Experience sharing: Boost competitiveness in the job market via the Herbert Smith Freehills CIBEL Asia-Pacific Pathway Program

Fri 06 November 2020

By Jayne He 


Despite  delay caused by COVID-19 the pilot Herbert Smith Freehills CIBEL Asia-Pacific Pathway Program was held in September 2020. Two UNSW law students completed their 2-week internships at Herbert Smith Freehills from 31 August to 11 September 2020.

After rounds of competitive selections including CV screening, essay writing, Chinese (Mandarin) language proficiency tests and interviews with Herbert Smith Freehills partners, two UNSW Juris Doctor (JD) Program Law students, Jinwen Feng and Junzhuo Shi, were offered the opportunity to work in the Project team of the Sydney office and the Energy team in Beijing office.

Due to the travel restrictions, the program was amended. Thanks to Herbert Smith Freehills’ flexibility, one student completed the internship remotely and the other in Beijing.

Jinwen Feng had completed his first-year JD study at UNSW Law. He worked remotely due to pandemic measures in New South Wales. His internship experience was not negatively impacted by working remotely.

“As a short-term intern, I was treated like other employees and was given a laptop and one-to-one IT training.I saw the  efficiency of  Herbert Smith Freehills as an organisation,” Jinwen said.

The buddy-ship systemin the firm helped him understand his work. By attending meetings with partners and lawyers from various offices of the firm, and having in-depth discussions on the latest legal trends, he developed an understandings of the interdependence of the Asia-Pacific legal market and Herbert Smith Freehills’ leading role in it.

“Throughout my two weeks, I gained foundational legal skills, including memorandum drafting, and sharpened my understanding of the global operation of law.” He said, “The strong connection between emerging markets in Asia and the developed market of Australia was originally one of the reasons that brought me to UNSW.This program offered me much deeper insights into what is happening at the frontline of the legal market and what global-minded UNSW law students can do to play a part in this dynamic industry.”

Junzhuo Shi, who is currently taking program leave as a result of the pandemic after completing her second-year JD study at UNSW Law, was in Beijing when the program commenced. Because of the lifting of restrictions there, she was able to work in the Beijing office of HSF.. Her day there was attending virtual meetings with colleagues from other offices and completing work assigned to her.

“I felt that everyone in the office was very friendly and welcoming. There was always someone around who was willing to offer help, no matter whether I was having trouble with my work or just wondering how to use the coffee machine,” Junzhuo said.

She shared an anecdote about working with her buddy. “[F]or one virtual meeting, my laptop was not making sounds. My buddy Jie Li offered her laptop to me and let me join the meeting with her. After the meeting, she also spent time clarifying the practice of an international law firm and kindly shared her suggestions for my career development. I appreciated this very much, as I know at that time she was also occupied by other work.”

Junzhuo told us that the essay writing in the selection round helped her to learn the particularities of China law system and the internship at the firm had offered her “valuable hands-on experience”.

“It was really eye-opening to know how lawyers prepare documents for transactions involving parties from multiple jurisdictions. It was also fascinating to investigate how the different offices of Herbert Smith Freehills work together and how the lawyers interact with the clients and other intermediaries during certain M&A due diligence.”

The program has broadened the visions of the students in choosing their future career paths – as Junzhuo mentioned, her preference was dispute-related practice before taking part in the program but now she knows she should be open to all the opportunities “because there are too many areas that I don’t know”.

“I definitely recommend future UNSW students who are interested in the Asia-Pacific market to apply for this program, and CIBEL along with Herbert Smith Freehills will offer you the best experience that can boost your career,” says Jinwen.

And Junzhuo’s suggestion for future applicants is “to relax and enjoy – the internship is to explore, not a big exam!”

It is never too early to start building your future in law. The Herbert Smith Freehills CIBEL Asia-Pacific Pathway Program may be the starting point to boost your competitiveness in the job market. CIBEL and Herbert Smith Freehills will provide more opportunities like this in the future. Watch the CIBEL website for information.