It’s not often that you get to go abroad as part of a vacation scheme, let alone spend two weeks in one of the most vibrant commercial hubs in Asia, Hong Kong. Be prepared to squirm with jealousy as Gavin Creelman relays his experience of a Herbert Smith Freehill’s summer vacation scheme...
A change of scene
Last summer, I took part in Herbert Smith Freehill’s summer vacation scheme, spending three weeks in London and a further two weeks in the firm’s Hong Kong office. I had a great experience in both cities. Naturally though, the opportunity to spend time in Hong Kong was particularly exciting. I had never been to Asia before, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect before I left.
Hong Kong is an incredibly vibrant place. A surprising fusion of East and West, where the city is busy day and night. It still retains a certain colonial feel (English is the second official language of the region), and yet local culture is everywhere to be found, from the bustling street markets to the traditional tea restaurants.
This made it a far less intimidating destination than I had first feared. All of the street signs and important announcements are translated into English, so it is very easy to get around.
The hotel the firm had arranged for me was situated in one of the major shopping districts on Hong Kong Island, Causeway Bay. Not only was there plenty to do in the neighbourhood, it was also a very central location. The hotel was only about ten minutes away on the MTR (the Hong Kong underground system) from the Herbert Smith offices in Central.
My commute to the office may have been easy, but the work I was given was constantly challenging. I spent the first of my two weeks in the Dispute Resolution team, working mostly on an employment dispute between a major international shipping company and one of its former directors.
In the course of my work with the team, I was lucky enough to attend court for a hearing concerning certain procedural matters in the lead-up to the trial. I even helped with the preparation, compiling bundles of exhibits and researching a disputed point of fact. It gave me a real sense of satisfaction that I had made what at least felt like a genuine contribution to the case. Despite only being part of the group for such a limited time, I was incredibly impressed by how involved I was made to feel.
My second week was spent with the Corporate group, working this time on a complex take-over of a Hong Kong listed company. As part of this, I had to familiarise myself with the Hong Kong Takeovers Code (which had previously been completely unknown to me) and research various prior transactions for potential precedential value From the perspective of an English law student, I found it extremely interesting to get to grips with a foreign regulatory system.
Overall, I would say that the opportunity to experience the international side of life at Herbert Smith first-hand was possibly the most significant benefit I took away from the trip. It is one thing to learn about the international presence of a firm from a presentation or a website; it’s something else to find yourself in the midst of it.
What impressed me most during my three weeks in London was how open and friendly the environment seemed to be at the firm and I was glad to see that the culture felt exactly the same in Hong Kong. If I had a problem or needed help with something, I could go to anyone in the team and they would be happy to assist.
Of course, I had previously heard a great deal about the international nature and global culture of Herbert Smith, but it was during my two weeks in Hong Kong that I discovered that these values were actually borne out in reality.
If you’d like to find out more about vacation schemes with Herbert Smith Freehills, visit www.herbertsmithfreehills.com/careers/london/graduates