retaining talent at the two to five-year level. “We have a good flow of people coming to the firm. This is about making sure we get the best people, and we want to make sure we are not limiting where we look for those people.”
The firm advertised the program on its website, stating that it was “looking for exceptional Australian students who are performing at the highest academic level at their university”.
Summer clerks will have the opportunity to provide preferences as to what areas of practice they would like to work in, and will receive a weekly wage. “During the program you will undertake two rotations within different departments in the firm. Once you have been offered a place, you can let us know your preference as to where you would like to spend your time. We will fund your flights to and from the UK, organise your working visa, provide a bursary for your accommodation costs and also pay you a salary of £250 [$615] at the end of each week of the internship,” the advertisement ran.
The firm will do all it can to ensure the experience is “professionally rewarding and as hassle free as possible”, Parsons said.