by Tracy Gan, Juris Doctor

I am a first-year Juris Doctor student at the University of New South Wales, and I participated in Herbert Smith Freehills’ China International Business and Economic Law (CIBEL) Asia-Pacific Pathway Program in May 2021.

I am grateful that the UNSW-CIBEL centre and Herbert Smith Freehills can collaborate to provide students with great internship opportunities. I was located in the Herbert Smith Freehills Shanghai office, and the internship was conducted in a combination of in-person and remote modes.

My experience with the selection process was positive. The three-step process was well-organised. The first step is a written application; applicants need to outline why they are interested in this program. The second step is a Mandarin translation test, and the final step is Herbert Smith Freehills partner interviews. There are no trick questions in the interview. Students could always prepare interview questions beforehand. Interview questions are mainly about individual experiences (study and work), motivations and hypothetical situations – some behavioural questions. In the interview, partners were friendly, and it was like a friendly chat as they tried to get to know the students personally and whether you would be a good fit for their organisation.

The collegiate and supportive working culture makes Herbert Smith Freehills a special place where there are the world’s most talented lawyers and collaboration through different jurisdictions and practice groups that makes Herbert Smith Freehills a truly global firm. A colleague in the Hong Kong office once told us how she collaborated on a project with the Melbourne office. Despite the long distance between Hong Kong and Melbourne, colleagues in those two offices could support each other actively, being aware of each other’s time zone and responding promptly. This supportive environment is crucial especially during the pandemic when we need to interact virtually with different overseas offices most of the time. 

The most unforgettable experience is the exciting and challenging participation in Herbert Smith Freehills. I was assigned to the corporate and disputes groups. Working in one of the world's leading commercial litigation law firms can provide a reference for the work at the forefront of the sector and exposure to a large number of deals or disputes. In particular, daily work such as M&A involves multiple offices in different jurisdictions. For a law student, it is an eye-opener to see six or seven offices from different parts of the world working together smoothly and being striving for one deal. For an international law firm, it is essential to have high international mobility and respond to client’s needs around the globe. 

In addition, the training system in Herbert Smith Freehills has also made a difference. It has a training programme composed of a colleague and a senior associate as the supervisor to provide constructive feedback for interns to enrich their internship experience. The seniors would give clear instructions when assigning tasks to interns or even spend 30 minutes explaining the background information and how to find legal sources. After completing the task, although we helped to research only one or two legal issues, the team would show us the final legal advice sent to the client, thus teaching us how to draft a piece of legal advice from a comprehensive angle.

Also, daily meetings with different partners and graduates who have mostly lived and worked in Australia and overseas (including the United Kingdom and Asia) were organised in this programme to provide them with the opportunity to share their personal career experience with us. The graduates also shared with us how they applied for the clerkship in the first place. The daily meetings with the partners and graduates were quite satisfying, which can help me establish early connections in the industry and is what I did not experience in my previous internships.

What I have gained from this programme is mainly the enhancement of my technical legal skillsets (e.g. legal research, drafting memo and legal translation). Moreover, the early industry connections with Herbert Smith Freehills colleagues are quite valuable for me. This experience also suggests that a career in the legal industry is the right choice for me. I like solving problems, thinking analytically and working in a team. I’m looking forward to using these skills to help clients in my future career. 

I would recommend this programme strongly to other law students in UNSW. I am honoured to work with some fantastic, supportive and talented people. There was a real sense of commitment and hard work when everyone devoted themselves to the same task. 


Tracy's vlog is available in English and Chinese